Israeli occupation forces wrought death, injury and destruction this week as they carried out revenge demolitions of Palestinian homes and fired on protesters.
More than 85 Palestinians have been killed in escalated violence since 1 October, dozens in what human rights organizations and international monitors have condemned as summary executions.
Sixteen Israelis were slain in the same period. More than 9,000 Palestinians and 133 Israelis were injured, according to the United Nations monitoring group OCHA. On Thursday, a Palestinian and two Israelis were killed in a shooting attack near the Gush Etzion settlement bloc in the occupied West Bank.
According to Israel’s Haaretz, a Palestinian driver opened fire toward cars near the settlement of Alon Shvut, killing three people. The alleged assailant was arrested after he crashed his car into another vehicle.
Those killed in the attack have been identified as Shadi Arafa, a 24-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank city of Hebron; Ezra Schwartz, an 18-year-old US citizen; and Yaakov Don, a 49-year-old West Bank settler.
Earlier, two Israelis – 51-year-old Reuven Aviram and Aharon Yesayev, 32 – were killed in a stabbing attack at an office building in Tel Aviv.
The alleged assailant was taken into custody. He was identified as Riad al-Masalma, a Palestinian from Dura village near Hebron.
That occupied West Bank city has borne the brunt of recent Israeli violence, including 29 killings since the start of October. Last Friday, two Israeli settlers – a father and his adult son – were killed after an unknown assailant opened fire on their car in southern West Bank.
Killings and revenge demolitions
Thursday’s killings follow a wave of Israeli violence against Palestinians.
Israeli forces blew up six homes in the occupied West Bank belonging to families of Palestinians who allegedly committed attacks against Israelis.
At least 16 additional homes in the same buildings or adjacent to those targeted were damaged or destroyed.
The demolitions made 47 people, including 20 children, homeless, from both the targeted and adjacent structures, according to OCHA.
Israel carried out the revenge demolitions after its high court rejected an appeal by human rights organizations.
Israel claims that the policy, used exclusively against Palestinians and never against Jews, deters attacks, but even its army has refuted this.
OCHA affirmed that the demolitions are “a form of collective punishment and as such are illegal under international law.”
Shortly after midnight on 16 November, Israeli forces invaded Qalandiya refugee camp, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, to destroy the family home of Muhammad Abu Shahin. Abu Shahin is accused – though has not been convicted – of killing an Israeli in the West Bank last June.
Israeli forces “called on loudspeakers to the residents of nearby houses, instructing them to leave their homes and move about 100 meters away,” the human rights group B’Tselem reported. “When Abu Shahin’s apartment was blown up, the apartment on the floor below it was also damaged, as was an apartment in a nearby building that was home to four people, including two minors.”
Abu Shahin’s wife and children lived in the targeted house.
Palestinian residents confronted the Israeli forces invading the camp. Israeli soldiers shot dead Laith Assad Manasra, 21, and Ahmad Abu al-Aish, 28, in the densely populated refugee camp.
Dozens more were injured, including 17-year-old Yousif Abu Latifa, who was critically wounded. Witnesses told the Ma’an News Agency that Israeli forces fired tear gas at ambulances attempting to reach the wounded.
On 14 November, Israeli forces used explosives to destroy four apartments in Nablus that were home to relatives of Palestinians accused, but not convicted, of killing two West Bank settlers on 1 October, leaving 14 people homeless, according to B’Tselem.
The force of the explosions destroyed six other apartments that were not targeted, making 16 more people homeless. In the Ramallah-area village of Silwad, Israeli forces blew up the home of the mother and brother of Muaz Hamad, who Israel accuses of killing a West Bank settler in June.
The explosion damaged eight nearby houses, according to B’Tselem.
In addition to being illegal under international law, the group says that Israel’s policy of punitive demolitions is “a draconian, vindictive measure directed at entire families who have done nothing wrong nor are they suspected of any wrongdoing.”
Another 27 Palestinians, including 12 children, were also made homeless as Israeli forces demolished another 17 homes and other structures in across West Bank, including East Jerusalem, under the pretext that they lacked building permits, OCHA reported.
Killing and raids
On 17 November, Israeli forces killed 24-year-old Muhammad Saleh, from Aroura village, near Ramallah. Israel stated that Saleh opened fire on a military jeep, but the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) notes that there “was no eyewitness to confirm or deny the Israeli claim.”
In what appears to be standard practice, Israeli forces prevented Palestinian medics from reaching Saleh, PCHR said.
In the last week, OCHA said more than 1,100 Palestinians, including 203 children, were injured amid ongoing confrontations with Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli forces raided almost 80 Palestinian communities in the West Bank and arrested more than 100 Palestinians, including 38 children, according to PCHR.
Slap on the wrist
Another event this week highlighted the stark contrast between the brutality Israel directs towards Palestinians and the impunity it affords its own citizens. An Israeli Border Police officer convicted for the savage beating of Palestinian American teenager Tariq Abukhdeir was given a slap on the wrist – six weeks of community service.
The attack – in which one officer held the boy down while another methodically kicked and pummeled him in the head – was recorded on video. This week two UN special rapporteurs called on Israel to end its policy of summary executions of Palestinians.
The independent human rights experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council said that the current escalation of violence is “occurring within the existing context of policies and practices under the longstanding Israeli occupation which entail violations of Palestinian human rights.”
For their part, Israeli leaders continue to exploit the attacks in Paris by insisting that Palestinians are driven by the same motivations as the suspected Islamic State gunmen and bombers who killed 130 people last Friday.
Meanwhile Israel announced plans for 454 more settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem, a move even Israel’s staunch allies the United States and Germany criticized.