Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories 2018
New legislation entrenched discrimination against non-Jewish citizens. Israeli forces killed more than 290 Palestinians, including over 50 children; many were unlawfully killed as they were shot while posing no imminent threat to life. Israel imposed an illegal blockade on the Gaza Strip for the 11th year in a row, subjecting approximately 2 million inhabitants to collective punishment and exacerbating a humanitarian crisis. Freedom of movement for Palestinians in the West Bank remained restricted through a system of military checkpoints and roadblocks. Israeli authorities unlawfully detained within Israel thousands of Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), holding hundreds in administrative detention without charge or trial. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, including children, remained pervasive and was committed with impunity. Israel continued to demolish Palestinian homes and other structures in the West Bank and in Palestinian villages inside Israel, forcibly evicting residents. The Israeli justice system continued to fail to adequately ensure accountability and redress for victims of grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. The authorities continued to deny asylum-seekers access to a fair or prompt refugee status determination process; hundreds of African asylum-seekers were deported and thousands were threatened with deportation. Conscientious objectors to military service were imprisoned.
The Israeli authorities continued to expand illegal settlements and related infrastructure in East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, including by legalizing outposts built without state authorization on private Palestinian land. They held local elections in October across Israel and in illegal settlements including in occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied Golan Heights.
Negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian authorities remained stalled. On 15 May, the USA moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in violation of international law. Two police investigations recommended that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted over corruption allegations. The attorney general had not yet ruled on the recommendations by the end of the year.
Waves of armed hostilities broke out between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces launched dozens of air strikes on Gaza, killing 46 people. Palestinian armed groups launched hundreds of rockets into Israel, killing one Palestinian civilian. On 13 November 2018, after two days of intense hostilities by both sides, a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian armed groups, brokered by Egypt, was announced. Individual Palestinians, most unaffiliated to armed groups, attacked Israelis in the West Bank and in Israel, killing at least 13. Attacks by settlers on Palestinians resulted in the death of a Palestinian woman.
Israel reportedly conducted scores of air strikes inside Syria.
Israel continued to pass legislation that discriminates against non-Jewish citizens, particularly Palestinians. The Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, passed in July, described the Israeli state as being only for the Jewish people, confirming the status of the almost one fifth of the population who are Palestinian citizens of Israel as second-class citizens.
Israeli military and security forces killed at least 195 Palestinians, including at least 41 children, in demonstrations in Gaza and the West Bank. Many were unlawfully killed as they were shot while posing no imminent threat to life.
Israeli forces killed scores of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during sustained protests that started in March for the right to return of refugees to land from which they were displaced 70 years earlier, and against the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 180 were killed, among them 35 children, three paramedics and two journalists. While some protesters engaged in violence, including by burning tyres, unleashing incendiary kites and balloons towards Israel or throwing stones and Molotov cocktails in the direction of Israeli soldiers, social media videos, as well as eyewitness testimonies gathered by Amnesty International, Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups, show that Israeli soldiers shot and killed journalists, medical staff, bystanders and unarmed protesters who posed no threat to life; many were at distances of around 150-400m from the fence separating Gaza and Israel when they were shot. Some of these unlawful killings appeared to be wilful, which would constitute war crimes. Israeli forces also injured at least 13,458 Palestinians, many of them seriously, including more than 7,000 shot by live ammunition, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. In May, the UN Human Rights Council established a commission of inquiry into the killings and other abuses in the OPT since the protests began.
On 27 July, Majdi Ramzi al-Satri, 12, was killed after being shot in the head by a live bullet fired by Israeli security forces while standing 50m away from the fence, during his participation in a protest in Rafah.
Israeli air strikes and shelling killed at least 13 Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip not directly participating in hostilities. On 28 October, an Israeli drone missile killed three children, Khalid Bassam Abu Sa’ed, 14, Abdul Hamid Mohammed Abu Thaher, 14, and Mohammed Ibrahim al-Satri, 15, when they tried to cross the Gaza/Israel fence. For almost two hours ambulance crews were unable to enter the area due to shooting by Israeli forces from the other side of the fence.
FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT AND RIGHTS TO HEALTH, WATER AND SANITATION
Israel’s illegal air, land and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip entered its 11th year, restricting the movement of people and goods into and out of the area, and collectively punishing Gaza’s 2 million residents. Israel increased the restrictions in July, saying this was in response to the launching of incendiary kites and balloons, rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israel. Several human rights organizations petitioned against these restrictions on the grounds that they constituted collective punishment prohibited under international humanitarian law. Israeli authorities lifted the additional restrictive measures on 20 October.
Throughout much of the year, the Gaza Strip suffered fuel shortages that resulted in a maximum of four hours of electricity per day. In October, the UN brokered a deal to allow Gaza’s main electricity plant to be refuelled as part of a plan to increase electricity supply to eight hours per day. Electricity cuts worsened Gaza’s water and sanitation crisis.
Almost 100 Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks continued to heavily restrict the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank. Palestinians are denied access to tens of roads in the West Bank that are designated for the use of Israelis only.
Israeli authorities conducted hundreds of raids throughout the West Bank to arrest Palestinians without judicial orders detailing the reason for arrest. They placed in detention or continued to detain thousands of Palestinians from the OPT in prisons in Israel in violation of international humanitarian law. Israeli authorities used renewable administrative detention orders to hold Palestinians without charge or trial. Palestinian civilians were prosecuted in military courts that did not meet international standards of fair trial and more than 5,500 Palestinians, including 480 administrative detainees, were held in Israeli prisons at the end of the year, according to Palestinian human rights organization Addameer. Among those held were civil society leaders, NGO workers and journalists.