Report on Human Rights Practices for 2010
The Occupied Territories
(Including areas subject to the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority)
Israel began occupying the Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem during the 1967 War and continued to occupy those areas during the year. (For information about the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, please see the Israel report above.) During the year the Palestinian population of the West Bank was approximately 2.5 million, and the Gaza Strip's population totaled 1.6 million, nearly all of whom were Palestinian. There were an estimated 260,000 Arabs living in East Jerusalem with residency permits rather than Israeli citizenship. Approximately 190,000 Israeli citizens, including a small number of Arab citizens of Israel, also lived in East Jerusalem; Israelis in the West Bank numbered approximately 300,000; and there were no Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) had a democratically elected president and legislative council. The PA exercised varying degrees of authority over the Palestinian population in the West Bank and none over Arab residents of East Jerusalem due to the Israel Defense Force's (IDF) continuing presence in the West Bank and Israel's extension of Israeli law and authority in 1967 to East Jerusalem; it had little authority in the Gaza Strip and none over Israeli residents of the West Bank.
In 2005 Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas won 62 percent of the vote in a presidential election regarded as generally free and fair. In the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections, Hamas (a terrorist organization)-backed candidates won 74 of 132 seats in elections that generally met democratic standards. In 2007 President Abbas dismissed the national unity government after Hamas staged a violent takeover of PA government installations in the Gaza Strip and killed hundreds in the Fatah movement and PA security forces; he appointed a cabinet of independents led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad that continued to govern the West Bank during the year. Elements of the Hamas government maintained authority in the Gaza Strip, where they selectively applied the laws and legal structures of the PA. West Bank authorities postponed municipal PA elections scheduled to be held in the West Bank in July; however, the Palestinian courts ruled the postponement illegal in November. Both Israeli and PA security forces reported to civilian authorities. Hamas maintained control of security forces in the Gaza Strip. Armed militias and terrorist organizations were still active in some areas in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Principal human rights problems related to the PA included mistreatment in detention, arbitrary and prolonged detention, poor prison conditions, impunity, corruption, and lack of transparency. Domestic abuse of women, societal discrimination against women and persons with disabilities, and child labor remained serious problems.
Residents of the Gaza Strip under Hamas had no right to political participation or to choose their government. Other human rights problems in the Gaza Strip included reports that Hamas security forces continued to kill, torture, kidnap, arbitrarily detain, and harass Fatah members and other Palestinians with impunity. There were reports of abuse of prisoners and failure to provide fair trials to those accused. Hamas also strictly restricted the freedom of speech, religion, and movement of the Gaza Strip residents. Corruption reportedly was a problem. Hamas promoted gender discrimination against women. Domestic violence against women also remained a problem. Hamas and other Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip launched rockets and mortars against civilian targets in Israel.
Principal human rights problems related to Israeli authorities in the West Bank were reports of excessive use of force against civilians, including killings, torture of Palestinian detainees, improper use of security detention procedures, austere and overcrowded detention facilities, demolition and confiscation of Palestinian properties, limits on freedom of expression and assembly, and severe restrictions on Palestinians' internal and external freedom of movement. Additionally the IDF, in some cases, failed to pursue investigations and disciplinary actions related to violations. Violence by Israeli settlers was also reported. The IDF imposed serious restrictions on the importation of goods into the Gaza Strip and general prohibition on external travel for Gazans.
(Note: Throughout the report, human rights concerns related to each actor (the PA, Hamas, and Israel) follow in sequential order.)
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were no reports that the PA committed political killings; however, PA forces killed at least one civilian during the year. There were multiple reports that Palestinian terrorist groups, including Hamas, committed unlawful killings. The Israeli government reportedly committed at least one targeted killing in the occupied territories during the year, and reports of Israeli security forces killing civilian Palestinians, including protesters, continued.
There was one reported killing by Palestinian security forces during the year. On May 1, PA security forces shot and killed 18-year-old Rami Sa'id Salah al-Absi after he drove through a security checkpoint in Hebron; the PA actors reportedly suspected al-Absi was involved in the robbery of a Bethlehem clothing store. At year's end no action had resulted from an investigation of al-Absi's death.
In July a Palestinian military court found five security officers negligent in the June 2009 death of Haitham Amer but acquitted the officers of more serious charges, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). The court cited a lack of evidence in the case, despite an official Palestinian autopsy report stating that Amer had died during detention and interrogation at a General Intelligence Service facility in Hebron due to torture, as well as testimony by three detainees who witnessed his death.
Civilian Palestinian factional violence during the year, including fights, family disputes, and manslaughter, resulted in 35 Palestinian fatalities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, according to the quasi-governmental Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR). The PA was not responsible for these fatalities.
Hamas-controlled security forces and other Palestinian terrorist groups continued to kill Israelis and Arabs in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. According to Israeli government statistics, Palestinian terrorist acts emanating from the West Bank killed six Israelis, including four civilians. No Israeli civilians died in violence emanating from the Gaza Strip, although the Israeli government attributed the death of a Thai migrant worker in Israel to a rocket attack launched from the northern Gaza Strip.
In the Gaza Strip, according to local media and the ICHR, masked gunmen affiliated with Hamas unlawfully executed at least 32 persons during the year. By law the PA president must ratify the death penalty, but Hamas did not contact the PA regarding the executions. In some cases, such as that of Mohammed Ismail and Nasser Abu Freh on April 15, the executions were based on allegations that the victims collaborated with Israel.
Hamas summoned 52-year-old Jamil Shafiq Shaqura for questioning at an internal security facility in Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip, where he was tortured, according to Israeli human rights NGO B'Tselem; he died on January 6 from a stroke as a result of his abuse.
On June 14, unknown actors shot and killed an Israeli police officer, Yehushua Sofer, in an attack on his patrol car near the Hebron-area Israeli settlement of Beit Haggai, according to IDF reports. The attack injured two other police officers. Israeli authorities opened an investigation and arrested suspects with Hamas affiliations on July 22. At year's end there were no updates.
On August 31, Hamas gunmen shot and killed four Israeli residents of the West Bank settlement of Beit Haggai, who were traveling by car near Hebron. The four victims were identified as married couple Yitzak and Talia Ames, Avishai Shindler, and Kochba Even-Chaim; retaliatory skirmishes occurred near a number of West Bank settlements, with Israeli settlers reportedly throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at Palestinian villagers.
Israeli security forces killed 79 Palestinians during the year, including seven minors in the Gaza Strip and two minors in the West Bank, which was an increase from the 59 killings in 2009 (not including deaths during Operation Cast Lead), according to statistics maintained by B'Tselem. Israel described all IDF actions in the occupied territories as "operational activities," preventing accountability for breaches of law and investigations, according to B'Tselem.
The Israeli government was responsible for at least one targeted killing. On September 17, Israeli security personnel shot and killed Iyad As'ad Abu Shelbaya in his home at the Palestinian Nur ash-Shams refugee camp during the night. The Israeli government suspected that Abu Shelbaya, known for his reported links to Hamas, had taken part in an August 31 attack that killed four Israeli settlers (see above).
At year's end there was no update or investigation into the death of Khaled Harb Khaled Sh'alan, a 23-year-old resident of Gaza City and a reported Islamic Jihad commander, who was killed by Israeli helicopter fire in March 2009.
Reports of Israeli forces killing Palestinians in restricted areas in the Gaza Strip and in waters off the Gaza Strip coast continued during the year. Israel acknowledged the land "buffer zone" in May 2009 to be 328 yards from the border fence, although it generally enforced the buffer zone at 547 yards, with reports of Palestinians being shot at as far away as 1,640 yards from the border fence. Israel barred access to fishing areas beyond three nautical miles from the shore; for example, in four incidents in October, Israeli naval forces fired "warning" shots at Palestinian fishing boats, forcing them ashore. Israel enforced these restrictions with the stated intention of preventing attacks by Palestinian armed factions. The IDF rarely launched investigations into buffer zone shootings, although on September 15, it announced that three Gazans, ages17, 21, and 91, killed by the IDF earlier in the year near the border fence, had not been involved in terrorist activities.
On March 21, Israeli security forces shot and killed two Palestinian 19-year-olds looking for scrap metal on farmland east of the West Bank village of Awarta, according to several NGOs and press reports. The two were not in a restricted area. The Israeli soldiers claimed that Salah Muhammad Kamel Quareq and Muhammad Feisal Mahmoud Quareq told them that they were on their way to work in the fields but did not produce identification documents upon request and, subsequently, attempted to attack the border guards with a pitchfork. Medical reports indicated that the shots came from close range. The Israeli chief military prosecutor ordered an investigation into the killings, the results of which were not available at year's end, although authorities dismissed the soldiers' squad commander.
On May 14, the IDF shot and killed 75-year-old Fouad Ahmad Yusef Abu Matar, a resident of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, when he approached the perimeter fence east of Jabalya Refugee Camp.
On June 11, according to local media sources, Israeli border police shot and killed Ziad Jilani, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem, while he lay on the ground. Jilani had swerved his vehicle into a group of officers, injuring several, but eyewitnesses told the media that Jilani did not pose a danger at the time of the shooting. It was unclear if Jilani hit the officers deliberately; eyewitness accounts reported that Jilani swerved to avoid stones that bystanders had thrown at the officers.
On September 24, according B'Tselem, Israeli naval force machine-gun fire killed 19-year-old Muhammad Mansur Omar Baqar while he was fishing off the coast of Jabalya in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli security forces reportedly killed three demonstrators during the year. In most cases the protesters were demonstrating near restricted areas or the separation barrier.
On March 20, Israeli security forces in the West Bank village of Iraq Burin shot and killed two Palestinian adolescents during a local demonstration related to a water dispute with a nearby settlement, according to several NGOs and press reports. There were conflicting reports as to whether Usaied Abd al-Naser Muhammad Qadous, 17 years old, and Muhammad Ibrahim 'Abd al-Qader Qadous, 15 years old, threw rocks at Israeli police during the demonstration. Israeli officials claimed that forces employed tear gas and rubber-coated bullets to disperse demonstrators but did not use live ammunition. Villagers, international protesters, PA officials, and Israeli NGOs all claimed that live ammunition caused the deaths, and PA medical personnel released an X ray to the media showing what doctors stated was a bullet lodged in the brain of one of the boys. On March 23, the IDF's chief prosecutor ordered the army to open an internal investigation into the circumstances that led the soldiers to open fire; no results were available at year's end.
On April 28, an IDF soldier shot and killed Ahmad Suliman Salem Deeb, a 19-year-old resident of Gaza City who was taking part in a demonstration against the "buffer zones," during which some demonstrators threw stones, according to press reports.
On May 25, the Israeli central district prosecution filed an indictment for negligent manslaughter against an unidentified retired border policeman suspected of shooting 11-year-old Palestinian Ahmed Moussa in the West Bank in 2008. The incident was one of several connected to protests against construction of the separation barrier.
On July 12, a judge advocate general (JAG) ordered the Military Police Investigation Unit to investigate the death of Bassem Abu Rahmah, who was struck in the chest by a tear gas canister during an antibarrier demonstration in April 2009. According to B'Tselem, the JAG initially declined to probe the incident but changed its stance after forensic evidence indicated that soldiers fired the canister directly at the victim, contrary to initial debriefing statements. Citing video footage of the incident, B'Tselem noted that Abu Rahmah remained on the Palestinian side of the fence and did not endanger soldiers. At year's end the IDF had not released an update in the case, according to local NGO reports.
On December 31, Jawaher Abu Rahmah, a resident of the West Bank village of Bil'in, inhaled tear gas from canisters fired by the IDF to disrupt protests against the separation barrier, according to NGO and press reports. She died the following day of complications from the inhalation, according to the PA. The IDF claimed that she did not die as a result of the tear gas inhalation, but rather improper medical treatment.
At year's end no findings were available from an Israeli investigation into the 2008 death of Yousif Ahmed Amira, whom IDF soldiers shot in the head during a protest.
Israeli forces also killed civilians during episodes of conflict throughout the year, including killings from tank fire and tear gas. The IDF regularly used tanks and remote-controlled weapons stations to fire on Palestinians inside the Gaza Strip, according to reports from the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). IDF personnel maintained secure stations every several hundred yards along the border fence; each station contained machine guns with a nearly one-mile firing range. The IDF also used tanks firing "flechette" projectiles, which explode in midair, releasing thousands of 1.5-inch metal darts. In July alone flechettes killed at least two civilians and injured 10, including four children, according to UNOCHA.
On May 9, during hostilities at the Karmi Tsur settlement north of Hebron, a one-year-old boy from the southern West Bank village of Beit Ummar died, reportedly as the result of inhaling tear gas deployed by Israeli forces. The canister landed outside the boy's window, and he died of respiratory complications, according to press reports.
B'Tselem reported that on December 9, Israeli tank fire killed 16-year-olds Husam Khaled Ibrahim Abu Sa'id and Isma'il Walid Muhammad Abu 'Odeh and 91-year-old Ibrahim Abdallah Suliman Abu Sa'id near Biet Hanoun, while the three grazed livestock. According to B'Tselem, none had engaged in hostile activity.
The 147 military police investigations of the killings or injuries of Palestinians by Israeli forces led to few convictions. The NGO Yesh Din reported that in 2009 only 2 percent of investigations by the Israeli Military Police Criminal Investigation Division led to indictment (four investigations). Between 2000 and 2009, the average rate of indictment was 6 percent. B'Tselem attributed such statistics to a procedural conflict of interest in the investigation process because Israeli forces involved in the fatality are also responsible for collecting the information that the JAG uses to determine whether to launch a military police investigation. Since 2001 B'Tselem has monitored 35 cases of Palestinians injured or killed from bullets fired by Israeli police and border police officers. Only 16 of the cases were investigated, of which only two cases resulted in indictments.
Human rights organizations also complained that the IDF--through the JAG--initiated many investigations months or more than a year after the incident, making it difficult to find evidence or identify witnesses, and that the investigations unit lacked sufficient Arabic speakers.
Israeli civilians killed two Palestinians. On May 13, a settler shot in the back and killed 15-year-old Aysar Yasser Fawaz Zaraqah, who threw stones at the settler's car near al-Mazra'a as-Sharqiya in the West Bank. There were no reports of an investigation into his death. On September 22, an Israeli private security guard shot and killed Samer Mahmoud Ahmad Sarhan in East Jerusalem. The guard responsible for Samer's death was released on bail. Yesh Din continued to claim that settler violence was insufficiently investigated. There was no evidence of a public investigation at year's end.
The PA and Israel took steps to address and investigate allegations of abuses related to the 2008-09 Operation Cast Lead conflict; however, NGOs criticized Hamas for failing to investigate abuses adequately.
During the year the PA established an independent commission to review the allegations against it in the context of the conflict.
Amnesty International (AI) criticized Hamas authorities for failing to investigate fully abuses perpetrated by Gazans during the conflict, citing specifically the firing of indiscriminate rockets by Palestinian armed groups into southern Israel. AI claimed Hamas did not respond with legal or any other action against the al-Qassam Brigades, which claimed responsibility for rocket attacks aimed at civilian targets.
During the year Israel provided specific examples of investigations relating to Operation Cast Lead and their outcomes, including new orders to enhance civilian protections. Local and international NGOs continued to criticize Israel's investigation and disciplinary action relating to casualties from Operation Cast Lead as insufficient. B'Tselem reported that 773 of the estimated 1,385 Palestinians killed were civilians. The Israeli government maintained that the civilian death count was 295 and noted that Hamas operated within civilian populations.
Since 2009 the IDF has opened investigations into 150 incidents involving alleged violations of law of war by its forces. Various human rights organizations reiterated concern that Israeli army commanders or military police carried out the investigations, potentially reducing impartiality. NGOs also criticized the Israeli government's decision not to investigate fully allegations of serious violations, such as Israel's use of white phosphorus and the targeting of civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.
Israel issued two indictments related to Cast Lead in a human shield case (see section 2.c.) and in a civilian death during the year. The IDF reprimanded an officer and sanctioned two others for failing to exercise appropriate judgment during an incident that resulted in civilian casualties in the al-Maqadmah mosque during Operation Cast Lead. Additionally, an IDF brigadier general and a colonel were disciplined for approving the use of explosive shells in violation of the safety distances required in urban areas during Operation Cast Lead.
In 2009 the IDF chief of staff ordered operational debriefings for at least 60 investigations focused on law of war violations during Operation Cast Lead. Held by the army under the Military Justice Law, operational debriefing delayed criminal investigations because information provided cannot be released or used as evidence in a court of law.
There were few reports of politically motivated kidnappings and disappearances in connection with internal Palestinian conflict, largely due to improved security conditions in the West Bank.
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas security operatives carried out extrajudicial detentions based on political affiliation during the year; information concerning the whereabouts and welfare of those detained was not consistently or reliably available, nor were those detained offered due process or access to family and legal counsel.
In 2006 Popular Resistance Committee and Hamas militants tunneled from the Gaza Strip to Israel, killed two soldiers, and abducted a third, Gilad Shalit. At year's end Shalit remained detained in the Gaza Strip.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The PA Basic Law prohibits torture or use of force against detainees; however, international human rights groups reported that torture remained a problem. Following allegations of abuse in the deaths of four prisoners in PA custody in 2009 (see section 1.a.), Prime Minister Fayyad dismissed a number of PA security officials and issued a directive against prisoner mistreatment, abuse, or torture, with a corresponding order for Palestinian prison and detention center monitoring. As a result the PA provided all security forces with written guidelines for interrogation and detention that remained in effect during the year, including a section on prisoners' rights. Nevertheless, according to HRW, reports of mistreatment were common during the year, and the PA was lax in prosecuting security officials for detainee mistreatment. Palestinian detainees registered 163 complaints of torture with the ICHR during the year. Reported abuse by PA authorities in the West Bank included forcing prisoners to sit in a painful position for long periods, beating, punching, flogging, intimidation, and psychological pressure. International observers noted that abuse was not systematic or routinely practiced in PA prisons, although some prisoners experienced abuse during arrest or interrogation.
A 2009 HRW report alleged abuses by Fatah-affiliated Palestinian security officials against Hamas members and supporters in the West Bank, as well as abuses by Hamas security forces against Fatah-affiliated officials in Gaza Strip. According to reports these trends continued during the year.
On September 16 and 19, according to HRW, PA security authorities arrested an unidentified man and Ahmad Salhab and tortured them in custody in a facility in Jericho. The PA suspected both men of ties to Hamas. Authorities released the first man after 10 days but held Salhab until October 16, when they transferred him to a hospital to treat injuries reportedly related to torture, as well as torn spinal disks that were a previous result of mistreatment during confinement in 2008.
Torture carried out by the Gaza Strip Hamas Executive Force was not restricted to security detainees but also included persons associated with the Fatah political party, those held on suspicion of "collaboration" with Israel, or those considered to engage in immoral activity. There were reports that Hamas deployed undercover officers to attack, beat, and (in some cases) detain these persons, usually without intent to kill. Hamas took no action to investigate reports of torture, and documentation of abuses was limited, due in part to fear of retribution by victims and, in part, to PA officials and NGOs lacking access to Gaza Strip prisoners. The ICHR reported that complaints of abuse included being forced to stand in an uncomfortable stress positions, flogging, hand binding, suspension, blindfolding, punching, and beatings with clubs or hoses.
According to human rights NGO reports and photographic documentation released on May 12, Hamas forces beat Jamal Abu Qumsan, an unmarried art gallery owner, regarding the accusation that he had nonmarital sexual relations. Abu Qumsan sustained blows along his back, legs, and buttocks. Human rights organizations claimed that such attacks and interrogations were common, but victims were reticent to come forward.
Hamas organized attacks in the West Bank. On September 1, Hamas members reportedly shot and wounded two Israeli residents of a Jordan Valley settlement near Ramallah; Hamas's military wing immediately claimed responsibility. On November 17, the PA arrested various Hamas members suspected of planning bomb attacks and abductions and targeting a prominent Palestinian government official.
There were no reports that Hamas used human shields during the year. According to a 2009 report released by Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hamas used human shields, including children, during Operation Cast Lead by placing launch pads and operation centers in civilian facilities.
Israeli law, as interpreted by a 1999 High Court decision, prohibits torture and several interrogation techniques but allows "moderate physical pressure" against detainees considered to possess information about an imminent terrorist attack. The decision also indicates that interrogators who abuse detainees suspected of possessing such information may be immune from prosecution. Human rights organizations reported that "moderate physical pressure" in practice included beatings, requiring an individual to hold a stress position for long periods, and painful pressure from shackles or restraints applied to the forearms. Israeli NGOs continued to criticize what they termed abusive Israeli detention practices, including isolation, sleep deprivation, protracted handcuffing, shackling, and psychological abuse, such as threats to interrogate elderly parents or demolish family homes.
The NGO Defense for Children International-Palestine Section (DCI-Palestine) claimed Israeli security authorities often tortured and abused minors in custody to coerce confessions during interrogation, employing tactics such as beatings, long-term handcuffing, threats, rape, and solitary confinement. In 40 affidavits collected by DCI-Palestine in the last six months of the year, 28 children arrested and detained by the IDF claimed they were beaten and kicked, 24 experienced some form of position abuse, seven were stripped naked, and three were subjected to electric shocks.
On March 23, Israeli soldiers arrested a 16-year-old known as Basel from the West Bank village of at-Tabaqa. According to sworn testimony collected by DCI-Palestine, soldiers blindfolded, bound, and beat Basel, then transferred him to local settlers, who also beat him. He claimed he was pressured into confessing to throwing stones and that he was threatened with imprisonment and electric shocks. The IDF later left him barefoot on a road outside a West Bank settlement at 1 a.m., approximately 10 miles from his home.
On November 24, Israeli border police beat and kicked seven-year-old Adam in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, according to a DCI-Palestine affidavit.
In 2008, according to the NGO the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), the Israeli Security Agency (known as the Shin Bet or ISA) arrested Jalal Sawafta and interrogated him and his parents. The Shin Bet interrogator allegedly threatened to demolish the family home if Sawafta's parents did not convince Sawafta to confess to complicity in rigging a car bomb. PCATI reported that Sawafta's complaint about the incident was closed at year's end, but the State Attorney's Office provided no detailed explanation for its decision to close the complaint, and there had been no investigation.
Degrading treatment by Israeli soldiers was documented on the Internet. In August former Israeli soldier Eden Abergil posted online photographs of herself posing with blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinian detainees. Although Israeli authorities condemned the act as degrading, there was no evidence of results in any investigation. In October the IDF launched an investigation into an online video, purportedly posted in 2008, featuring a soldier mocking and dancing around a blindfolded Palestinian detainee.
At year's end two policemen from the Ma'ale Adumim police station, who were arrested in 2008 for severely abusing a Palestinian from Bethany, remained under house arrest, and investigations continued, according to PCATI.
Israeli law, high court rulings, and an IDF order prohibit Israeli forces from using human shields, but the prohibition was reportedly not always observed. Israeli soldiers used civilians, including three children, according to DCI-Palestine, as human shields, endangering their lives by forcing them to remain in or near houses being used as military positions or carrying out dangerous tasks such as inspecting properties. According to the Israeli Ministry of Justice, when a human shield complaint is registered, the Investigative Military Police opens an investigation.
On February 18, during a raid on a house in Nablus, Israeli soldiers reportedly forced 16-year-old Dua'a to search her home for potential booby traps. The soldiers ordered her to open closets and lift mattresses in the house, according to DCI-Palestine. There was no investigation or update at year's end.
On April 16, two IDF soldiers detained 14-year-old Sabri in front of a school in Beit Ummar and forced him to walk in front of them while Palestinian protesters, urged by the IDF personnel, threw stones. The incident was photographed and published widely in Palestinian media. On October 19, the Israeli Military prosecutor for operational matters indicated that military police had opened an investigation into the case, but there was no update at year's end.
On August 19, IDF soldiers near Nablus beat a 13-year-old boy known as Nazzal during a raid and forced him to guide them through an inspection of his uncle's house, according to DCI-Palestine. There was no investigation or update at year's end.
In the first conviction by Israeli courts in any human shield case, on October 3, an Israeli military court convicted two unidentified Israeli soldiers from the Givati Brigade who used a nine-year-old boy, identified as Majid Abd Rabbo, to search bags believed to contain explosives in January 2009 during Operation Cast Lead. Authorities sentenced the soldiers to three-month suspended prison terms for exceeding their authority by endangering a life and behavior unbecoming a soldier; both were also demoted. The IDF also disciplined a lieutenant colonel for permitting Rabbo to enter a structure where combatants were present.
Nonstate Palestinian groups attacked Israeli targets in the West Bank. For example, the Syria-based Abu Musa group claimed responsibility for the September 26 shooting of two Israelis south of Hebron.
Israeli civilians committed violent acts against Palestinian civilians and their property with reportedly little or no intervention and no subsequent investigation by Israeli officials. Some settlers reportedly used violence against Palestinians to keep them away from settlements and land that settlers sought to expropriate. The Palestine Center estimated that between 2009 and mid-year, settlers committed approximately 1,000 acts of violence against Palestinians and their property. DCI-Palestine claimed in July that it had documented 38 cases of children attacked and injured by settlers between March 2008 and July 2010 near settlements in the vicinity of Bethlehem, Ramallah, Salfit, Hebron, and Nablus; in three of those incidents, children were killed. Six of the attacks, affecting eight children, reportedly occurred during the year. A November 2009 UNOCHA report cited settler violence as "a key factor undermining the physical security and livelihoods of Palestinians in many areas throughout the West Bank."
On July 26, settlers conducted a series of attacks for more than 12 hours on the Palestinian village of Burin, during which time settlers assaulted Palestinians, looted vehicles, and burned nearby Palestinian fields, according to NGO and media reports. Local officials and NGO field workers on site stated that the IDF largely observed the attacks and took no action to prevent the attackers from regrouping. Local officials claimed PA fire service crews were restricted for more than an hour from entering the area to put out the flames.
On September 1, following a Hamas-related shooting that killed four Israeli settlers, approximately 50 settlers from the Kiryat Arba settlement near Hebron threw rocks at the nearby home of the Palestinian Idris family. Settlers knocked over outside fixtures and set fire to grass in front of the house. According to media reports, IDF soldiers accompanied the settlers and did not prevent the attacks. On the same day, another settler attack arbitrarily targeted Palestinian vehicles by breaking windows near the Jet junction, between Nablus and Qalqilya.
On November 11, settlers targeted a Palestinian woman and her two children, ages 10 and 11 years old, with rocks as they went to school in Tuqu village, near Bethlehem in the West Bank, according to media reports. A Palestinian group later protested the incident by burning tires and throwing rocks at Israeli vehicles, and a clash with Israeli forces ensued.
Settler violence against Palestinians in the Old City of Hebron continued to decline, according to local NGOs, attributed primarily to Palestinian video documentation of settler harassment. Nevertheless, residents and several former IDF soldiers reported that Israeli authorities in the Old City consistently refrained from protecting Palestinians against settler violence and failed to enforce law and order on assailants.
In April 2009 two male settlers near Ma'on settlement attacked a woman who was eight months pregnant. The men, whose faces were covered, pushed her to the ground, kicked her, and beat her with sticks. Although B'Tselem reported that Hebron police in May stated that they had interrogated three suspects, at year's end there was no evidence of an investigation.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
PA prison conditions improved in recent years, although the PA prison system remained significantly inadequate for the prison population it served. PA civil police prisons, which held nonsecurity prisoners, remained severely overcrowded. Space and capacity issues also reduced the availability of medical care and vocational or other programs for inmates in civil police prisons.
Unlike in the previous year, there were no deaths reported in PA civil police prisons from adverse conditions.
In December there were approximately 1,050 prisoners in the seven PA civil police prisons; women and male juveniles each constituted approximately 2 percent of the prison population, according to PA statistics. Male juveniles were at times housed with adult male prisoners. PA intelligence services held several hundred security detainees separately from the general population. PA authorities undertook prison improvement efforts at various facilities.
All PA civil police prisons allowed visitations on a weekly basis, religious observance, a procedure for submitting complaints, and an investigation process for complaints. During the year the PA generally permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to detainees and allowed regular inspections of prison conditions. Preliminary, unpublished accounts by human rights groups, humanitarian organizations, and lawyers indicated that, as in previous years, there were some difficulties gaining access to specific detainees, depending on which security organization managed the facility.
Ombudsmen cannot serve on behalf of prisoners.
In the Gaza Strip prison conditions were reportedly poor, and little information was available. Detention facilities were unofficially reported below international legal or humanitarian standards. Hamas authorities announced an inquiry into the 2008 death of Taleb Mohammed Abu Sitta, who died of injuries following Hamas police detention. As a result Hamas suspended several police officers from duty, but there were no reports that any were tried, according to AI. The ICRC conducted monitoring visits to some prisoners in the Gaza Strip, but Hamas authorities denied representatives permission to visit captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
IDF detention centers were less likely than Israeli civilian prisons to meet international standards, with some, such as the Ofer detention center, providing living space as small as 15 square feet per detainee. In November B'Tselem and Hamoked reported unsatisfactory conditions in Shin Bet's Petah Tikva Prison, including poor hygienic conditions. Prisoners also continued to claim inadequate medical care. According to the Israeli Ministry of Justice, the IDF continued to ameliorate living conditions in two detention centers in the West Bank. Also, in November 2009 Israel began building a new detention complex next to the Ofer Camp military courts.
According to Israeli official figures, approximately 5,935 Palestinians were held in Israeli civilian prisons in December. Palestinian minors arrested in the West Bank were subject to the Israeli military courts system, which recognizes persons 16 years of age or older as adults; all minors between the ages of 16 and 18 were held in pretrial or posttrial detention with adults. Israeli minors between the ages of 16 and 18 arrested in the West Bank were subject to Israeli criminal and civil courts.
PCATI reported that approximately 650 prisoner complaints of mistreatment in Shin Bet facilities were not forwarded to police for criminal investigation between 2001 and November 2010.
Israel permitted the ICRC to monitor prison conditions. The Israeli Bar Association and NGOs sent representatives to meet with prisoners and inspect conditions in prisons, detention centers, and IDF facilities. Human rights groups reported delays and difficulties in gaining access to specific detainees, frequent transfers of detainees without notice, and the limited ability of families of imprisoned Palestinians, particularly Gazans, to visit.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
Palestinian law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, in practice the PA failed to charge detainees promptly and regularly held detainees for months without trial. Hamas also charged that the PA detained individuals during the year solely on the basis of their Hamas affiliation.
Reportedly Hamas practiced widespread arbitrary detention in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but Israeli security services did not always abide by these prohibitions.
Palestinian security detainees were under the jurisdiction of military law, which permits 10 days' detention without access to a lawyer or appearing before a court. There is no requirement that a detainee have access to a lawyer until after interrogation, a process that may last weeks.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
In West Bank Palestinian population centers, mostly "Area A" as defined by the Oslo-era agreements, the PA has formal responsibility for security and civil control; however, Israeli security forces since 2002 have conducted regular security operations in Area A cities without coordinating with PA security forces. In "Area B" territory in the West Bank, composed mostly of small Palestinian villages and farmland, the PA has civil control--including civil policing--but Israel retains responsibility for security control. In "Area C," which contains Israeli settlements, military installations, some small Palestinian villages and farmland, and open countryside, Israel retains full civil and security control.
Six PA security forces operated in the West Bank. The PA Civil Police has primary responsibility for civil and community policing. The National Security Force (NSF) conducts gendarmerie-style security operations in circumstances that exceed the capabilities of the Civil Police. The Military Intelligence agency, a subunit of the NSF, handles intelligence and criminal matters involving PA security force personnel, including accusations of abuse. The General Intelligence service is responsible for external intelligence gathering and operations; the Preventive Security Organization is responsible for these matters internally. The Presidential Guard protects facilities and provides dignitary protection. The Civil Defense service provides emergency services. PA security services are under the operational control of the minister of the interior. Military Intelligence is responsible for investigations into allegations of abuse and corruption involving PA security forces and can refer cases to court.
In the Gaza Strip, forces under Hamas control maintained security. Press and NGO reports suggested Hamas enforced strict control across all sectors of society. Hamas police reportedly facilitated and benefited from illegal activity, such as the operation of smuggling tunnels.
Israeli authorities maintained their West Bank security presence through the IDF, Shin Bet, the Israeli National Police, and the Border Police. Israeli authorities in some instances investigated and punished abuse and corruption, but there were several reports of failure to take disciplinary action in cases of abuse.
According to Israeli and Palestinian NGO and press reports, the IDF was insufficiently responsive to violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers in the West Bank against Palestinians. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) stated that Israeli security and justice officials operating in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem displayed bias against Arab residents in investigating incidents involving Arab and Israeli actors. Palestinian residents, in several cases, sought to press charges against Israeli settlers or their security guards, but many complaints went uninvestigated despite the availability of evidence. Most complaints filed by Arab residents of East Jerusalem were of police misconduct from the Shalem and David police stations, which are responsible for Jerusalem's Old City and surrounding Arab neighborhoods where some Israeli settlers maintained highly defended presences.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention
PA law provides for prompt judicial determination of the legality of detention, and this provision was largely--but not uniformly--observed in practice. PA law allows police to hold detainees without charge for 24 hours and with court approval for up to 45 days; it requires that a trial must start within six months or the detainee must be released. In several reported cases, PA security forces detained persons without warrants and without bringing them before judicial authorities within the required timeframe; however, PA judicial officials claimed no detentions extended beyond the time limit without trial. Bail and conditional release were available upon discretion of judicial authorities. Authorities generally informed detainees of the charges against them, albeit sometimes not until interrogation.
PA Military Intelligence in a number of cases reportedly exceeded its legal authority to investigate other security services' officers and detained civilians suspected of "security offenses" such as terrorist activities. Hamas charged that the PA detained individuals during the year solely on the basis of their Hamas affiliation, but the PA presented evidence that many of these individuals had been charged with criminal offenses under civil or military codes. For example, Hamas stated that the PA unnecessarily targeted and in some cases carried out wave arrests of Hamas affiliates after PA officers detained seven members of an armed Hamas cell in the West Bank suspected of killing Israelis in shootings in Hebron and Ramallah on August 31 and September 2, respectively. Similarly, on December 9, PA authorities arrested 28 suspected Hamas supporters within 24 hours in Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem, Tulkarem, Qalqilia, Salfit, and Jenin.
As in 2009 the PA sought military judicial review and court orders for detaining civilians suspected of terrorist activity. In several such cases, the PA disregarded civilian court orders requiring the release of these suspects, citing countervailing military court orders. In most of these incidents, the PA was unwilling to provide evidence required by the civilian court system, and the military courts provided a more efficient system to deal with any shortcomings in providing evidence.
There were reports that some PA security forces used disproportionate force during arrest operations. The PA General Administration for Reform and Rehabilitation Center, under the authority of the Ministry of Interior, operated a mechanism for reviewing complaints of prisoner abuse.
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas reportedly detained a large but unverifiable number of persons during the year, largely without recourse to legal counsel, judicial review, or bail. Many of these detentions were apparently politically based, targeting former PA officials, Fatah party members, and those suspected of ties to Israel.
In one case, on February 15, Hamas detained British journalist Paul Martin without charge and held him until March 11. Martin was reportedly suspected of espionage but never faced charges. He did not appear before a judge to assess the legality of his detention and had no access to his lawyer between February 19 and March 1. Reports also indicated that neither Martin nor his lawyer had access to the evidence that led to his arrest, according to HRW.
Israeli authorities operate under military and legal codes in the occupied territories (see also Israel, section 1.d., Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention). By law detainees can be held for up to 90 days without access to a lawyer. Israeli authorities stated that their policy is to post notification of arrests within 48 hours, but senior officers may delay notification for up to 12 days, effectively holding detainees incommunicado. A military commander may request that a judge extend this period indefinitely.
Persons detained on security grounds fall under one or more of several legal regimes, which allow for the transfer of administrative detainees from the West Bank to detention in Israel. As a general practice, Arabs without Israeli citizenship detained for security violations were not granted bail.
Several NGOs claimed that Israel continued to overuse the administrative detention process in unexceptional and nonsecurity cases and as an alternative to standard criminal proceedings, particularly in cases where evidence is insufficient or cannot be publicly presented. Administrative detainees, according to B'Tselem, were not provided sufficient information on the reasons for their detention or the charges against them; they were rarely given an opportunity to refute the suspicions or access the evidentiary material presented against them in court. At year's end, according to B'Tselem, Israel held 204 Palestinians under "administrative detention" without having charged them with a crime; this was a decrease from the 278 held at the end of 2009. A military judge can reportedly issue administrative detention orders for up to six months, renewable indefinitely. PCATI alleged military commanders in the occupied territories used administrative detention orders based on "security reasons" even when the accused posed no clear danger. On December 26, Israel released a 16-year-old known as Moatasem after holding him in administrative detention since March 20.
Throughout the year there were reports that Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank arbitrarily arrested and detained Palestinian protesters and activists, particularly those participating in antibarrier demonstrations. Israeli authorities generally provided Palestinians held in Israeli military custody inside Israel access to their lawyers, but impediments to movement on West Bank roads or at crossings often made consultation difficult and postponed trials and hearings. The government frequently delayed notification to foreign government officials after detaining their citizens in the occupied territories.
During the year the Shin Bet continued its practice of incommunicado detention, including isolation from the ICRC, legal counsel, and family, throughout the duration of interrogation. There were also reports of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment during interrogation, often to elicit confessions (see section 1.c.). The Palestinian human rights organization Addameer reported that 39 Palestinians were held incommunicado during the year. In a study released in November, PCATI estimated that approximately 8,000 to 10,000 of the 11,790 Palestinians held by Israeli authorities in the West Bank from 2005 and 2007 were for some period of time detained incommunicado. According to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel), isolation of prisoners with mental illness was common (see section 6, Persons with Disabilities). According to the Israeli government, the Israel Prison Service does not hold detainees in separate detention punitively or to induce confessions, but rather only when a detainee threatens himself or others and other options have been exhausted, or, in some cases, during interrogation to prevent disclosing information. In such cases the Israeli government maintained that the detainee had the right to meet with representatives of the ICRC, Israeli Prison Service personnel, and medical personnel if necessary.
Nevertheless, NGOs reported that the government constrained access to prisoners by the ICRC and other independent groups. On January 21, the deputy state attorney denied October 2009 requests from PCATI, ACRI, and PHR-Israel for representatives of the Public Defender's Office to visit Shin Bet facilities to provide counsel. A study by PCATI and the Palestinian Prisoner Society revealed in December that up to 90 percent of Palestinians in Shin Bet detention did not have access to legal counsel until after signing confessions.
B'Tselem cited a rise in the rate of Palestinian minors arrested and detained throughout the year in East Jerusalem, particularly in Silwan, in violation of Israel's youth law, which prohibits arrest or interrogation of minors after nightfall. NGO reports claimed that Israeli authorities routinely arrested minors at checkpoints, on the street, at night, and in early morning house raids, and transferred them to one of eight detention facilities for interrogation. In particular B'Tselem reported lack of parental presence at interrogation, as is permitted by law. In most cases authorities reportedly failed to inform parents where their children would be taken. According to DCI-Palestine, authorities also tortured and abused minors to coerce confessions (see section 1.c.).
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The 2002 Palestinian Basic Law, amended in 2005, provides for an independent judiciary. In practice the PA generally respected judicial independence and the autonomy of the High Judicial Council, maintained authority over most court operations in the West Bank. PA courts operated more efficiently than in previous years, demonstrating improvements in several procedural capacities, including case management, organization, transparency, evidence collection, and recordkeeping. Case backlogs were largely related to restrictions on movement imposed by Israeli authorities (see section 2.d.). Additionally, PA-affiliated prosecutors and judges stated that these prohibitions hampered their ability to dispense justice, including restrictions on their ability to transport detainees and collect witnesses. The PA increased financial allocations to the courts to fund additional court administrative staff, in response to an existing lack of personnel. Efforts to expand reforms continued at year's end. In some cases involving investigations by PA intelligence services in the West Bank, civilian defendants appeared before the PA's military court system, which has jurisdiction over security personnel and crimes by civilians against security forces. Palestinian NGOs criticized the practice of trying civilian defendants in military courts, while the PA defended the practice based on the security nature of the crimes involved.
In 2007 Hamas appointees replaced PA-appointed prosecutors and judges in the Gaza Strip. The PA declared the action illegal; however, courts operated by Hamas appointees continued functioning in the Gaza Strip throughout the year.
Israeli law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected civil court independence in practice. The IDF tried Palestinians accused of security offenses (ranging from rock throwing to membership in a terrorist organization to incitement) in military courts. Israeli law defines security offenses to include a variety of different charges. Israeli military courts rarely acquitted Palestinians charged with security offenses; sentences occasionally were reduced on appeal. Israeli civil law applied to Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, and Israeli civil courts generally tended to rule against Palestinians.
Several NGOs claimed that Israeli military courts, which processed approximately 7,000 Palestinians in the West Bank during the year, were not equipped to adjudicate each case properly. In a 2007 study, the Israeli NGO Yesh Din stated that plea bargains had largely replaced full legal proceedings. In a sampling of 118 detention hearings observed, of both minors and adults, the average hearing lasted three minutes and four seconds. Of the 9,123 detention hearings for Palestinians in 2006, only 23 hearings, approximately 0.29 percent, resulted in the defendant being found not guilty. DCI-Palestine, which represented several hundred Palestinian minors each year in Israeli military courts, claimed Israeli military justice officials had made only negligible improvements since 2006.
PA law provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence. Juries are not used. Trials are public, except when the court determines privacy is required by PA security, foreign relations, a party's or witness's right to privacy, or protection of a victim of a sexual offense or an "honor" crime. Defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney in a timely matter during the trial, although during the investigation phase, the defendant only has the right to observe. The law provides for legal representation, at public expense if needed, in felony cases, but only during the trial phase. Defendants can confront or question witnesses against them or present witnesses and evidence during the trial, but not during the investigation phase; defendants may also review government-held evidence and have the right to appeal. Authorities generally observed these rights in practice.
Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip follow the same criminal procedure law as the PA in the West Bank. However, Hamas does not use the same penal code as the PA in the West Bank, following instead the 1936 penal code enacted by the British during the mandate period.
Palestinians held by Israeli authorities in the West Bank or in Israel were subject to trial in Israeli military courts. Israelis living in settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem were tried under Israeli civil law in the nearest Israeli district court.
Signed confessions by Palestinian minors, which were written in Hebrew, a language most cannot read, constituted a source of evidence against minors prosecuted in Israeli military courts. Every Palestinian minor prosecuted in Israeli military courts during the year pleaded guilty; lawyers stated they were often reluctant to run full evidentiary hearings for fear the minor would remain longer in detention.
According to HRW the August conviction of Abdullah Abu Rahmah, charged in relation to antibarrier protests in 2005 and 2009, did not specify particular events related to the charges against him and relied on statements in Hebrew signed by children unable to read the language that were later retracted. A court validated Abdullah Abu Rahmah's allegations of unfair trial and lack of proper investigation but acquitted him only partially (see section 2.b.).
Political Prisoners and Detainees
The PA during the year tried approximately 10 cases in which Palestinians were accused of collaborating with Israel. Following a Supreme Court ruling that found military court prosecution of civilians illegal, an unknown number of cases were transferred to governorate authorities during the year. Independent reports claimed that a variety of these cases may have included political prisoners. There were no statistics available on the number of political prisoners and detainees the PA may have held during the year.
Hamas detained several hundred persons, allegedly because of their political affiliation, and held them for varying periods of time. Numerous allegations of denial of due process and some executions were associated with these detentions.
There was no information at year's end about access to political prisoners by international humanitarian organizations.
In two politically motivated events on April 12, Fatah stated that Hamas security forces raided the home of Fatah Revolutionary Council member Abdullah Abu Samhadana and later arrested Fatah official Ibrahim at-Tahrawi.
Israel held noncitizen Palestinians in detention in Israel and in prisons in the West Bank. On March 28, the High Court of Justice rejected an NGO petition that called for a cessation of Palestinian prisoner and detainee transfers to Israeli territory inside the Green Line and an end to the use of military courts in such cases. PA officials claimed that at year's end there were 130 Palestinians held inside Israel serving sentences of at least 20 years--most were political and security prisoners.
Ten Palestinians held by Israel were members of the PLC.
On March 19, Israeli authorities arrested and held in administrative detention Hamas-affiliated PLC members Nezar Ramadan and Azzam Salhab; they were released without trial or charges on September 8, according to Addameer.
On October 18, Israeli soldiers arrested PLC member Hatem Qafisha, affiliated with Hamas via the "Reform and Change Movement" (Hamas' electoral campaign platform, see Section 3). Previously, authorities arrested Qafisha in 2007 and held him in administrative detention without charges or trial until November 2009. There were reports that he faced six months of administrative detention.
On December 30, Israeli authorities rearrested Hamas politician Khalil al-Rabai in his Hebron home; al-Rabai previously served a three-year prison term ending in 2009.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
The PA civil and magistrate courts handled civil suits and were able to provide an independent and impartial judiciary in most matters. However, there were unconfirmed reports of various factions trying to influence judicial decisions. A citizen can file a suit against the government, including on matters related to alleged abuses of human rights, but this was uncommon. There are administrative remedies available in addition to judicial remedies, but they were seldom used. The execution of court orders was not systematic.
Gaza Strip residents may file civil suits, including those related to human rights violations. Unofficial anecdotal reports claimed that Gaza Strip courts operated independently of the Hamas government and were, at times, impartial. There were reports that enforcement of court orders improved.
Israeli law permits Palestinians residing in the occupied territories to seek compensation for death, injury, or property damage at the hands of the IDF, but a 2002 law denies Palestinians the possibility of obtaining compensation in most cases for human rights abuses or injuries resulting from illegal acts by Israeli security forces. Amendments in 2005, which the High Court in 2006 partially overturned, added obstacles to Palestinian plaintiffs seeking compensation.
When the IDF offered opportunities for compensation for demolished or seized homes, subject to an appraisal, verification, and appeals process, Palestinians generally refused, citing a desire not to legalize the confiscation. Due to documentation dating from the Ottoman period, a traditional land tenure system with communal, family, and individual rights commingled. According to Israeli-imposed definitions of land ownership, Palestinians had difficulty verifying ownership in Israeli courts (see section 1.f.).
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The PA required the attorney general to issue warrants for entry and searches of private property; however, Palestinian security services often ignored these requirements.
Palestinian civilians targeted Israeli setters' properties. For example, on August 22, according to Israeli settlers in Shilo, Palestinians burned approximately 13 acres of settler-owned vineyards.
Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip frequently interfered arbitrarily with personal privacy, family, and home, according to reporting from local media and NGO sources.
There were no reports that Israeli security monitored private communications or movement of individuals without legal process. Under occupation orders only IDF officers of lieutenant colonel rank and above could authorize entry into Palestinian private homes and institutions in the West Bank without a warrant, based upon military necessity. There were no reported cases of IDF soldiers punished for acting contrary to this requirement.
In the West Bank, Israel continued to demolish homes, other buildings, and other property constructed by Palestinians in areas of the West Bank under Israeli civil control on the basis that these buildings lacked Israeli planning licenses. Compensation was generally not offered in these cases. Properties 328 yards from the separation barrier or IDF military installations also remained subject to demolition or confiscation. There were 141 demolitions during the year. B'Tselem reported in July that more than 20 percent of the settlements' built-up areas rested on areas that Israel recognized as private Palestinian land. Exceptions to the November 2009 moratorium (which expired in September) on new residential settlement construction occurred on a case-by-case basis for projects with preexisting foundations and for public construction such as schools and infrastructure.
During the year Israeli authorities demolished 113 houses and 240 other commercial or community-use structures in "Area C," which is under the full jurisdiction of Israeli civil and military authority. The demolitions affected 13,847 persons, including 7,777 children. This was a significant increase from the 191 demolitions in 2009, which affected 572 persons, including 332 children, according to UNOCHA. Many of these demolitions occurred in Bedouin and herder communities in the Tubas Governorate, where Israeli policies largely prohibit Palestinian construction.
In March IDF personnel leveled several acres of Palestinian farmland in the West Bank village of Beit Jala to continue construction of the separation barrier, in some cases clearing land within feet of existing residential structures, according to NGO reporting. Lawyers representing several of the affected families stated that the IDF did not have valid orders and that the families did not have an opportunity to appeal the confiscations legally. A Palestinian family in the Bethlehem area whose property straddled the Jerusalem municipal boundary was encircled with fencing and concertina wire by the IDF; the family was allowed limited access in and out of the residence.
On July 19, IDF personnel demolished more than 70 structures in the small farming village of al-Farisiya in the Jordan Valley; the action displaced 113 persons, approximately half of whom were children, according to NGO and media reports. Residents reported the village was designated a "closed military zone," although military activity was not observed during the year. IDF troops returned on August 5 and demolished rebuilt structures.
On October 12, the IDF confiscated 250 acres of Palestinian-owned land in the West Bank village of Jaloud, near the Israeli settlement of Eli, for military purposes. This order followed a series of incidents on October 10-13 in which the IDF, as well as Israeli settlers, separately bulldozed what residents claimed was Palestinian-owned land in the vicinity of existing Israeli settlements.
In East Jerusalem home demolitions decreased significantly compared with 2009, although the Jerusalem Municipality demolished twice as many nonresidential structures (54 during the year, compared with 23 in 2009), often affecting private family businesses. The Jerusalem Municipality demolished 24 homes in East Jerusalem that it stated were built without municipal permits, compared with 57 in 2009, although seven additional homes were demolished during the year by their owners after receiving a demolition notice to avoid being charged by the municipality for the cost of demolition.
Construction did not begin at the site of the historic Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem, although municipal authorities issued construction permits for the site in March. In July 2009 the Jerusalem Municipality approved plans to construct two apartment buildings on the site of the hotel, owned by the Palestinian Husseini family from 1945 to 1967; it was confiscated as absentee property by the government of Israel in 1967 and privately purchased in the 1980s.
In 2009 the court ruled against two Palestinian families living in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shaykh Jarrah and ordered evictions for the Hanoun and al-Ghawi families, affecting 53 persons, including 20 children. The Nakhalat Shimon group took control of the properties and submitted plans to demolish approximately 28 homes to make way for a new Israeli settlement, according to UNOCHA.
In the Gaza Strip, B'Tselem reported that Israeli authorities destroyed 12 homes for alleged military purposes, displacing 38 persons. The Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip also inhibited all mail delivery and importation of construction supplies.
There were reports that East Jerusalem municipal authorities invaded Arab residents' privacy. According to ACRI some security cameras positioned in Arab neighborhoods pointed directly inside homes. Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem and the West Bank also claimed Israeli settlers and security guards often arbitrarily videotaped them in public
Israeli settlers reportedly continued to confiscate and vandalize Palestinian property during the year. As in previous years, violence and vandalism occurred during the autumn olive harvest, prompting disputes over land. By October 25, Israeli authorities had recorded 27 official complaints about settler theft of olives from Palestinian trees. Israeli human rights organizations stated that the olive-harvest incidents indicated a new trend of disruptive activity by settlers towards Palestinians in the West Bank. Rabbis for Human Rights reported that approximately 600 trees were harvested near the Havat Gilad settlement before being harvested by their Palestinian owners. The ICRC reported in February that settlers had cut down, burned, or uprooted approximately 10,000 olive trees since 2008. There were no known investigations into the incidents. Affected Palestinians and human rights NGOs reported that the IDF was largely unresponsive to actions against Palestinians in the West Bank. The Israeli NGO Yesh Din reported in October that more than 90 percent of investigations into offenses against Palestinians carried out by Israeli settlers in the West Bank were unsuccessful. Yesh Din monitored 97 complaints filed against Israeli settlers for damage caused to Palestinian-owned trees; police closed every case due to unidentifiable perpetrators or insufficient evidence. Although IDF and Palestinian officials took steps for the first time to mitigate olive-harvest violence, in some instances Israeli security authorities reportedly prevented Palestinian farmers from accessing their land to harvest the crop.
On August 17, according to residents of the West Bank village of Qusra, Israeli settlers from newly established settlement outposts attacked Palestinian olive groves, causing damage to hundreds of trees.
In incidents throughout September and October, Israeli settlers in Shilo and Ariel confiscated farmland and cut down hundreds of Palestinian-owned olive trees, prompting retaliations by Palestinians, who reportedly cut down more than 100 settler olive trees, according to both NGO and media reporting.
In September Israeli settlers harvested olives from Palestinian olive trees near Nablus and Qalqiliya, several weeks ahead of the traditional harvest season.
Settlers also exploited religious tensions to harass Palestinian villages by vandalizing, breaking into, or burning at least three mosques. These incidents aimed to accomplish political ends, such as warning Israeli officials against supporting policies that limit settlers' presence in the West Bank, in a policy the settlers publicly referred to as "price tag."
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The PA Basic Law provides every person the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and expression, orally, in writing, or through any other form. The PA does not have laws specifically providing for freedom of press; however, PA institutions applied aspects of an unratified 1995 press law as de facto law. In practice, however, the PA security forces in the West Bank and members of the Hamas security apparatus in the Gaza Strip continued to restrict freedom of speech and press. Self-censorship continued as a result of political and social pressures.
Although there is no PA law prohibiting criticism of the government, there were reports that the government was not fully tolerant of criticism. The PA prohibits calls for violence, displays of arms, and racist slogans but rarely enforced these provisions.
Across the occupied territories, three Palestinian daily and several weekly newspapers, several monthly magazines, and three tabloids were published. There were approximately 25 television and 65 radio stations; the PA operated one of each. Since 2008 several factional satellite stations opened, including the pro-Hamas al-Quds, established in 2008. Violence between Hamas and Fatah resulted in polarization of the Palestinian press. International news outlets continued to maintain offices and stringers in the Gaza Strip.
During the year the PA ministries of information, interior, and telecommunications established and enforced the registration and licensing of local Palestinian television and radio stations. Registration fees ranged from 3,500 to 25,000 Jordanian dinars (approximately $5,000 to $35,000). During the year a number of smaller local radio and television stations were forced to close, at least temporarily, as they raised funds to cover the registration and annual licensing fees.
PA security forces reportedly harassed, detained, and prosecuted journalists several times during the year due to their reporting. In the West Bank, PA security forces raided the offices of several independent media outlets suspected of filming local demonstrations. They confiscated videotapes and briefly detained several journalists working for Gaza-based media. PA security services reportedly threatened pro-Hamas journalists working in the West Bank and West Bank-based journalists working for the Gaza-based outlets.
On May 11, PA intelligence services arrested Amer Abu Arfa, a correspondent of the Gaza-based Shihab news agency, in connection with his reporting. In June a PA court in Hebron sentenced him to three months in prison and a fine of 500 Jordanian dinars ($700) for "resisting the policies of the authorities." According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the PA considered the Shihab news agency pro-Hamas.
On July 17, PA security forces raided the offices of the independent Watan television, reportedly because the outlet filmed a demonstration by the pan-Islamic political organization Hizb al-Tahrir.
In January, according to the CPJ, a PA military court sentenced Tareq Abu Zaid, a reporter for the Gaza-based al-Aqsa satellite channel, to 18 months in prison for allegedly "transferring information and money." The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) and the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) reported that Abu Zaid was arrested in November 2009 because of his work as a correspondent for al-Aqsa television. On November 14, according to IFEX, PA authorities released Abu Zaid. The PA banned the Hamas-affiliated al-Aqsa television in 2007; however, since it is a satellite station, Palestinians living outside the Gaza Strip maintained access to it.
The PA maintained a distribution ban in the West Bank on the twice-weekly pro-Hamas al-Risala and the Filistin daily, both Gaza-based publications.
For the first time in 10 years, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, a membership-based union representing the majority of Palestinian journalists based in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, with more than 400 journalists, held an election. The syndicate's new leadership laid out a detailed agenda of reforms, including the establishment and adoption of a set of bylaws and the development of ties with international organizations dedicated to the protection and promotion of journalists' rights.
In the Gaza Strip, individuals publicly criticizing authorities risked reprisal by Hamas. On December 5, Hamas internal security forces dispersed a peace protest in which participants were criticizing the government. In January 2009, according to HRW, an unidentified man criticized a Hamas leader in a conversation on the street. That evening, he stated, more than a dozen armed men with black masks took him from his home and shot him three times in the lower legs and ankles.
Since 2007 only pro-Hamas broadcast media and the Voice of the People, a radio outlet affiliated with the terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, operated in the Gaza Strip. Hamas maintained the closure of all Fatah-affiliated television and radio broadcast outlets in the Gaza Strip. The Fatah-allied Palestinian television and Voice of Palestine radio continued operating in Ramallah after relocating there from the Gaza Strip in 2007. Two other Fatah-affiliated radio stations in the Gaza Strip, al-Hurriyah and al-Shabab, remained off the air during the year.
Journalists faced arrest, harassment, and other pressure from Hamas due to their reporting or political affiliation (see also section 1.d., Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention). Hamas constrained journalists' freedom of movement during the year, banning access to Rafah and hospitals in the Gaza Strip. On several occasions during the year, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Hamas detained journalists from independent and Fatah-affiliated outlets.
On August 14, Hamas raided the Gaza City Reuters office, following Reuters reporting about a violent Hamas-Salafist incident in Rafah.
On November 10, Hamas representatives raided the Ramattan News Agency to stop a press conference hosted by the Palestinian National Action Committee.
On December 13, Hamas authorities detained and questioned Ziad Ismail Awad, a contributor to the Kuwaiti television channel Wasl and the office director at the Fatah parliamentary bloc in the Gaza Strip. According to MADA, Awad stated that he was questioned about producing a television program depicting Palestinian suffering in the Gaza Strip and about his connections to the PLC. He was released that evening but reported poor treatment in detention.
During the year Hamas continued to ban distribution of the PA's official daily, al-Hayat al-Jadida, in the Gaza Strip. On July 6, local Palestinian media reported that Israeli authorities agreed to allow the distribution of Palestinian newspapers into the Gaza Strip starting the following day. The purported change in policy represented the first time since February 2009 that Israel agreed to allow Palestinian newspapers to enter the Gaza Strip. The following day, despite the well-publicized announcement, Israeli authorities at the border crossing refused to allow the newspapers to enter the Gaza Strip. Both Hamas and Israeli authorities claimed that the other prevented circulation of the dailies.
Israeli authorities placed limits on certain forms of expression in the occupied territories. For instance, in East Jerusalem, displays of Palestinian political symbols were punishable by fines or imprisonment, as were public expressions of anti-Israeli sentiment and of support for terrorist groups. Authorities reviewed Arabic publications for material perceived as a security threat; this review pertained to all Jerusalem-based publications, but al-Quds was the only newspaper in the occupied territories subjected to regular Israeli censorship.
As a general rule, Israeli media were able to cover the occupied territories, except for combat zones where the IDF temporarily restricted access, but closures, curfews, and checkpoints limited the ability of Palestinian and foreign journalists to do their jobs (see section 2.d.). Israel revoked the press credentials of the majority of Palestinian journalists during the Second Intifada in 2000, with the exception of a few Palestinian journalists who worked as stringers for prominent international media outlets. As a result most Palestinian journalists were unable to cover stories outside the Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank.
There were reports of Israeli authorities detaining or assaulting journalists during the year.
On January 12, Israeli authorities detained and later deported Jared Malsin, editor in chief of the English-language section of the independent Bethlehem-based Ma'an News Agency. The CPJ reported that interrogation transcripts indicated Malsin was deemed a security risk because of his political beliefs and reporting.
On January 28, Israeli forces reportedly assaulted a group of Palestinian journalists covering olive tree planting in the West Bank village of Burin. According to reports by MADA and the CPJ, soldiers informed the journalists that photographs were prohibited because the area is a closed military zone. When the reporters refused to stop taking photographs, the soldiers hit the reporters and attempted to seize their cameras before employing tear gas and stun grenades. According to MADA, there was no investigation or prosecution as a result of the incident.
On April 30, the IDF prevented al-Jazeera from covering an antibarrier demonstration in Bil'in. Security forces arrested al Jazeera camera operator Maidi Bannoura and his assistant Nader Abu Zer, according to media reports. According to al-Jazeera, no investigation or prosecution took place as a result of the incident.
According to a report issued by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in 2009, 32.3 percent of Palestinians had access to the Internet. There were no PA restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the PA monitored e-mail or Internet chat rooms. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by e-mail.
On October 31, PA authorities arrested Walid Husayin, a 26-year-old barber from Qalqilya, and charged him with insulting Islam after he posted provocative comments about atheism on his blog and on social media. At year's end he had not been granted a trial and remained in prison.
Hamas did not restrict Internet access; however, based on anecdotal reports from Palestinian civil society organizations and social media practitioners, Hamas authorities monitored Internet activities and postings of Gaza Strip residents. Individuals posting negative reports or commentary about Hamas, its policies, or affiliated organizations faced questioning and were at times required to remove or modify online postings. No information was available regarding punishment for not complying with such demands.
In June Hamas authorities arrested Sri Mohammed Qudwah, the editor of the online al-Sabah newspaper, and confiscated his equipment, according to Freedom House.
Israeli authorities did not restrict access to the Internet; however, they monitored some Internet activity. In March 2009 the IDF central military censor began to monitor blogs, and there was at least one report that the IDF monitored Internet chat rooms during the year.
On March 20, the IDF reportedly arrested Moatasem Nazzal, a 16-year-old from Qalandiya refugee camp, in his home and held him in administrative detention, which was renewed twice. During interrogation the IDF allegedly asked Nazzal about his Internet friendship with a Gaza Strip resident, whom he met in an Internet chat room.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
In the West Bank, the PA did not place restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events. During the year Palestinian authorities did not interfere with education; however, restrictions on movement adversely affected academic institutions in the West Bank, and violence affected them in the Gaza Strip (see section 2.b.).
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas and other groups sought to disrupt UN-run academic programs that did not teach a strict interpretation of Islam. Twenty-five masked men of unknown affiliation burned and vandalized a UN summer camp on June 27; the perpetrators accused the UN of corrupting Gazan youth with a summer program of human rights studies, games, and sports.
Israeli authorities generally did not permit students from the Gaza Strip to attend West Bank universities. On July 7, the Israeli High Court rejected a petition submitted by the Israeli NGO Gisha and the Palestinian NGO al-Mezan on behalf of Fatma Sharif, a human rights lawyer in the Gaza Strip, who had been accepted into a master's degree program in human rights and democracy studies at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, explaining that it would not intervene with the existing policy.
However, in August the Israeli coordinator of government activities in the occupied territories granted three Gazans short-term renewable permits to pursue their undergraduate studies in the West Bank.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Freedom of Assembly
Palestinian law permits public meetings, processions, and assemblies within legal limits. It requires permits for rallies, demonstrations, and large cultural events, and authorities rarely denied them. However, there was at least one example of PA forces disrupting a meeting during the year.
On August 25, according to several NGO and political activists, PA security officials disrupted a meeting of political activists and members of civil society organizations who were discussing Palestinian negotiations with Israel. NGOs and press reports claimed that plainclothes officers disrupted the event and initiated small altercations with the activists. On August 30, PA Prime Minister Fayyad issued a public apology for the disruption of the event; on September 1, the organizers of the original conference staged a public rally without incident.
Following the 2007 Fatah-Hamas clashes in the Gaza Strip, Hamas banned rallies and impeded freedom of assembly for Fatah members. In 2008 Hamas decreed that any public assembly or celebration in the Gaza Strip required prior permission, in contradiction to the PA basic law.
From the beginning of the year, according to B'Tselem reports, the IDF implemented for the first time since the Oslo peace process, a military order that effectively prohibited Palestinian demonstrations and limited freedom of speech in the West Bank. The regulations stipulate that a gathering of 10 or more persons requires a permit from the regional commander of military forces if the event relates to any "political subject" or might be construed as such. The penalty for a breach of the order is 10 years' imprisonment or a heavy fine. According to IDF statistics requested by B'Tselem, there was one conviction during the year under the order.
Israeli security forces used force against Palestinians and others involved in demonstrations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, killing two West Bank protesters and one antibarrier demonstrator during the year. The IDF used force particularly against protests by the Popular Resistance Committee against the construction of the separation barrier.
On January 15, the Jerusalem District Police arrested 17 demonstrators during a nonviolent protest in Jerusalem, including Hagai El-Ad, ACRI's executive director. The demonstrators claimed authorities detained them for 36 hours, then released them without condition after the Jerusalem Magistrate Court ruled that there was no legal cause for their arrest. ACRI stated the arrests exemplified what it described as a growing trend by the police to disperse demonstrators unlawfully and conduct arbitrary arrests to intimidate demonstrators.
In February the IDF Central Command designated the areas adjacent to the separation barrier in the villages of Bil'in and Ni'lin as closed military areas every Friday during the hours in which Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists regularly demonstrated. There were frequent skirmishes between the antibarrier protesters and IDF personnel. IDF and Israeli police personnel stationed on the far side of the barrier during weekly protests in Bil'in and Ni'lin, for instance, responded to rock throwing with tear gas, stun grenades, sound bombs, and rubber-coated bullets. During the year Israeli forces began using a specially treated water to disperse the crowds; sprayed as a mist, it has an overwhelming odor of sewage that lasts for days and can induce vomiting. B'Tselem reported that Israeli forces also arrested many demonstration organizers, holding some of them without charge for periods of up to three weeks, and deported some foreign participants. The IDF continued to detain 80 residents of Bil'in since 2005.
In December 2009 Israeli authorities arrested Abdullah Abu Rahmah of the Bil'in Popular Committee and charged him in a military court with arms possession, stone throwing, incitement, and illegal assembly. In August the court acquitted Abu Rahmah of the charges of arms possession and stone throwing but convicted him on charges of incitement (defined as "the attempt, verbally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the area in a way that may disturb the public peace or public order") and illegal assembly. On October 11, the court sentenced Abu Rahmah to one year in prison including time served, setting a release date of November 18. The military prosecutor appealed Abu Rahmah's sentence prior to his release date, asking that his release be delayed "to serve as a deterrent not only to [Abu Rahmah] himself, but also to others who may follow in his footsteps." The court increased Abu Rahmah's sentence to 16 months. Several NGOs estimated that the strict sentence was also an attempt by Israeli authorities to intimidate Palestinian protesters.
During the year Israeli authorities also arrested demonstrators protesting land ownership decisions, particularly in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. On March 4, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that police in Jerusalem had been overly restrictive in barring protests near contested properties in the Sheikh Jarrah area; the ruling temporarily prompted increased turnout at the weekly protests.
Freedom of Association
In the West Bank, the PA law allowed for freedom of association, but it was sometimes limited in practice.
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas attempted to prevent various organizations from operating. On October 12, security forces reportedly closed the Gaza headquarters of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate without prior notification or explanation. In November Hamas blocked a conciliatory International Federation of Journalists meeting that aimed to connect West Bank and Gaza journalists.
In July 2009 Hamas closed at least 45 NGO offices. Most of the NGOs were Fatah-affiliated, but a number were politically independent.
Israel maintained prohibitions on at least seven prominent East Jerusalem-based Palestinian institutions--the Orient House, the de facto PLO office in Jerusalem, the East Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce, the Higher Arab Council for Tourism, the Palestine Research Center, the Palestinian Prisoners Club, and the Social Research Office--claiming that the groups violated the Oslo Accords by operating on behalf of the PA in Jerusalem.
On January 11, IDF and Israeli immigration officials entered Ramallah and arrested a Czech activist with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), later deporting her on the basis that she lacked a valid Israeli visa. On February 7, according to local press reports, Israeli officials detained two foreign ISM activists; both were released on February 8 following their agreement not to reenter the West Bank. The ISM's stated purpose is to strengthen Palestinian popular resistance to the Israeli occupation through "direct-action" methods, such as demonstrations and protests.
c. Freedom of Religion
For a complete description of religious freedom, please see the 2010 International Religious Freedom Report: the Occupied Territories.
d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons
The Basic Law provides for freedom of movement, and the PA generally did not restrict freedom of movement. The Basic Law does not specify regulations regarding foreign travel, emigration, or repatriation.
Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip enforced movement restrictions on Gazans attempting to exit to Israel via the Erez Crossing and maintained more relaxed restrictions on transfer to Egypt via the Rafah Crossing; Hamas authorities did not appear to enforce routine restrictions on internal movement within the Gaza Strip, although there were some "no go" areas to which Hamas prohibited access.
The PA, Hamas, and Israel governments generally cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons and refugees, although the ability of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to operate freely in Gaza was constrained by both Hamas and Israeli officials.
The IDF restricted Palestinians' movement within the occupied territories and for foreign travel, and it heightened these restrictions at times, citing military necessity. Barriers to movement included checkpoints, a separation barrier between the West Bank and Israel, internal road closures, and a blockade on the Gaza Strip. Restrictions on movement affected virtually all aspects of life, including access to places of worship, employment, agricultural lands, schools, hospitals, and the conduct of journalism, humanitarian, and NGO activities. During the year the IDF relaxed restrictions at several checkpoints and roads that previously posed significant barriers to movement by Palestinian populations between the West Bank and urban centers. Nevertheless, according to UNOCHA, as of June there were 505 obstacles to movement inside the West Bank, identified as follows: 66 fully manned checkpoints, 20 occasionally manned checkpoints, 106 road gates, 167 earth mounds, 46 road barriers, 70 roadblocks, 20 earth walls, and 10 trenches.
According to UNOCHA, the Israeli government largely halted the remaining planned construction of a separation barrier along parts of the Green Line (the 1949 Armistice line) and in the West Bank, mostly due to a lack of political will and an overall increase in security. If completed, the barrier would separate approximately 9.5 percent of the West Bank (135,000 acres inhabited by up to 50,000 Palestinians), including parts of Jerusalem, from the rest of the West Bank territory in a "seam zone." Israel continued to restrict movement and development within this area, including access by some international organizations. During the year approximately 34 of the checkpoints along the separation barrier were restricted to Israelis and Palestinians with permits. Palestinians with worker permits were required to pass through one of 11 pedestrian crossings. Palestinians with permits, those working in international organizations, and biometric card holders and their immediate families were able to pass in vehicles through any of the crossings. A 2003 petition by the NGO HaMoked against the legality of the permit system had not been ruled on by year's end, although a 2004 International Criminal Court advisory body deemed the barrier contrary to international law.
Private security companies employed by the Israeli government controlled points of access through the barrier, and international organizations and local human rights groups claimed these companies did not respond to requests to move goods and officials through the barrier. The barrier affected the commutes of school children living on its eastern side and attending school in Jerusalem. For example, students from Bir Nabala, which is surrounded by the barrier, took detours of seven to 10 miles to pass through checkpoints to reach school. The barrier and the permit system also affected some farmers who were separated from land and water resources, which curtailed agricultural practice and resulted in deterioration of the harvest quality and quantity.
Operating hours of the accessible gates were limited and erratic, although usually announced. Crossing procedures were relaxed at some checkpoints to the east of the separation barrier; Israeli authorities lifted permit requirements, extended operating hours, and performed fewer searches and random documentation checks in comparison with previous years, especially during holidays.
Israeli authorities frequently prohibited travel between some or all West Bank towns. Palestinians who lived in affected villages stated that such "internal closures," which could last years, had negative economic effects. During periods of potential unrest and during major Israeli, Jewish, and Muslim holidays, Israeli authorities enacted "comprehensive external closures," which precluded Palestinians from leaving the West Bank. The IDF also imposed temporary curfews confining Palestinians to their homes during arrest operations.
Although Israeli authorities reopened Route 354 and Route 443, with some restrictions to Palestinian traffic, three other roadblocks on Route 60 impeded movement for tens of thousands of residents of Palestinian villages south of Hebron, cutting direct access for businesses to the city's commercial center. Palestinians not resident in the Jordan Valley generally were unable to drive on the main north-south route, Highway 90.
The blockade on the Gaza Strip imposed by Israel since 2007 continued its significant effect on the population in the Gaza Strip, according to the UNRWA and other humanitarian and human rights groups. The UN estimated that 80 percent of the population of the Gaza Strip relied on international food aid during the year. International and Israeli human rights organizations described the blockade as "collective punishment" of the residents of the Gaza Strip, as it restricted access to basic goods and prevented civilians from temporary travel abroad or changing their place of residence permanently. During the year Israel eased the blockade, but with only one open commercial crossing, the number of truckloads entering the Gaza Strip each week was less than 40 percent of that before the blockade began.
Israel's strict closure on the Gaza Strip also resulted in the cessation of postal services. Humanitarian organizations reported that the closure significantly hindered their ability to operate and limited opportunities for Gazans to communicate with family and friends outside the Gaza Strip.
The UNRWA operated 228 schools with more than 206,000 students in the Gaza Strip, but the agency claimed its capacity was severely overstretched by the Israeli blockade and that restrictions on movement and access undermined its ability to provide education. UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip ran on a double-shift in "compressed learning periods" and were severely overcrowded with as many as 50 students per classroom. Thousands of students were schooled in makeshift classrooms, including one school serving 865 students built entirely from shipping containers.
Essential infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, including water and sanitation services, was in a state of severe disrepair due in part to an inability to bring in spare parts and components under the blockade. The sewage and water systems were frequently inoperable, and as a result approximately 21 million gallons of raw or partially treated sewage was pumped into the ocean each day, according to the UNRWA. Israel prohibited private sector companies from importing cement and gravel; entry of these goods was permitted only for specific UN or other internationally coordinated projects. As a result Gaza Strip residents lacked the necessary supplies to rebuild homes destroyed during Operation Cast Lead.
Personal travel in and out of the Gaza Strip was limited to one crossing point and was restricted to humanitarian cases only; however, Israeli authorities denied many Gazans access to Israel and Egypt for medical treatment and detained some during the year. PHR-Israel claimed that, based on security considerations, Israeli authorities did not issue medical or humanitarian exit permits to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip regardless of professional medical opinions. Israeli authorities also rejected requests for Palestinians to exit the Gaza Strip for medical treatment due to fears that the patients might emigrate and unite with family in the West Bank. On January 11, various NGOs, including al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, Adalah Legal Center, and PHR-Israel, petitioned the attorney general against the practice of detaining patients at the border, but on March 2, the General Security Service stated that Israel may legally arrest persons at the border seeking medical treatment.
In March 2009 the Israeli Ministry of Defense released a detailed rubric for determining whether a resident of the Gaza Strip may be permitted exit and entry under exceptional humanitarian cases. Between January and June, Israel refused exit to all of the 1,095 orthopedic and neurology patients in need of medical treatment; in June Israeli authorities told PHR-Israel that hip and knee replacements did "not meet the criteria " for issuing exit permits. In January Israel prevented 17 patients from going to Ramallah for cornea transplants, resulting in the disposal of the donated organs.
Movement to the West Bank from Gaza was severely restricted to a limited number of Palestinians holding Israeli-issued permits. In one case, Israeli authorities refused to allow Issam Hamdan, a 40-year-old man suffering severe back pain, to enter Israel to receive specialized medical care in Jerusalem because Israeli authorities suspected he might reunite with his wife and four children in the West Bank. On February 9, the NGOs PHR-Israel and Gisha filed a petition before the Supreme Court on behalf of Hamdan, prompting Israeli authorities to withdraw objection and allow him to seek treatment in Jerusalem.
On October 16, two-year-old Gazan Nasma Abu Lashee died of treatable leukemia while waiting for permission from Israeli authorities to receive treatment in Israel.
Israel continued to enforce restrictions on access to farmland in the Gaza Strip near the border with Israel and to fishing areas along the coast, with the stated intention of preventing attacks by Palestinian armed factions. Israel on average enforced an approximately 1,000 yard-wide "buffer zone" and at times fired warning shots as far away as 1,640 yards from the border, according to UNOCHA (see also section 1.a.). The "buffer zone" encompassed approximately 24 square miles, representing 17 percent of the Gaza Strip's total land mass. UNOCHA estimated that nearly 35 percent of the Gaza Strip's cultivable land was located within the restricted area.
Eighty percent of the maritime area designated accessible to Gazans under the Oslo Accords remained off-limits; the IDF implemented a three-nautical-mile-wide limit that was strictly enforced by Israeli naval patrol boats. In the northern Gaza Strip, Israel prevented Palestinians from accessing a 1.5-nautical-mile-wide strip along the maritime boundary with Israel and a one-nautical-mile-wide strip in the south, along the maritime boundary with Egypt, as established in the 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement. Israeli naval forces regularly fired warning shots at Palestinian fishermen entering the restricted sea areas, in some cases directly targeting the fishermen, according to UNOCHA. The Israeli military often confiscated fishing boats intercepted in these areas and detained the fishermen.
IDF soldiers at checkpoints sometimes subjected Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) ambulances from the West Bank to delays or refused entry to Jerusalem, for security reasons. Patients were moved across checkpoints from one ambulance to another. The PRCS reported violations against its teams and humanitarian services during the year. Most incidents (159) included blocking access to those in need, preventing their transport to specialized medical centers, or maintaining delays on checkpoints for periods ranging from 30 minutes to two hours. Most incidents (142) took place on checkpoints leading to Jerusalem, while the remainder took place on other checkpoints circling the West Bank.
On April 13, Israeli Military Order 1650 went into effect, broadening the definition of "infiltrator" in the Prevention of Infiltration Law to include anyone who enters the West Bank unlawfully or any persons in the West Bank without permits, making them subject to criminal charges and potential deportation to the Gaza Strip. Palestinians and human rights NGOs expressed concern about whether the order legalized the deportation of up to 35,000 Palestinians living in the West Bank with registered Gaza Strip addresses. In 2000 Israel stopped updating changes in address for Palestinians who moved from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. As a result thousands of Palestinians, originally from the Gaza Strip but living in the West Bank for many years, continued to hold identity cards with home addresses in the Gaza Strip. There were reports that Palestinians were deported to the Gaza Strip border on these grounds during the year.
On April 21, Israeli authorities transferred West Bank resident Ahmad Sabbah Said to the Gaza Strip following his release from an Israeli prison, where he had served a nine-year sentence on charges for offenses committed during the Second Intifada. Several NGOs claimed he was transferred immediately, without a judicial review. Authorities justified the deportation by his possession of an identity card issued in the Gaza Strip, where he lived for one year in the 1990s. Sabbah's wife and children remained in the West Bank city of Tulkarem.
On April 27, the Israeli government expelled 19-year-old Hebron resident Fadi Aiada al-Azazma to the Gaza Strip. According to HaMoked, al-Azazma was taken into custody from his workplace and transferred to the Gaza Strip hours later, without a judicial review. Al-Azazma was born in the Gaza Strip but moved to the West Bank with his family when he was seven years old.
Israeli authorities delivered both deportees to the Erez crossing point at the northern end of the Gaza Strip. According to press reports, Hamas refused to allow either Sabbah or al-Azazma to pass through a checkpoint inside the border so as not to "legitimize" Israel's removal of Gazan identity card holders from the West Bank. Both remained in a tent for more than one month in the area between the Israeli and Hamas positions; however, both were living in the Gaza Strip at year's end, according to reports.
The IDF since 2000 restricted Gazan students from studying in the West Bank or Israel and limited West Bank Palestinians from university study in East Jerusalem and Israel (see section 2.a.). During the year students were allowed to leave the Gaza Strip only when escorted by foreign diplomats or contractors of the country accepting them for study. Some students from the Gaza Strip accepted for university study abroad were unable to apply for visas in Jerusalem and were therefore prevented from leaving for further education abroad.
The PA issued passports for Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Because there were no commercial flights from the occupied territories, and permits to use Ben Gurion airport were not available, travelers departed by land to Jordan or Egypt. Foreign citizens of Palestinian ethnicity had difficulty obtaining or renewing visas permitting them to enter Israel from either Ben Gurion airport or land entry points.
Palestinians possessing Jerusalem identity cards issued by the Israeli government needed special documents to travel abroad. Upon the individual request of Palestinians, the Jordanian government issued them passports.
Residency restrictions affected family reunification, as it did not qualify as a reason to enter the West Bank. For any child, access to a parent in the West Bank was permitted only if no other relative was resident in the Gaza Strip. Israeli authorities did not permit Palestinians who were abroad during the 1967 War, or whose residence permits the government subsequently withdrew, to reside permanently in the occupied territories. It was difficult for foreign-born spouses and children of Palestinians to obtain residency. Palestinian spouses of Jerusalem residents were required to obtain a residency permit and reported delays of several years in obtaining them. Palestinians in Jerusalem also reported delays in registering newborn children.
The PA basic law prohibits forced exile, and the PA did not use forced exile.
In practice Israeli revocations of Jerusalem identity cards amounted to forced exile to the occupied territories or abroad and have continued in recent years. There were no statistics on residency revocations available at year's end. According to HaMoked, the Ministry of Interior revoked the Jerusalem residency of more than 700 Palestinians in 2009. In 2008 the Ministry of Interior revoked the residency of 4,577 Palestinians in East Jerusalem, including 99 minors. The number of cases of residency revocation in 2008 alone was equal to approximately one-half the total number of cases of residency revocation between 1967 and 2007. Reasons for revocation include having acquired residency or citizenship in a third country, living abroad for more than seven years, or, most commonly, being unable to prove a "center of life" in Jerusalem. Some Palestinians born in Jerusalem but who studied abroad reported losing their Jerusalem residency status.
On June 3, the Israeli National Police notified four Hamas-affiliated PLC members of the revocation of their Jerusalem residency status, according to the Civic Coalition for Defending Palestinian Rights and press reports. The decision to revoke their Jerusalem residency permits came from the Israeli Ministry of Interior shortly after their election to the PLC in 2006. Israeli authorities arrested and detained the four individuals for three years; three were released during the year and continued to reside in Jerusalem under the administration of the ICRC, and the fourth remained in detention at year's end awaiting trial on illegal presence charges.
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
There were approximately 20,500 IDPs in the occupied territories, nearly all of whom remained displaced as a result of Operation Cast Lead. Although they have no specific legislation to protect IDPs along UN principles and guidelines, West Bank and Gaza Strip authorities are bound by international human rights laws underlying these obligations on displacement. The PA provided some assistance to those displaced through rental subsidies and financial assistance to reconstruct demolished houses. The UNRWA and humanitarian organizations provided services to aid IDPs in the Gaza Strip.
During the year the UNRWA provided rental assistance to approximately 2,000 families whose shelters were destroyed during hostilities, assisted with the living expenses of 3,810 families whose shelters were destroyed or severely damaged during hostilities, and identified 10,283 families whose shelters needed to be fully rebuilt. In March the UNRWA received approval to import construction materials to complete the construction of 151 shelters in Khan Younis, which had been stalled since Israel imposed the Gaza Strip blockade in 2007. However, due to the requirement that UN projects be approved on a case-by-case basis and the general ban on the importation of cement and gravel, the UNRWA was unable to begin construction on any additional shelters. The UNRWA continued to provide psychological support and counseling, including for children traumatized by hostilities with Israel, through its community mental health program.
During the year according to the UNRWA, the Israeli government obstructed IDP access to UNRWA-provided humanitarian assistance in refugee communities in at least 339 incidents in parts of the West Bank, causing lengthy detours.
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center reported that Israeli demolition of Palestinian property in East Jerusalem added to the threat of displacement for Palestinians (see section 1.f.).
Protection of Refugees
There were no reports of persons seeking asylum or residence in the occupied territories.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Elections and Political Participation
In 2006 the 132-member PLC was elected in a process under the Basic Law that international observers concluded generally met democratic standards in providing citizens the right to change their government peacefully. Hamas-backed candidates participated in the 2006 PLC elections under the name "Reform and Change Movement," rather than "Hamas," and won 74 of 132 seats. Fatah won 45 seats; independents and candidates from third parties won the remaining seats. The PLC lacked a quorum and did not meet during the year. Although the Israeli government and the PA followed mutually agreed guidelines for Palestinians residing in Jerusalem to vote in 2005 and 2006, not all Palestinians were allowed to vote in East Jerusalem, and those who could vote were required to do so via post offices (of which there were few), thereby complicating their efforts to vote.
On June 10, immediately before candidate registration ended, the PA canceled municipal elections scheduled for July. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad parties had pledged to boycott the elections, and various Fatah members claimed plans to run as independents. The Ministry of Local Government stated that the decision to postpone came in response to the demands of some Arab nations and a number of "friends in the world." The calls from abroad reportedly advised the PA to postpone the elections "to pave the way for a successful end to the siege on the Gaza Strip and for continued efforts at unity," the statement explained.
There were 17 women in the 132-member PLC (which was not called into session) and three women in the 16-member cabinet. There were seven Christians in the PLC and two in the cabinet.
Civil society organizations in the Gaza Strip claimed Hamas authorities and other conservative Islamist groups did not tolerate public dissent, opponents, or the promotion of values that ran contrary to their political and religious ideology.
Section 4 Official Corruption and Government Transparency
Palestinian law provides criminal penalties for official corruption. The PA operated a functioning anticorruption commission, special prosecutors, and an anticorruption court consisting of a panel of three judges. PA ministers were subject to financial disclosure laws. The PA attorney general had official responsibility for combating government corruption. Nevertheless, there were allegations of corrupt practices among Fatah officials, particularly in the theft of public funds and international assistance money. Supervisors dismissed anticorruption unit head Fahmi Shabaneh in 2009 after he uncovered a sex scandal relating to one of President Abbas' aides.
In the Gaza Strip, local observers and NGOs alleged instances of Hamas complicity in corrupt practices, including involvement by the Hamas Executive Force, but access to information and reporting were severely inhibited.
PA law requires official PA institutions to "facilitate" acquisition of requested documents or information by any Palestinian, but it does not require agencies to provide such information. Reasons for denial generally referred to privacy rights and security necessity.
Section 5 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Palestinian human rights groups and several international organizations generally operated without PA restriction, and officials cooperated with their efforts to monitor the PA's human rights practices.
PA officials generally cooperated with and permitted visits by UN representatives or other organizations, such as the ICRC. Several PA security agencies, including the General Intelligence Service and the Civil Police, appointed official liaisons with human rights groups.
The quasi-governmental ICHR continued serving as the PA's ombudsman and human rights commission. The ICHR issued monthly and annual reports on human rights violations within Palestinian-controlled areas; the ICHR also issued formal recommendations to the PA.
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas authorities pressed international and local aid organizations providing emergency assistance to coordinate relief efforts with the Hamas-controlled "Ministry of Social Affairs." Several Gaza-based NGOs reported that Hamas prevented aid groups from distributing assistance after they refused to comply with Hamas regulations. Gaza-based NGOs reported that Hamas representatives appeared at their offices to assure compliance and summoned NGO representatives to police stations for questioning. On May 24, Hamas authorities prevented the ICHR from holding a press conference to release its annual human rights report.
Israeli, Palestinian, and international NGOs monitored the Israeli government's practices in the occupied territories and published their findings, although restrictions on freedom of movement in the West Bank, fighting, and access restrictions in the Gaza Strip made it difficult to carry out their work. The Israeli government permitted some human rights groups to publish and hold press conferences; it provided the ICRC with access to most detainees.
On January 31, several NGOs including B'Tselem, Gisha, Yesh Din, and PHR-Israel, submitted a complaint to Israel's president and prime minister regarding the government's obstruction of their work in the occupied territories. They claimed that Shin Bet had summoned demonstrators and human rights activists for investigation and, in some cases, warned activists that they must refrain from political activity. The NGOs claimed that Israeli military authorities placed severe restrictions on organizations working in the occupied territories to provide medical care, accompany residents to their agricultural work and children to school, and help residents file complaints of violence by Israeli security forces or settlers.
Also in January the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), an umbrella organization for NGOs operating in the occupied territories, reported that Israel ceased issuing the appropriate type of work visa to foreign nationals working for most international NGOs operating in the occupied territories. The government instead issued most of these employees tourist visas, which do not permit employment, and some visas permitted only a single entry. AIDA claimed the new visa policy would impinge upon the international NGO community's ability to recruit international staff and operate in Jerusalem, where many NGOs keep offices. The decision does not apply to the 12 organizations, including the ICRC, that were active in the West Bank prior to 1967.
International NGOs reported continued difficulty accessing "seam zone" communities in the northwestern West Bank, particularly Barta'a al-Sharqiya in the Jenin Governorate, due to excessive demands for searches of personnel, including UN employees, based on their nationality.
Israeli authorities throughout the year prevented PHR-Israel's medical delegations from entering the Gaza Strip to provide treatment and medical counseling, perform surgery, train Palestinian medical staff, distribute medication, and refer patients for follow-up treatment in Israeli hospitals. Israeli authorities also rejected two requests by a medical delegation from the Musallam Center in Ramallah to enter the Gaza Strip to perform eye surgery and cornea transplants, according to PHR-Israel.
UN organizations and international NGOs criticized the Israeli government in regard to the May 31 flotilla incident, exclusion of the West Bank and Gaza Strip from the application of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the protection of human rights during the 2008-09 Operation Cast Lead incursion into the Gaza Strip (see Israel, section 5).
Section 6 Discrimination and Societal Abuses
Rape is illegal under PA law, but the legal definition does not address spousal rape. Punishment for rape is five to 15 years in prison.
PA law does not explicitly prohibit domestic violence, but assault and battery are crimes. A woman must provide two eyewitnesses (who are not relatives) to initiate divorce on the grounds of spousal abuse. According to HRW few domestic violence cases have been successfully prosecuted in recent years. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, violence against wives, especially psychological violence, was common in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Specifically, a 2009 survey by the Palestinian Women's Information and Media Center found that 52 percent of Gazan women faced regular physical violence and 14 percent were subjected to sexual violence. Thirty-seven percent of women in the Gaza Strip cited domestic violence as the primary safety problem facing women and girls in their communities, according to a 2009 survey conducted by the UN Gender Task Force. The results reported increases in domestic violence against women among households displaced by conflict. Displaced women were more likely than other women to say they feel unsafe using a bathing or latrine facility, and they also cited a greater lack of reliable sanitary materials.
During the year the UNRWA initiated a referral mechanism for refugee women who are victims of violence in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In some cases women approached village or religious leaders for assistance. The Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) conducted a study of women's issues in the occupied territories in 2009, reporting that many women and girls were reluctant to resort to women's organizations, human rights organizations, or security and justice providers, such as the police and courts, because of the strong social stigma attached to reporting abuses. Many women and girls stated they believed the legal system discriminated against women.
Sexual harassment was a highly sensitive issue in the occupied territories, particularly abuses committed by family members. The DCAF reported that Palestinian women and girls claimed public harassment was commonplace; reports of verbal harassment, unwanted flirting, and inappropriate touching were frequent, causing anxiety and apprehension in some young women and girls. The DCAF and other NGOs reported that for some women, cultural taboos and fear of scandal compelled them to remain silent. Some young women claimed that they were held responsible for "provoking" men's harassing behavior.
The ICHR reported no "honor" killings in the Palestinian territories during the year. According to NGO reports, the Jordanian penal code, as applied in the West Bank by the PA, reduces the penalty for honor-based killings.
Couples and individuals in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem had access to contraception. Information regarding family planning was lacking, although the UNRWA held workshops for Palestinian men, underscoring their role in family planning. High workload, poor compensation, and resource shortages continued to affect skilled attendance during labor and postpartum care, much of which was provided by midwives. There was no reliable data on figures of maternal mortality in the occupied territories. While governmental authorities and community and international NGOs operated HIV/AIDS education, prevention, and screening programs, limited information was available about the equality of services provided for women.
A Palestinian Ministry of Women's Affairs existed to promote women's rights. The law provides for equality of the sexes, but personal status law and traditional practices discriminate against women. For Muslims in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, personal status law is derived from Sharia (Islamic law), which includes inheritance and marriage laws. Women can inherit, but not as much as men. Men may take more than one wife, although they rarely did in urban areas (the practice was more common in small villages). Women may add conditions to marriage contracts to protect their interests in divorce and child custody but rarely did so. Muslim women were generally discouraged from including divorce arrangements in a marriage contract as a result of societal pressure.
Hamas maintained control of the Gaza Strip and enforced a conservative interpretation of Islam on the Gaza Strip's Muslim populations, which particularly discriminated against women. Authorities prohibited any public mixing of the sexes. Plainclothes officers routinely stopped, separated, and questioned couples to determine if they were married; premarital sex is a crime punishable by imprisonment. Hamas's "morality police" also punished women for riding motorcycles and dressing "inappropriately." Hamas operated a women's prison to hold women convicted of "ethical crimes" such as "illegitimate pregnancy." On July 18, Hamas authorities banned women from smoking the traditional water pipe in public cafes on the grounds that it was inappropriate. According to media reports, plainclothes security officers enforced the decree, and several cafe owners were questioned or temporarily detained for nonenforcement. Although enforcement of "ethical crimes" was in some cases inconsistent, according to press reports, it continued to increase.
Across the occupied territories, cultural restrictions associated with marriage occasionally prevented women from completing mandatory schooling or attending college. Families often disowned Muslim and Christian women who married outside their faith. Local officials sometimes advised such women to leave their communities to prevent harassment.
Palestinian labor law states that work is the right of every capable citizen; however, it regulates the work of women, preventing them from taking employment in dangerous occupations. According to the UN Development Program's 2005 Arab Human Development Report, Palestinian women experienced a significant employment gap in comparison with their male counterparts, with women consisting of approximately 15 percent of the labor force. Women endured prejudice and, in some cases, repressive conditions at work. Additionally some employers reportedly provided preferential treatment to their male counterparts. According to Freedom House, women earned 65 percent of men's wages in the West Bank and 77 percent in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, a membership-based union representing the majority of Palestinian journalists based in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, did not allow female journalists' membership. There were specific reports that female journalists in the Gaza Strip faced hurdles in pursuing employment. The UN Development Fund for Women reported that gender-specific stereotypes restricted female journalists in their content coverage, limiting them to issues such as beauty, fashion, women, and children.
Female education rates were high, particularly in the West Bank, and women's attendance at universities exceeded men's, but female university students reported discrimination by university administrators, professors, and their male peers, according to the DCAF. According to press and NGO reports, in some instances girls not wearing conservative attire in Hamas-run schools were sent home by teachers, although enforcement was not systematic.
Israel registers the births of Palestinians in Jerusalem. The PA registers Palestinians born in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and Israel requires that the PA transmit this information to the Israeli Civil Administration. As the PA does not constitute a state, the PA does not determine "citizenship" alone. Children of Palestinian parents can receive a Palestinian identity card (issued by the Israeli Civil Administration) if they are born in the occupied territories to a father who holds a Palestinian identity card. The PA Ministry of the Interior and the Israeli Civil Administration both play a role in determining a person's eligibility.
Education in PA-controlled areas is compulsory from age six through the ninth grade. Education is available to all Palestinians without cost through high school.
In the Gaza Strip, primary education was not universal. The UNRWA and Hamas provided educational instruction.
In Israeli-administered East Jerusalem, Palestinian children did not have access to the same educational resources as Israeli children (see section 6, Minorities).
Child abuse was reportedly a widespread problem. The Basic Law prohibits violence against children; however, PA authorities rarely punished perpetrators of familial violence. A 2009 study by the UN Gender Task Force found that in the southern Gaza Strip, survey participants reported a high level of perceived domestic violence against children.
Israeli security forces also participated in violence against children in custody or during arrest (see section 1.c.), according to NGO and UN reports. The IDF fired at minors working inside or near the Gaza Strip buffer zone; DCI-Palestine documented 23 cases between March and December of children shot while collecting building material and scrap metal, and in one case grazing goats, near the border fence with Israel. DCI-Palestine reported that most children were shot in the leg without intent to kill. The IDF fired on children as far as 875 yards from the border fence.
There were reports of female genital mutilation performed on girls during the year, although the scope of the practice was unknown.
The PA considers statutory rape a felony, based on the Jordanian penal code of 1960, which also outlaws all forms of pornography. The minimum age for consensual sex is 18. Palestinian judges reportedly issued harsher sentences to persons involved in pornography including images of children. Punishment for rape of a victim under the age of 15 includes a minimum sentence of seven years.
In both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Palestinian media published and broadcast material that included both anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic content, which sometimes amounted to incitement. Rhetoric by several Palestinian groups included expressions of anti-Semitism, as did sermons by some Muslim religious leaders. Some Palestinian religious leaders rejected the right of Israel to exist. Hamas's al-Aqsa television station carried shows for preschoolers extolling hatred of Jews and suicide bombings.
Palestinian media not under the control of the PA, particularly those controlled by Hamas, continued to use inflammatory anti-Semitic language. Unofficial Palestinian television broadcast content that sometimes praised holy war to expel the Jewish presence in the region. Some children's programs shown on Hamas television legitimized the killing of Israelis and Jews via terrorist attacks.
Persons with Disabilities
The Basic Law states that all Palestinians are equal. There is no reference to discrimination or disability. Access to public facilities was not mandated.
Palestinians with disabilities continued to receive poor quality services and care. The PA depended on UN agencies and NGOs to care for persons with physical disabilities and offered substandard care for persons with mental disabilities.
Familial and societal discrimination against persons with disabilities existed. Press reports indicated that some parents in the West Bank performed hysterectomies on mentally ill girls to prevent them from becoming pregnant; most of these parents stated they intended to protect their daughters from rape.
There were reports that Israeli authorities placed detainees deemed mentally ill or a threat to themselves or others in isolation without full medical evaluation. According to PHR-Israel, isolation of prisoners with mental disabilities was common. In March PHR-Israel and Addameer petitioned the Israeli High Court of Justice to amend article 36 of the National Security Orders, which they claimed allows for indefinite detention of a Palestinian accused of a felony if the detainee is deemed unfit for punishment on mental health grounds. The NGOs filed the petition after PHR-Israel received a case in which Israel Prison Service authorities held an unnamed Palestinian found unfit for punishment for weeks in a prison psychiatric ward, although doctors determined it was not medically necessary.
In another case PHR-Israel petitioned for the release of Ibrahim Abu Mustafa from isolation. Abu Mustafa had been detained in isolation since 2004 on the grounds that he posed a hazard to his surroundings due to his mental health condition. On August 25, the state notified Abu Mustafa that he would be released from isolation; however, at year's end his release was not confirmed.
Palestinians faced violence and discrimination in the occupied territories (see also sections 1.c. and 1.f.). Access to social and commercial services, including housing, employment, education, and health care, in settlement areas in the West Bank was available only to Israelis. Israeli officials discriminated against Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem regarding access to employment and legal housing by denying Palestinians access to registration paperwork. In both the West Bank and Jerusalem, Israeli authorities placed often insurmountable hurdles on Palestinian applicants for construction permits, including the requirement that they document land ownership in the absence of a uniform post-1967 land registration process, high application fees, and requirements that new housing be connected to often-unavailable municipal works. According to B'Tselem, since 2000 Israel has curtailed the Palestinian population registry, denying paperwork to Palestinians and effectively declaring Palestinians illegal residents. Some Palestinians defined as illegal residents faced harassment, arrest, or deportation to the Gaza Strip.
Israeli settler radio stations broadcasting from the West Bank depicted Arabs as subhuman and called for expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank.
The Municipality of Ma'ale Adumim in the West Bank continued applying a 1965 Jordanian labor law to Palestinian employees that denied them some social benefits enshrined in Israeli labor law, such as rehabilitation pay, pensions, travel expenses, and education funding.
Israel's system of water distribution in the West Bank discriminated against Palestinian populations and failed to provide Palestinian residents with a sufficient, regular, and safe water supply, according to ACRI. Israel controlled 85 percent of the water supply in the West Bank and allocated on average 16 gallons of water per person per day to Palestinians and 63 gallons per person per day to Israeli settlers. According to the World Health Organization, 26 gallons per person per day is the minimum daily amount required to maintain basic hygiene standards and food security.
In the West Bank, some NGOs reported an increase in settler expropriation of natural water springs located on privately owned Palestinian land. Yesh Din documented settler expropriation of 26 springs and their conversion into recreational "nature parks." Palestinian residents reported that water supplies were intermittent, and settlers and their security guards denied Palestinians, including shepherd and farmers, access to the springs. PA officials in July stated that Israeli authorities closed five Palestinian wells in the Tubas Governorate, while the Israeli national water company, Mekorot, drilled 17 new wells in the governorate. Mekorot reduced the water ration for one Tubas Governorate village, Bardala, from 315 cubic yards per hour to 120 on average; 30 percent of Bardala residents received no water on some days.
There were reports that Israeli authorities attempted to reduce the Palestinian population and limit their movement in areas under Israeli control. Military authorities severely restricted Palestinian vehicular and foot traffic in the commercial center of Hebron, citing a need to protect several hundred Israeli settler residents. Palestinians were prohibited from driving on most roads in downtown Hebron and from walking on Shuhada Street and other roads in the Old City; however, Israeli settlers were permitted free access on these roads. The prohibition, which began in 2000, has resulted in the closure of 1,829 business and 1,014 Palestinian housing units, according to B'Tselem; the IDF closed most shops on the street and sealed entrances to Palestinian houses. Four Palestinian families who maintained residence on the street had access during the year.
Jerusalem municipal and Israeli national policies aimed to decrease the number of Palestinian residents and increase Israeli claim to East Jerusalem. The Israeli government and Jerusalem Municipality used a combination of zoning restrictions on building by Palestinians, confiscation of Palestinian lands, and demolition of Palestinian homes to "contain" non-Israeli neighborhoods, while simultaneously permitting construction of new housing for Israeli residents in predominantly Palestinian East Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Municipality maintained its longstanding policy of city planning along ethnoreligious demographic lines across the city in an effort to keep the Jewish population at 70 percent.
The Israeli NGOs Bimkom and Ir Amim claimed that Palestinians in East Jerusalem were unable to purchase property or build on land owned by the Israeli Land Authority. Land owned or populated by Arabs (including Palestinians and Israeli Arabs) was generally zoned for low residential growth. Approximately 30 percent of East Jerusalem was designated for Israeli residents; Arabs were able in some cases to rent Israeli-owned property but were generally unable to purchase property in an Israeli neighborhood due to citizenship or military duty requirements that Arabs were unable to meet. Israeli NGOs claimed that of all land designated for housing in West Jerusalem and in the Israeli neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, at least 79 percent was unavailable for Arab construction.
The Jerusalem Municipality and Jewish organizations in Jerusalem made efforts to increase Israeli property ownership or underscore Jewish history in areas occupied by Arabs or Muslim institutions. The Jerusalem Municipality advocated increased Jewish influence and property ownership in East Jerusalem's Kidron Valley, or "Holy Basin." On June 21, the Jerusalem Municipal Planning Council voted to demolish at least 22 Arab-owned properties in the al-Bustan neighborhood to make way for a Jewish-themed historical park. Israeli NGOs claimed that this project, the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, and other projects effectively encircled Jerusalem's Old City and Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount with Israeli-owned properties, severing Palestinian societal connections to the area.
Although Israeli law entitles Arab residents of East Jerusalem to full and equal services provided by the municipality and other Israeli authorities, in practice the Jerusalem Municipality failed to provide sufficient social services, infrastructure, emergency planning, and postal service for Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. ACRI reported in October that only 10.3 percent of the Arab population received social services. Approximately 160,000 Arab residents of East Jerusalem had no suitable or legal connection to the municipal water network. Trash collection was insufficient in most Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and nonexistent in others.
Disparities in social services provided by Israeli authorities in East Jerusalem correlated to ethnicity. The Jerusalem Municipality did not provide sufficient educational resources for Palestinian children in East Jerusalem, according to ACRI and the NGO Ir Amim, which claimed that thousands of Palestinian students studied in crowded classrooms, often in ill-fitting structures that did not meet municipal standards.
Most municipal forms were not available in Arabic. Bus services in Jerusalem were largely segregated. According to ACRI, eight post office stations in East Jerusalem served a population of approximately 300,000, whereas 42 post office stations in West Jerusalem served a population of 500,000. Only one postman, serving 260,000 residents, delivered mail in Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.
On August 6, the Israeli High Court ruled that an ultraorthodox school in the West Bank settlement of Emmanuel must stop separating students based on their ethnicity and remove all signs of discrimination. Since 2007 the school had separated students of different ethnic backgrounds and required them to wear different uniforms.
Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Palestinian law, based on the 1960 Jordanian penal code, prohibits homosexual activity, although in practice the PA did not prosecute individuals suspected of such activity. Cultural and religious traditions rejected homosexuality, and some Palestinians claimed that PA security officers and neighbors harassed, abused, and sometimes arrested homosexuals because of their sexual orientation.
Israeli press reported that Majed Koka, a gay Palestinian man from the West Bank who immigrated illegally to Israel, was continued to await a response from the Israeli Interior Ministry regarding his petition for legal residency on humanitarian grounds. Koka in September stated that he could not safely live in Nablus, his hometown, as an openly gay man.
In the Gaza Strip, an unidentified 19-year-old man remained in prison without trial because of his homosexual orientation, according to HRW.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
The PA Ministry of Health provided treatment and privacy protections for patients with HIV/AIDS; however, societal discrimination against affected individuals was common.
Section 7 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The law permits workers to form and join independent unions of their choice, and this right was respected in practice. Labor unions in the Gaza Strip continued to operate despite a severely weakened economy. However, in many cases Hamas replaced Fatah-affiliated union leaders with Hamas members or sympathizers, and during the year Hamas detained a number of non-Hamas-affiliated union activists.
The two most active unions were the General Union for Palestinian Workers and the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions, which was a member of the International Trade Union Confederation. Both unions were registered with the PA Ministry of Labor. Membership in the Union of Arab Employees (UAE) is automatic and mandatory for all West Bank UNRWA employees.
According to the NGO United Civilians for Peace, Palestinians working in West Bank settlements reported hostile responses to their efforts to organize unions.
Workers in Jerusalem may establish unions but may not join West Bank federations. Despite this restriction the West Bank-based PA Employees' Union and Teachers' Union counted East Jerusalem members among their ranks, and Israeli authorities rarely took steps to enforce this restriction unless high-profile events or senior PA officials were involved. Workers holding Jerusalem identity cards may belong to the Israeli General Federation of Labor (Histadrut), but they may not vote in Histadrut elections.
PA law provides for the right to strike. In practice, however, strikers had little protection from retribution. Prospective strikers must provide written warning two weeks in advance of the basis for the strike (four weeks in the case of public utilities), accept Ministry of Labor arbitration, and submit to disciplinary action if they reject the result. If the ministry cannot resolve a dispute, it can be referred to a special committee and eventually to a court. Accordingly, in practice the right to strike remained questionable.
PA employees organized fewer strikes than in previous years, in large part because the PA was able to pay salaries during the year in the West Bank. In general PA employees staged strikes over nonpayment of wages, to protest disparities between union claims and official cost of living statistics, or to demand payment of arrears. There were no reports of private-sector strikes during the year.
UAE employees called for strikes throughout the year. The union engaged in some coercive actions during employee strikes in October and November by physically preventing nonstriking employees from entering the workplace and reportedly engaging in physical violence in a few incidents.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The law protects collective bargaining, and this was enforced in certain cases. However, there were reports that PA enforcement of collective bargaining rights for unions serving other than PA employees was limited. Collective bargaining agreements covered 20 percent of workers.
Antiunion discrimination and employer interference in union functions are illegal, and the government enforced these prohibitions.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
While the PA labor law does not expressly forbid forced or compulsory labor, PA law states that work is a right and that the PA will attempt to provide it for any capable individual. The Ministry of Labor interpreted this statement to prohibit forced and compulsory labor. However, children were vulnerable to forced labor conditions.
d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age of Employment
By law children under the age of 15 are not permitted to work in PA-administered areas, and Ministry of Labor inspectors enforced this prohibition through factory visits and inspections. PA officials reported that the Ministry of Labor employed 45 labor inspectors, who investigated child labor violations. However, they are not specifically trained for child labor inspections, and they perform this function as part of their other duties as inspectors. The ministry acknowledged their need for more inspectors. Hiring of children between the ages of 15 and 18 for limited types of employment is permitted under set conditions, including limited hours and a prohibition on operating certain types of machines and equipment. The law states that children shall not be allowed to perform work that might damage their safety, health, or education and prohibits working at night, hard labor, and travel beyond their domicile. Nevertheless, many underage children--with estimates as high as 72 percent of Palestinian children--in PA-administered areas worked on family farms and in shops, as street vendors, in factories, or in small enterprises.
In the Gaza Strip, the UN estimated that hundreds of children were forced to find work, as the poor economy made it difficult for families to provide adequate resources solely through parental income. Children worked in high-risk activities and zones, including as laborers in the tunnel networks between the Gaza Strip and Egypt and in collecting scrap materials from areas close to the Israeli border, where they were at risk of live fire from Israeli troops (see sections 1.c. and 6, Children). Some children were used as informants and human shields in armed conflict. Information on respect for child labor laws in the Gaza Strip was not available.
The PA Ministry of Labor stated that Palestinian children working in Israeli settlements faced security problems, exploitation, and harassment since there was no enforceable law to monitor and protect child laborers, and there were no Israeli inspectors in West Bank settlements and industrial zones. The Israeli government stated that it did not issue permits for Palestinian West Bank residents younger than 18 years old to work in Israeli settlements, except in the Jordan Valley, where the law allows work permits for persons from the age of 16 and older. Migrant workers living in the Jordan Valley during the harvest season brought their families with them, but their children did not have proper structures for schools because the Israeli government prohibited the construction of classrooms.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There was no minimum wage in Palestinian-controlled areas. Prior to 2000, average wages for full-time workers provided a decent living standard; however, living standards dropped significantly over the past decade due to increases in cost of living that outpaced salary increases. The average wage in the occupied territories was 1,000 Jordanian dinars (approximately $1,400) per month, approximately the same as the Israeli minimum wage.
The NGO United Civilians for Peace and the Israeli NGO Kav laOved reported that the Israeli minimum wage was generally the highest wage paid to Palestinians working in settlements and that such workers complained of receiving much lower wages than Israelis working in the same areas. Palestinians reported that they continued to receive wages lower than the Israeli minimum wage, despite a 2008 high court ruling that Israeli labor laws apply to relations between Palestinian workers and Israeli employers in settlements in the occupied territories. The ruling granted Palestinian workers the same rights and benefits as workers in Israel. However, several cases brought by Palestinians against Israeli employers who offered less than the minimum wage remained pending in Israeli courts at year's end.
On October 20, Palestinian workers in an Israeli Sol-Or factory on the Green Line went on strike for multiple days, demanding their legal entitlement to the Israeli minimum wage. The workers claimed they received an inadequate 90 shekels (approximately $24) for an eight-hour workday involving hazardous tasks.
In the West Bank, the average workweek was 43 hours, and in the Gaza Strip it was approximately 40 hours, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. The maximum official Sunday to Thursday workweek was 48 hours. There were reports that PA government employees were pressured to work additional hours to be promoted. Employers are required to allow Christians to attend church on Sunday if the employee desires. Some employers offered Christians the option of not working on Sunday rather than Friday.
The PA Ministry of Labor was responsible for safety standards, but its enforcement ability was limited. There were no reported exceptions for any sector, industry, or company to labor ministry standards. However, employees of small construction and service firms were at greatest risk for workplace injuries, according to union officials. Unions complained that the PA did not effectively monitor smaller worksites, which were at times below legal standards for safety.
Source: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2010, Released by the State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, (April 8, 2011)