Report on Human Rights Practices for 2006
The Occupied Territories
(including area subject to the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority)
Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem during the 1967 War. In 2006 the population of Gaza was approximately 1.4 million, of the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) approximately 2.4 million, and of East Jerusalem about 415,000, including approximately 177,000 Israelis. Approximately 250,000 Israelis resided in the West Bank. Various agreements transferred civil responsibility to the Palestinian Authority (PA) for Gaza and parts of the West Bank and divided the territories into three types of areas denoting different levels of PA and Israeli control. However, after Palestinian extremist groups resumed violence in 2000, Israeli forces resumed control over a number of these areas, citing the PA's failure to abide by its security responsibilities. During the year both violence and Israeli-imposed internal and external access restrictions increased.
The PA has a democratically elected president and legislative council, which select and endorse a prime minister and cabinet. In January 2005 Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Mahmud Abbas won approximately 62 percent of the popular vote in a presidential election regarded as generally free and fair. Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections were held on January 25; international observers concluded the elections generally met democratic standards, despite some irregularities. Israel exercised occupation authority through the Ministry of Defense's Office of Coordination and Liaison.
During the year 660 Palestinians were killed during Israeli military operations. On December 28, the Israeli nongovernmental organization (NGO) B'Tselem claimed that of the 660 Palestinians killed, at least 322 were not engaged in hostilities when killed and 141 were minors. A total of 23 Israelis, including six Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers, and six foreigners were killed by Palestinians in terrorist attacks in both Israel and the occupied territories.
Since formation of the Hamas government in March, the Preventive Security Organization (PSO), Civil Police, and Civil Defense came under the authority of the Minister of Interior. The National Security Forces (NSF) and General Intelligence Services (GI) remained under the authority of President Abbas. President Abbas and his subordinates maintained control of security forces in the West Bank and over some forces in Gaza. The Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry created a new security branch, the "Executive Force," in Gaza, over which President Abbas had no authority. The Executive Force killed or injured several Palestinians affiliated with security forces loyal to President Abbas or the Fatah movement. Neither the president nor the Interior Ministry maintained effective control over security forces under their respective authorities, and there were reports that members of security forces committed numerous, serious abuses. The Israeli government maintained effective control of its security forces; however, there were reports that Israeli security forces used excessive force, abused, and tortured Palestinian detainees.
In September 2005 the Israeli Supreme Court reaffirmed its earlier decision that the separation barrier is permissible under both international law and Israeli law, however, the Israeli Supreme Court questioned whether the segment of the barrier at issue (in the West Bank, near Jerusalem) utilized the least intrusive route available, and it asked the government to consider whether there was an alternative route. In a 2004 advisory opinion, the International Court of Justice concluded that the barrier was contrary to international law in a number of respects.
Regarding the PA there were reports of torture, arbitrary and prolonged detention, poor prison conditions, insufficient measures to prevent attacks by terrorist groups either within the occupied territories or within Israel, corruption and lack of transparency, domestic abuse of women, societal discrimination against women and persons with disabilities, and child labor.
Regarding the Israeli occupying forces, there were reports of death and injuries to civilians in the conduct of military operations, numerous serious abuses of civilians and detainees, failure to take disciplinary action in cases of abuse, improper application of security internment procedures, temporary detention facilities that were austere and overcrowded, and limited cooperation with NGOs.
Regarding Palestinian terrorist organizations, there were several instances of terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians, resulting in deaths and injuries in the West Bank and Israel.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
Killings by Palestinian and Israeli security forces and by Israeli settlers and Palestinian militant groups remained a serious problem.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), as of June 2005, the IDF reported 131 ongoing criminal investigations into the use of weapons that resulted in injury or death, resulting in 28 indictments and seven convictions, with the remaining cases still in process. In the same time frame, the IDF also reported that 611 investigations had been opened in response to complaints of physical abuse, such as beatings, and complaints of property destruction. These investigations have led to 77 indictments. There was no further IDF reporting during the year.
According to B'Tselem Israeli security forces killed 22 Palestinians in targeted killings during the year and an undetermined number of bystanders. On December 14, the High Court ruled that targeted killings are not per se illegal; however, the legality of a particular case must be meticulously examined. Other Palestinians were killed by IDF at security check points or during military operations (see section 1.g.).
On February 13, IDF soldiers shot and killed Nafia Abu Musaid, a 25-year-old Palestinian shepherdess, near the Kissufim checkpoint in Gaza. On March 29, the IDF Military Advocate General began an investigation into her death; at year's end there were no results.
On August 9, an IDF helicopter attacked and killed two Palestinian men (20 and 27 years old) in the Jenin Refugee Camp. The men were sought by Israeli security forces and found hiding in a home with other wanted men.
On November 8, IDF artillery shelled the Gazan town of Beit Hanoun, killing 19 Palestinians and injuring others. Israeli authorities announced an investigation, stating that the shells missed the intended target. In a November letter to the Judge Advocate General, B'Tselem claimed that the action should be investigated as a possible war crime; however, at year's end no investigation results had been released.
In August 2005 Asher Weisgan, from the settlement of Shvut Rachel, shot and killed four Palestinian workers and wounded two others. On September 28, the Jerusalem District Court convicted him of murder and sentenced him to four consecutive life sentences plus an additional 12 years in prison.
In July 2005 an Israeli security guard at the separation barrier shot and killed a 15-year-old boy. According to Palestinian witnesses, he was working in his family's fields in the West Bank. Israeli authorities placed the guard under house arrest pending police investigation. At year's end there were no results from the investigation.
There were no developments in the September 2005 case of IDF soldiers who shot and killed an unarmed 13-year-old Palestinian boy during a predawn raid on the Askar refugee camp, near Nablus. An initial IDF inquiry concluded the soldiers violated rules of engagement. At year's end the findings of a military police investigation had been forwarded to the Military Attorney General.
In November 2005 an Israeli border police officer killed Samir Ribhi Da'ari, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem. Israeli authorities initially claimed Da'ari attempted to drive his vehicle over the officer. An autopsy revealed Da'ari was shot in the back; at year's end court action against the police officer was scheduled for closing arguments on January 2, 2007.
On March 29, an Israeli motorist picked up a hitchhiker who detonated a bomb concealed in a suitcase at the entrance of the Kedumim settlement south of Nablus killing the four Israelis in the car. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades claimed responsibility.
On March 31, Abu Yusif, Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) military leader, was killed by a bomb as he walked past a parked car. The PA created a committee to investigate the killing although it was believed to be the result of factional rivalry. At year's end the investigation had not concluded.
On June 25, Eliyahu Asheri, an 18-year-old Israeli resident of the Itamar West Bank settlement, was kidnapped and subsequently killed; the Palestinian PRC admitted responsibility.
On September 15, unknown assailants shot and killed Brigadier General Jad al-Tayeh of the Palestinian GI and his four bodyguards in Gaza. On October 10, media published the names of five Palestinian suspects. The PA Interior Ministry confirmed the names, but stated that the suspects had not yet been indicted, and at year's end no one had been arrested.
In early October Palestinians clashed in Gaza and West Bank cities over unpaid public sector wages. Public buildings were damaged, 12 persons were reportedly killed, and over 130 injured.
On October 14, members of the Hamas-led Ministry of Interior's Executive Force (EF) shot and killed Ali Shikshik, a GI officer, while traveling in his car in Gaza City.
On December 11, unknown assailants fired on a car carrying the school children of the senior intelligence officer in the PA; three boys and their driver were killed, and a number of bystanders injured. At year's end the attackers had not been individually identified or arrested.
There were no developments in the February 2005 case of Palestinian gunmen that attacked the Gaza Central Prison and killed three prisoners. The gunmen took one individual from the prison to the al-Burayj refugee camp and killed him publicly. At year's end there had been no arrests.
In October 2005 Israeli security forces arrested Abed Al-Muaz Div Joaba, a Palestinian from Hebron, who confessed to stabbing two yeshiva students and killing one in August 2005. He was indicted by the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court later that month. On July 10, Joaba was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and an additional 20-year imprisonment for attempted murder.
There were no developments in the September 2005 killing of Musa Arafat, former PA Gaza National Security Forces chief. At year's end the PA had issued but not served an arrest warrant for one PRC member.
There were no developments in the December 2005 case of a Palestinian on trial for stabbing and killing an Israeli soldier at the Qalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem.
In 2004 an Israeli settler, Boaz Albert, killed Salman Yussuf Safadi; Albert claimed self defense. On January 31, the case was dismissed for lack of evidence; however, on June 22, Albert was prohibited from living in the West Bank. After violating this order, Israel detained him administratively in Ramla at year's end.
In 2004 an Israeli settler, Yehoshua Elitzur, shot and killed Sa'al Jabara near Nablus. Witnesses stated Elitzur shot Jabara at close range after he slowed his car to ask whether Elitzur needed assistance. In June 2005 an Israeli court convicted Elitzur of manslaughter. Subsequently, Elitzur fled and therefore had not been sentenced at year's end.
In 2004 unidentified assailants threw grenades into a room holding suspected Palestinian "collaborators" (providing potential information to Israel), killing two prisoners. Palestinian security officials arrested two policemen, who allegedly carried out the attack on behalf of Hamas. At year's end the officers had been released and no legal action taken.
Three US security personnel in a diplomatic convoy were killed in an attack in Gaza in October 2003. At year's end there was no progress by the PA, and the case remained unsolved. During the year the US government continued to press the PA to resolve the case.
There were several reports of politically motivated disappearances during the year (see section 1.g.).
On February 9, in Gaza City two masked gunmen fired at a diplomatic vehicle and kidnapped Egypt's military attaché to the PA. He was released on February 11. A previously unknown Palestinian militant group "the al-Ahrar Brigades" claimed responsibility.
On March 14, unknown militants kidnapped over a dozen international workers in Gaza to protest an Israeli arrest operation at Jericho prison. They were released several hours later. On the same day, unidentified gunmen kidnapped a Western citizen in Jenin and held him hostage for several hours.
On June 19, a Western student was kidnapped in Nablus and released to the IDF on June 20. He told police that he was forced to videotape an appeal to release Palestinian prisoners.
On June 25, PRC and HAMAS militants tunneled from Gaza to Israel and attacked an IDF outpost. They killed two soldiers and abducted a third, Gilad Shalit. By year's end Shalit had not been released.
On December 28, the NGO Reporters Without Borders issued a report that 10 foreign journalists had been kidnapped in the occupied territories since August 2005. It also noted that during the year six foreign journalists were kidnapped in Gaza. For example, on August 14, in Gaza City armed Palestinians kidnapped two FOX News journalists (see section 2.a.). After PA official intervention, the kidnappers released their victims, but the kidnappers were not apprehended. On October 24, an unidentified armed group kidnapped an Associated Press photojournalist but released him on the same day.
The PA neither prevented nor adequately investigated kidnappings of Palestinians or foreign nationals in the West Bank and Gaza.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
PA Basic Law prohibits torture or use of force against detainees; however, international human rights groups stated that torture was a significant problem, and its use was not restricted to persons detained on security charges.
Torture by PA security forces reportedly was widespread. Documentation of abuses by PA security forces was very limited, due partly to hesitancy by alleged victims to make public claims of torture or abuse against PA authorities. Palestinian security officers have no formal guidelines regarding legal interrogation conduct; most convictions were based largely on confessions.
Israeli law, as interpreted by an Israeli 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.
During the year the Israeli NGO the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) noted it submitted more than 40 cases of torture to the Attorney General (AG); however, in every case the AG responded that these persons had information deemed vital for state security and no further action would be taken. Specifically, PCATI noted the case of Rafah resident Mustafa Abu Ma'amar who was arrested in June and reportedly extensively abused by Israeli security officials. Israeli human rights organizations reported that during the year Israeli security forces used psychological abuse more frequently, including threats of house demolition or of questioning elderly parents, and kept prisoners in harsh conditions, including solitary confinement for long periods, instead of subjecting them to direct physical abuse. Israeli law prohibits forced confessions, but most security case convictions were based on confessions made before defendants had legal representation.
A detainee by Israel may not have legal representation until after interrogation, a process that may last weeks. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is notified of arrests 12 days after they occur, and the ICRC is allowed to visit detainees 14 days after arrest. Detainees sometimes stated in court that their confessions were coerced, but there were no instances in which judges excluded such confessions.
During the year there were a number of claims of abuse by IDF soldiers. For example, on February 9, according to Palestinian statements given to B'Tselem, two IDF soldiers at the al-Fawwar checkpoint in the southern Hebron area blindfolded, beat, and threatened two Palestinian men. B'Tselem requested an IDF investigation; however, at year's end the IDF had not replied.
In July and August, B'Tselem gathered testimony from Palestinians who detailed beatings and other abuse by IDF soldiers in the West Bank area of the Ramin Plain. B'Tselem petitioned the Judge Advocate General, and on September 13, the IDF Central Command informed B'Tselem the military police would investigate eight of the incidents. At year's end there was no further information.
On August 11, an Israeli Border Police soldier fired a rubber bullet at the head of Lymor Goldstein, an Israeli demonstrator protesting construction of the separation barrier in the West Bank village of Bil'in, injuring him and requiring surgery to remove the bullet. No action was taken against the police.
There were no developments in the September 2005 case in which IDF soldiers forced residents of a home in Tulkarm to undress in the street or the November 2005 report that IDF soldiers assaulted Palestinian students in Hebron.
There were numerous credible reports of violence by settlers against Palestinians, particularly by residents of the Ma'on settlement in the southern Hebron Hills. On May 9, more than 30 Israeli artists and intellectuals sent a letter to the Israeli prime minister urging IDF protection for Palestinian children in the area. According to Ha'aretz, on May 10, the defense minister reportedly instructed IDF and police to increase the security for these Palestinian children on their way to and from school. However, settler harassment of the children continued without police response. On May 31, the Ma'on farm settlers reportedly were ordered to evacuate due to their attacks on schoolchildren; however, at year's end the Ma'on settlement remained.
On April 1, four settlers reportedly attacked and severely beat 72-year-old Palestinian Saber Shtiyeh as he was working in his field near the West Bank village of Salem, near Nablus. On April 7, representatives from Rabbis for Human Rights and the Kibbutz Movement requested IDF protection for the Palestinian farmers; however, the request reportedly was refused.
A June report by the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din stated there was a "general phenomenon of absence of adequate law enforcement by the authorities upon settlers who commit offenses against Palestinians." For example, on November 19, settlers attacked a group of escorts for Palestinian school children in Hebron, seriously injuring a Western woman. At year's end, none of the attackers was charged (see section 2.d.).
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
PA prison conditions were poor; most were destroyed during the Intifada and have not been reconstructed; prisoners were kept informally incarcerated and subject to intrusions by outsiders. The PA generally permitted the ICRC access to detainees and allowed regular inspections of prison conditions; however, the PA denied access to some detainees for 14 days following their arrests. The PA permitted monitoring of its prisons, but human rights groups, humanitarian organizations, and lawyers reported difficulties gaining access to specific detainees. Human rights organizations stated their ability to visit PA prisons and detention centers varied depending on which organization ran the facility, and they rarely could see inmates being interrogated.
Conditions of Israeli permanent prison facilities generally met international standards. Provisional detention centers were less likely to meet standards. According to the 2004 Israel Public Defender's Office report on detention facilities of the Prison Service and Police, detainees in the Jerusalem Russian Compound facility endured overcrowded cells and suffocating conditions. Detention and interrogation facilities for Palestinian detainees, including the four interrogation centers (Shikma, Kishon, Petah Tikva, and the Jerusalem Internment Center), were austere, overcrowded, and provisional. According to the Mandela Institute, in December Israel held 93 Palestinian prisoners in some form of solitary confinement. Israel permitted monitoring of prison conditions by the ICRC and other groups, although human rights groups reported delays and difficulties in gaining access to specific detainees. Human rights groups reported frequent, unnotified transfers of detainees and significantly limited ability by families of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel to visit.
According to the Israeli Prison Service, its regulations require separation of minors and adults; however, at year's end at least one person, age 16, was kept with adults in Ofer Prison.
In November the NGO Palestinian Prisoners Club reported that there were approximately 1,259 medical cases in Israeli prisons. Since 2004 Israeli authorities increased medical attention and authorized several private doctors to visit prisoners; however, prisoners continued to claim that medical attention was inadequate.
There was no official response to the July 2005 PCATI demand for an investigation of the death in detention of Jawab Abu Maghasib.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
Palestinian law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, it allows police to hold detainees without charges for 24 hours. Courts may approve detention without charges for up to 45 days. A trial must start within six months of arrest or the detainee must be released. In practice the PA detained many Palestinians without charge for months.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
Israeli security forces in the West Bank and Gaza consisted of the IDF, the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), the Israeli National Police (INP), and the Border Police, an operational arm of the INP that is under IDF command when operating in the occupied territories. Israeli military courts tried Palestinians accused of security offenses.
Operational control over Palestinian security forces was divided between President Abbas and the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry. Palestinian police were normally responsible for security and law enforcement for Palestinians and other non‑Israelis in PA-controlled areas of the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian security forces included the National Security Forces (NSF), the Preventive Security Organization (PSO), the General Intelligence Service (GI, or Mukhabarat), the Presidential Guard (PG), and the Coastal Police. Other quasi-military security organizations, such as the Military Intelligence Organization, exercised the equivalent of law enforcement powers. The 2005 General Intelligence Law placed the Mukhabarat under President Abbas's authority.
The PSO, the civil police, and the civil defense fall under the legal control of the Interior Minister. Subordinates of President Abbas retained operational control over all security branches in the West Bank and some forces in Gaza. Armed militias played a major role in both local security and abuses of human rights. For example, Hamas Executive Force members attacked PA government installations in Gaza on several occasions and killed opponents in the Fatah movement or Palestinian security forces.
PA security forces detained persons without informing judicial authorities and often ignored laws protecting detainee rights and court decisions calling for release of alleged security criminals. At year's end Palestinian sources estimated the PA imprisoned approximately 263 suspected of collaboration with Israel. Alleged collaborators often were held without evidence and denied access to lawyers, their families, or doctors.
Arrest and Detention
Under applicable occupation orders, Israeli security personnel may arrest without warrant or hold for questioning a person suspected of having committed or being likely to commit a security-related offense. Israeli Military Order 1507 permits Israeli security forces to detain persons for 10 days, during which period they cannot see a lawyer or appear before court. Administrative security detention orders could be issued for up to six-month periods and renewed indefinitely by judges. The law expressly authorizes an appeal of the circumstances of each security detention order to the Israeli Supreme Court. No detainee has ever successfully appealed a detention order under this process.
Israeli Military Order 1369 provides for a seven‑year prison term for anyone not responding to a summons in security cases. Suspects are entitled to an attorney, but this right can be deferred during interrogation, which can last up to 90 days. Israeli authorities stated that they attempted to post notification of arrests within 48 hours, but senior officers may delay notification for up to 12 days.
Additionally, a military commander may request a judge to extend this period in security cases indefinitely. On June 26, the Knesset passed a law permitting detention and arraignment of a security suspect to be held without the individual present and that a person can be interrogated without judicial oversight for 96 hours. The Israeli military orders required notification of family members of specific cases of detention; however, many families reported serious problems in learning of the status and whereabouts of prisoners. Evidence for administrative detentions in security cases was often unavailable to the detainee or his attorneys due to security classification, but it was made available to the court.
Palestinians claimed that security detainees held under Israeli security detention military orders were in fact political prisoners. At year's end the Mandela Institute estimated Israel held 10,633 Palestinian security prisoners. B'Tselem's end of year report said there were 9,075 Palestinians in custody as of November, 738 of whom were in administrative detention. One illustrative case reportedly was Ziyad Hmeidan, an employee of Al-Haq, a Palestinian NGO, arrested in May 2005 and subsequently detained without charge. His petition for release in September was rejected by the High Court; at year's end Al-Haqplanned further petitions in Hmeidan's behalf. Also, Hassan Zaga, field worker for PCATI, was released on November 15 after his January 11 arrest and detention without charge.
During the year Israel conducted some mass arrests in the West Bank; however, most arrests targeted specific persons. On June 29, the IDF arrested approximately 90 Hamas members in the West Bank, including eight PA cabinet ministers and more than 29 PLC members. At year's end four ministers and 32 PLC Hamas members remained in jail in Israel.
Palestinians transferred to prisons in Israel had difficulty obtaining legal representation because only Israeli citizens or Palestinian lawyers with Jerusalem identification cards were permitted to visit them. Lawyers said they had better access to clients than in previous years. Israeli authorities in some instances scheduled appointments but then moved the prisoners to other prisons to delay lawyer‑client meetings for as long as 90 days.
The Israeli government frequently failed to notify foreign consular officials in a timely manner after detaining their citizens.
During the year Israel transferred two Palestinian from the West Bank to Gaza. On June 21, the IDF deported Hamas activist Rasmi Sbeih to Gaza after having held him for two years as an administrative detainee. On December 26, the IDF deported Abdullah Saadi, a Fatah activist from Jenin, to the Gaza strip after releasing him following six months of administrative detention. At year's end approximately 40 other persons awaited permission to return to the West Bank from Gaza. These are previous West Bank residents deported to Gaza and not permitted to return.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The PA court system is based on PA legal codes as well as Israeli military orders and Jordanian and Ottoman Law that predate the 1967 occupation. A High Judicial Council maintained authority over most court operations. In June 2005 PA President Abbas ordered retrials for those sentenced to death by the state security courts; no retrials were held during the year, but the security courts were abolished. Military courts, established in 1995, have jurisdiction over police and security force personnel as well as crimes by civilians against security forces. In November 2005 President Abbas established a court for election issues composed of nine judges. Following the January elections, it examined petitions; however, it took no action that changed election results.
PA courts were inefficient, lacked staff and resources, and often did not ensure fair and expeditious trials. A severe shortage of funds and judges and an absence of lawyers and witnesses, due to check points and other travel restrictions, resulted in one estimate of a 70,000 misdemeanor and felony case backload in Gaza and the West Bank. Although these problems predated PA jurisdiction, they were aggravated by continued lack of PA attention. PA executive and security services frequently failed to implement court decisions and otherwise inhibited judicial independence.
Continued violence adversely affected PA administration of justice. Many police stations and incarceration facilities were damaged or destroyed, including the Jericho Prison on March 14 following an Israeli raid. Travel restrictions, curfews, and closures significantly impeded administration of justice.
Israeli law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected this in practice. The IDF usually tried Palestinians accused of security offenses in the occupied territories in military courts in the West Bank. The law comprehensively defined security offenses and may include charges as varied as rock throwing or membership in terrorist organizations. Military prosecutors brought charges. Israeli military courts rarely acquitted Palestinians charged with security offenses; sentences occasionally were reduced on appeal.
Trials of Palestinians before Israeli military tribunals follow the same evidentiary rules as in regular criminal cases. The accused is entitled to counsel, and a judge may assign counsel. Charges are made available to the defendant and the public in Hebrew, but the court may order an Arabic translation. The court may hear evidence in security cases denied to the defendant or his attorney; however, a conviction may not be based solely on such evidence. Convictions may not be based solely on the defendant's confession, although in practice some security prisoners were convicted on the basis of allegedly coerced confessions by themselves and others. Defendants can appeal through the Military High Court or to the civilian high court in certain instances.
The Israeli government sometimes delayed trials for very extended periods, occasionally for years, because Israeli security force witnesses did not appear, the defendant was not brought to court, files were lost, or travel restrictions delayed attorneys (see section 2.d.). Palestinian legal advocates alleged that delays were designed to pressure defendants to settle their cases.
Crowded facilities, poor arrangements for scheduling and holding attorney‑client consultations, and confessions prepared in Hebrew hindered defense efforts.
Israeli settlers were tried under Israeli law in the nearest Israeli district court. Civilian judges presided; Israeli law (not military orders) governed the standards of due process and admissibility of evidence. The Israeli government rarely prosecuted settlers for crimes against Palestinians and, in the rare instances when convicted, they regularly received lighter punishment than Palestinians convicted in Israeli courts (see section 1.a.). According to B'Tselem during 2005 the Israeli police claimed that it had conducted 299 investigations into reported settler attacks on Palestinians; indictments were filed in 65 of these investigations. According to a June study by Yesh Din, for investigations relating to offenses committed by Israeli civilians against Palestinians in 2005-06, more than 90 percent of complaints and investigations were closed without indictments. Of the files on trespassing (including all the cases of damaging or destroying trees) in which the investigation was completed, 96 percent were closed without indictments as were 100 percent of the property offenses and 79 percent of assault files. Yesh Din determined that approximately 5 percent of the complaints filed were lost and apparently never investigated.
In 2004 a Tel Aviv District Court convicted West Bank Fatah leader and PLC member, Marwan Barghuti, of murder and attempted murder involving terror attacks. Barghuti rejected the court's jurisdiction, did not mount a legal defense, and did not appeal his five consecutive life sentences. There was no further legal action during the year.
Pursuant to law the PA can impose the death penalty on a person convicted of any of 42 offenses. Military courts and state security courts have imposed most death sentences attributed to the PA. There is no judicial procedure to appeal these sentences, and only the PA president has the authority to ratify or alter the sentence. If he does not act, the individual remains in jail; the president took no action during the year.
In June 2005 the PA executed four men; the state security courts, established by the presidential decree in 1995 but terminated by the PA Justice Ministry in 2003, convicted one of the four. There have been no subsequent executions.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
Palestinian sources estimated the PA imprisoned approximately 263 persons suspected of collaboration with Israel. Palestinians claimed that security detainees held under Israeli security detention military orders were in fact political prisoners (see section 1.d.).
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Civil lawsuits are handled by the PA civil and magistrate courts. Any citizen can file a petition or a lawsuit against the government and, in some cases, the president personally. However, because of general problems in the judicial system, the execution of court orders was not systematic.
Palestinians were not permitted to file cases in the Israeli court system; however, Israeli NGOs have done so for them.
The Palestinian Authority sometimes enforced court orders with respect to restitution or compensation for taking private property under domestic law. Individuals reported that their property was taken by government officials without compensation. At year's end some cases were being tried in the PA judiciary.
The Israeli government confiscated Palestinian property for construction of the separation barrier or military installations; it offered some compensation to landowners, however, Palestinians largely declined to accept compensation out of concern that this would legitimize the Israeli land confiscations. Specific cases document the exceptional difficulty Palestinians have in attempting to prove their land ownership to the standards demanded in Israeli courts.
In an October study, the Israeli NGO Peace Now concluded that 38.7 percent of the land occupied by Israeli settlements, outposts, and settler industrial zones in the West Bank, comprising 15,271 acres, is privately owned Palestinian property. The study, reportedly based on official government data, contended that West Bank settlements violated Israeli law and juridical decisions. The Israeli Yesha settlement council condemned the report on technical and substantive grounds.
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 frequently ignored these requirements. Police searched homes without the consent of their owners. In some cases police forcibly entered premises.
Under occupation orders an IDF officer of the rank of lieutenant colonel or above could authorize entry of private homes and institutions without a warrant, based upon military necessity. On some occasions IDF personnel beat occupants and destroyed or looted property. Israeli authorities stated these were punishable violations of military regulations with compensation due.
There was no change in Israeli policy regarding punitive home demolitions. Since February 2005 there have been no punitive home demolitions. Previously, Israel demolished and sealed homes of Palestinians suspected of terrorism or their relatives. Under this policy according to B'Tselem, 666 homes were demolished between October 2001 and January 2005 as punishment.
Following the withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005, Israel directed air strikes against homes in Gaza suspected of concealing tunnels or weapons. According to human rights groups and media, the Israeli government notified residents and warned them to evacuate prior to impending air attack. Israeli forces reoccupied portions of northern Gaza between June 28 and November 25. On September 6, the UN Development Program estimated damage to the Gaza infrastructure between June 28 and August 27 to be approximately $46 million (197 million NIS).
Israeli authorities limited Palestinian home construction, notably in East Jerusalem. Israeli authorities generally restricted Palestinian home building elsewhere in the West Bank and near Israeli settlements. According to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, approximately 12,000 structures in East Jerusalem were defined by the Israeli government as illegal. Consequently, during the year Jerusalem municipal authorities and the Interior Ministry systematically demolished such structures including 81 buildings (63 residential) in East Jerusalem.
During the year the IDF destroyed numerous citrus, olive, and date groves and irrigation systems in Gaza, stating that Palestinians had been firing Qassam rockets from those areas. Human rights groups reported that over the past five years, Israeli settlers and the IDF destroyed thousands of Palestinian olive trees.
According to media reports, Israeli human rights groups praised a September announcement by Minister of Defense Amir Peretz promising action against anyone interfering or harassing farmers during harvesting. The announcement followed a two-year legal effort by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Rabbis for Human Rights. Still, Palestinians complained that the IDF measures gave insufficient time to complete the harvest and that they were limited in their ability to protect their property by curfews and travel restrictions. According to Yesh Din, settlers committed 18 major instances of olive theft and violent disruptions of the harvest during the year.
The IDF also cleared and took permanent control of privately owned Palestinian land to construct the separation barrier. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the separation barrier route has been extended from 670 kilometers (416 miles) to 703 kilometers (437 miles) upon completion. OCHA noted as of July the Israeli authorities, through military orders, had confiscated approximately 8,887 acres of West Bank land to construct the separation barrier. According to Israel it sought to build the barrier on public lands where possible, and where private land was used, provided opportunities for compensation. Palestinians largely declined to seek compensation out of concern that this would legitimize the Israeli land confiscations. Additionally, numerous cases were filed in Israeli courts challenging the route of the fence.
On December 13, the High Court rejected the petition filed by ACRI and the human rights organization Bimkom against the section of the separation barrier that severs the Palestinian community a-Ram from East Jerusalem. On November 26, the High Court approved a barrier route around five Palestinian villages northwest of Jerusalem, creating an enclave that will separate them from East Jerusalem and neighboring Palestinian villages. The five villages in the enclave have a total population of more than 15,000 persons.
g. Use of Excessive Force and Other Abuses in Internal and External Conflicts
Palestinian members of Hamas, Fatah-affiliated militant groups, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad attacked and killed Israeli civilians, foreign nationals, and soldiers, both in Israel and in the occupied territories. They inflicted casualties on noncombatants by suicide bombs, rockets, and mortars. In addition they often fired at Israeli security forces from civilian population areas, increasing the risk that Israeli return fire would harm noncombatants. PA President Abbas made repeated public statements calling for an end to violence, but these steps did not prevent numerous attacks.
During the year Palestinian militants repeatedly fired rockets from northern Gaza into Israel, killing two and wounding a number of persons, and destroying property. For example, on November 15, a Qassam rocket killed an Israeli woman in Sderot and wounded two other Israeli civilians. Palestinian militants claimed responsibility for the attack.
According to the PA Health Ministry, the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), and Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups, at least 660 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel during Israeli military and police operations through year's end. The IDF stated that the majority of Palestinians killed were armed fighters or persons engaged in planning or carrying out violence against Israeli civilian and military targets. On December 28, B'Tselem contended that "at least 322 of those killed did not take part in the hostilities at the time they were killed." According to the PRCS, IDF operations and clashes with Palestinians resulted in injuries to approximately 1,805 Palestinians.
During the year according to B'Tselem, 22 Palestinians directly died in targeted killings. According to Palestinian security and media reports, IDF forces killed at least 60 bystanders in these operations. Some were civilians; others were affiliated with terrorist organizations.
According to a June 2005 HRW report, Israeli military investigative practices were not "impartial, thorough, or timely." The report charged the IDF had criminally investigated less than 5 percent of civilian deaths between September 2000 and November 2004, fostering a climate of impunity within the IDF. In response in 2005, IDF stated it conducted 130 investigations and issued 28 indictments, with seven convictions and one acquittal; the remaining 20 court cases were ongoing. The otherincidents were still under investigation.
The IDF conducted numerous military incursions into Palestinian population centers in response to Palestinian mortar and antitank fire from the centers. These actions often resulted in civilian casualties. Israeli forces fired tank shells, heavy machine-gun rounds, and rockets from aircraft at targets in residential and business neighborhoods where they believed Palestinian gunfire originated. Palestinian gunmen fired upon Israeli forces and booby-trapped homes and apartment buildings. In response throughout the year, the IDF usually raided and often destroyed these buildings and raided other locations allegedly harboring militants. In February the IDF launched a large-scale military operation into the city of Nablus and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)-run Balata refugee camp; five Palestinians were killed and more than 24 injured. During this operation the IDF and Border Police entered an UNRWA-run girls' school in Balata Camp and used it for three days as a detention center and firing position, causing extensive damage. UNRWA staff sought compensation and assurances of nonrepetition of similar conduct from the Israeli government; however, the government had not responded as of year's end.
From June 28 until August 21, the IDF undertook operation "Summer Rains" in Gaza, following the PRC kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, on June 25. Summer Rains involved numerous Israeli air and ground attacks and incursions throughout Gaza. The attacks killed over 200 Palestinians, including civilians; four IDF soldiers also were killed. Subsequently, operation "Autumn Clouds" between November 1 and 7, according to PA medical sources, killed at least 56 Palestinians and injured approximately 220. On November 26, a ceasefire was agreed in Gaza whereby militant factions halted firing rockets towards Israel and the IDF withdrew from northern Gaza. Despite nearly 70 rockets fired from northern Gaza into Israel by year's end, the IDF did not resume operations in Gaza. The ceasefire was not extended to the West Bank by year's end.
On April 10, IDF artillery fire killed an eight-year-old Palestinian girl in the northern Gaza suburb of Beit Lahiya.
On June 9, an explosion on a Gaza beach killed eight Palestinians. Palestinian witnesses claimed the explosion resulted from Israeli naval artillery fire. An IDF investigation denied the charge; however, a senior IDF officer said on June 13 that IDF forces fired 17 artillery shells into an area approximately 700 meters from the incident. HRW described the IDF investigation as "incomplete" and called for an independent investigation.
On June 20, the Israeli Air Force killed three Palestinian children and injured others in an air strike in Gaza City.
On July 8, missiles from an Israeli aircraft struck a Palestinian home in the al-Muntar area east of Gaza City, killing three and injuring four family members.
On November 6, a minibus at the Jabaliya-Beit Lahia intersection north of Gaza City was struck by Israeli shelling; three Palestinians were killed and seven others wounded.
At year's end there were no results from the IDF investigation of the July 2005 incident in which the IDF fired in the direction of Palestinians waiting to cross the Abu Holi checkpoint in Gaza, killing a 14-year-old boy.
In January 2005 IDF gunfire killed a 10-year-old Palestinian girl and injured a second inside their UNRWA school in Rafah. The IDF opened an investigation into the shooting; however, at year's end there was no public report of the investigation results.
IDF soldiers reportedly fired without warning on trespassers in or near restricted areas. Israeli security personnel operating checkpoints also killed a number of Palestinians. On January 26, IDF soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian girl, Aya al-Astal, near the Kissufim checkpoint in Gaza.
There was no resolution of the April 2005 case in which IDF soldiers killed three Palestinian teenagers near the border fence separating Gaza from Egypt or the August 2005 case in which an IDF raid of the Tulkam refugee camp killed five unarmed Palestinians. Investigations remained incomplete at year's end.
In 2004 IDF soldiers shot and killed Iman al-Hams, a 13-year-old schoolgirl, as she approached an IDF outpost in southern Gaza carrying a bag of schoolbooks that troops suspected contained explosives. After the girl had been shot from a distance, the IDF company commander allegedly repeatedly fired his automatic weapon into her at close range. In February 2005 a military court released the company commander after soldiers who witnessed the incident recanted testimony. On December 14, the High Court accepted the petition of the girl's parents and PCATI and ordered an investigation to determine whether illegal open fire orders were given in the area of the military post which led to the killing.
While protecting construction of the separation barrier, Israeli security personnel killed a number of Palestinians. In May 2005 Jamal Jaber Ibrahim Assi, age 15, and Odai Mufid Mahmud Assi, age 14, were shot and killed near Bayt Liqya, west of Ramallah, during clashes between protesters and soldiers. According to Palestinian witnesses, IDF soldiers initially used nonlethal weapons, but subsequently fired live ammunition. The IDF ordered a military police investigation and suspended the deputy company commander from operational duty until the completion of the investigation. At year's end there were no conclusions from the investigation. Weekly clashes continued in Bil'in village in the West Bank; there were injuries but no fatalities.
On June 28, as part of the Summer Rains operation, the Israeli Air Force destroyed three bridges and the transformers of the only electricity plant in Gaza. After several months the plant was repaired.
During the year Israeli forces delayed the movement of, and occasionally fired upon, medical personnel and ambulances. HRW claimed that between May 30 and June 20, IDF forces attacked Palestinian medical emergency personnel on at least six separate occasions in Gaza, including two attacks by missile-firing drone aircraft.
The IDF abuse of Palestinians or their vehicles at checkpoints continued. In its monthly reports during the year, Machsom Watch (an Israeli women's organization that monitors checkpoints in the West Bank and Jerusalem) alleged a series of abuses. On January 3, a Machsom Watch volunteer observed IDF soldiers strip and search Palestinians, including an ambulance-attending doctor, at the Jubara checkpoint.
Israeli forces continued to use Palestinians as "human shields" in violation of Israeli law despite High Court rulings in 2002 and 2005 and an IDF Chief of Staff order in 2005.
On July 20, B'Tselem announced its initial investigation into a July 17 incursion by Israeli forces into Beit Hanun in northern Gaza indicated that soldiers seized control of two buildings in the town and used six residents as human shields. The Military Police Investigation Unit informed B'Tselem it was investigating the case; however, at year's end there were no developments.
Media reported that in a series of incidents in November, local officials from Fatah, Hamas, the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine, and other groups urged civilians to surround homes of militants targeted for attack by Israeli forces, which resulted in them acting as human shields.
In a December 12 ruling, the High Court struck down part of a 2005 amendment to the Civil Wrongs Law prohibiting Palestinians residing in the occupied territories from seeking compensation for death, injury, or property damage at the hands of the IDF, even for acts that were not part of combat action. The ruling held that section 5c, which almost totally prevented Palestinians injured by actions of security forces in the occupied territories from suing for compensation, was illegal.
Palestinians frequently threw stones and Molotov cocktails, and on occasion fired live ammunition at Israeli security forces. Israeli security forces on various occasions responded with tear gas, rubber bullets, and live fire, including tank fire.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The PA does not have laws providing for freedom of press; however, the law permits every person the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and expression, and the right to express opinions orally, in writing, or through any other form. However, a 1995 presidential decree included injunctions against writing anything critical of the PA or the president. Although the PA did not restrict freedom of speech or press, members of the ruling Hamas faction restricted freedoms of speech and press.
Working conditions for journalists in the West Bank and Gaza deteriorated noticeably during the year. Following the January Palestinian legislative elections, tension between the Hamas-led government and the Fatah movement resulted in polarization of the Palestinian press, with reduced press freedom, notably for local-level journalists. Numerous incidents against journalists, particularly those working in Gaza, included assaults, intimidation, and abduction in retaliation for reporting perceived as biased by one faction or the other.
In April several Palestinian journalists, including Muwafaq Matar, a reporter for the pro-Fatah al-Hurriya radio station in Gaza, received death threats for their critical coverage of Hamas. Reuters reported the Palestinian Journalists' Union received complaints from seven journalists in Gaza who had been threatened by e-mail, telephone, or fax for their writings.
On May 20, masked arsonists burned three cars belonging to the Al-Jazeera satellite station in Ramallah. According to an Associated Press report, the attack was carried out by Fatah supporters against the station for not reporting an anti-Hamas demonstration in Ramallah.
On September 19, unknown assailants attacked three journalists, including a photographer for the pro-Fatah Al-Hayat Al-Jadida daily newspaper, during a Hamas demonstration in Gaza. Also on September 19, masked men attacked the offices of the official pro-Fatah news agency WAFA in Khan Younis in Gaza, assaulting journalist Amr Al Farra and destroying the contents and furniture of the outlet.
There were three Palestinian daily and several Palestinian weekly newspapers. There also were several monthly magazines and three tabloids. The PA operated one television station and one radio station. There were approximately 30 independently owned television stations and approximately 25 such radio stations.
In 2005 the PA took steps to end incitement to violence in Palestinian media; however, no additional action was taken during the year. During 2005 the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation reduced its inflammatory material, including incitement to violence.
The Israeli occupation authorities limited freedom of expression. In East Jerusalem Israeli authorities prohibited display of Palestinian political symbols; displays were punishable by fines or prison, as were public expressions of anti-Israeli sentiment and of support for Islamic extremist groups. Israeli authorities censored press coverage of the Intifada and reviewed Arabic publications for security-related material.
As a general rule, Israeli media covered the occupied territories, except for combat zones where the IDF temporarily restricted access. The government claimed such restrictions were necessary for journalists' security.
Closures and curfews limited the ability of Palestinian and foreign journalists to do their jobs. Journalists complained of area closures, long waits at the Gaza border crossing, and the government's inadequate transportation provisions.
During the year IDF soldiers beat journalists on several occasions, detained others, and confiscated their press cards in Bil'in village where there were weekly protests over construction of the separation barrier (see section 1.g.).
There were reports by foreign and Israeli media that the IDF fired upon journalists.
On July 12, media reported that Ibrahim Atla, a cameraman with Palestinian public television broadcasting, was seriously injured by shrapnel from a tank shell, and two other journalists were also injured.
On July 19, Al-Hurra reporter Fatin Elwan was struck by two rubber bullets fired by an Israeli soldier while covering the Israeli siege of the presidential compound in Nablus. Reporters Without Borders also noted that three other journalists, including Al-Jazeera television technician Wael Tantous, were injured when Israeli soldiers fired rubber bullets at local reporters covering the event.
On August 27, according to press reports, Israeli aircraft fired two missiles at an armored Reuters vehicle, wounding five persons, including two cameramen. A spokesman stated the Israeli Air Force did not realize journalists were in the car and attacked because it was being driven in a suspicious manner.
On November 3, Hamza Al Attar, a cameraman for Palestinian news agency Ramattan, reportedly while wearing an orange vest marked "Press" was shot in the back and critically wounded while filming a protest by Palestinian women in Beit Hanun, Gaza.
In January 2005 Majdi al-Arabid, a journalist working for Israeli Channel 10 TV in the Gaza Strip, was shot near Bayt Lahia while reporting on IDF operations against Palestinians suspected of firing rockets into Israel. An IDF spokesperson stated soldiers were unaware journalists were in the area and fired only on Palestinian gunmen. The IDF reportedly opened an investigation; however, at year's end there was no information on the status of an investigation.
In 2003 James Miller, a British national, was killed by the IDF while filming a documentary in Rafah in the Gaza Strip. In April 2005 a disciplinary military court acquitted an IDF officer on charges of illegal use of firearms; subsequently, he was cleared of all charges. On April 6, a coroner's court in London ruled Miller's death was an "unlawful killing." Miller's family urged the British government to seek extradition of the IDF officer who killed him.
On May 24, Israeli authorities released Awad Rajoub, a reporter for the Arabic language Web site of Al Jazeera, reportedly after being detained since November 2005; no reason was given for his detention.
On October 6, IDF officials arrested Reuters cameraman Emad Mohammad Bornat in the West Bank village of Bil'in and detained him for two weeks. Bornat was charged with "attacking an officer"; however, according to Reuters he was subsequently found innocent by an Israeli court.
Rising levels of lawlessness in the Gaza Strip subjected journalists to harassment and kidnappings.
On March 15, three foreign journalists (Caroline Laurent, Alfred Yaghobzadeh, and Yong Tae-young) were taken at the Al-Dira hotel in Gaza by unidentified gunmen. On March 16, according to news reports, all three were released.
On August 14, unidentified gunmen in the Gaza Strip kidnapped two Fox News journalists. They were released on August 27.
On October 24, photojournalist Emilio Morenatti of AP was abducted by unidentified Palestinian gunmen in Gaza City; he was later released.
There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the government monitored e-mail or Internet chatrooms. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by electronic mail. According to a poll conducted by the Ramallah-based Near East Consulting public opinion firm, approximately 50 percent of Palestinians reported using the Internet.
On November 29, four Internet cafes in Gaza City were bombed, and reportedly other Internet cafes were threatened. The Islamic militant group "Swords of Right" claimed responsibility.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were government restrictions on academic freedom and cultural events. During the year the PA did not interfere with education; however, the violence and restrictions on the movement of Palestinians by Israeli security forces adversely affected academic institutions. Israeli closures, curfews, and the separation barrier restricted access to Palestinian academic institutions. The separation barrier also prevented some students from taking examinations. Israeli shelling and gunfire during military operations damaged a number of schools and, in some cases, killed schoolchildren (see section 1.g.). According to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), 269 school buildings were damaged between 2000 and the end of 2005. The PA Education Ministry calculated physical damage to schools and universities at more than $10.7 million (46 million NIS). In some instances Israeli authorities entered campuses to arrest students.
The PA did not restrict cultural events; however, the separation barrier limited access to some such events.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Freedom of Assembly
PA law permits public meetings, processions, and assemblies, within legal limits; however, the PA imposed some formal limits on freedom of assembly. While it required permits for rallies, demonstrations, and large cultural events, it rarely denied these permits. In Gaza police approval was required for political meetings at specific halls and for buses to transport passengers to attend such meetings. The PA prohibited calls for violence, displays of arms, and racist slogans, although it rarely enforced these provisions.
Israeli military orders banned public gatherings of 10 or more persons without a permit. Although previously Palestinians could ignore this order without punishment, during the January PLC election campaign, Israeli authorities arrested candidates and broke up meetings.
Israeli security forces used force against Palestinians involved in demonstrations (see section 1.c.). Israeli and Palestinian authorities disputed whether Palestinians attacked security forces during such demonstrations. In 2001 the IDF authorized gunfire to suppress rock-throwing.
Since February 2005 Palestinians and Israelis nonviolently demonstrated each week in the village of Bil'in, west of Ramallah, against construction of the separation barrier. During the past two years, confrontations between the IDF and protesters resulted in numerous injuries. Since 2005 soldiers beat, injured with rubber bullets, or tear gassed at least 187 protesters.
Freedom of Association
PA law allows for the freedom of association. In practice the PA limited freedom of association; however, charitable, community, professional, and self-help organizations operated.
In 2001-03 Israeli officials closed prominent Palestinian centers and offices in East Jerusalem, claiming they operated under PA supervision in violation of signed agreements. At year's end all remained closed.
c. Freedom of Religion
Palestinian law provides for religious freedom, and the PA generally respected this right in practice.
Islam is the official religion of the PA. Religion must be declared on identification papers, and personal status legal matters must be handled in ecclesiastical courts. The PA's Ministry of Waqf and Religious Affairs constructed and maintained mosques and paid salaries of imams. Christian clergymen and charitable organizations received limited financial support. The PA did not provide financial support to any Jewish institutions or holy sites in the occupied territories; these areas were generally under Israeli control.
The PA judiciary failed to adjudicate numerous past cases of seizures of Christian-owned land in the Bethlehem area by criminal gangs. There were credible reports that PA security forces and judicial officials colluded with gang members to extort property from Christians. During the year several attacks against Christians in Bethlehem remained unaddressed by the PA, but authorities investigated attacks against Muslims in the same area.
On September 14, following Pope Benedict's remarks on Islam, Palestinians attacked five churches in the West Bank and Gaza with firebombs and gunfire. Damage was minor; however, after investigation no one was charged with the attacks.
The PA required that religion be taught in PA schools and provided separate instruction for Muslims and Christians.
Israeli authorities generally respected religious freedom and permitted all faiths to operate schools and institutions. There were reports that the Israeli government seized land belonging to several religious institutions to build its separation barrier. According to the Israeli government, where private land was used, it provided opportunities for compensation; however, Palestinians generally refused compensation, arguing that acceptance would recognize Israeli right to take the land.
Religious workers from Christian organizations in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza found it increasingly difficult to obtain or renew visas from the Israeli government. The shortage of foreign clergy impeded the functioning of Christian congregations and other religious and educational institutions.
Internal and external closures prevented tens of thousands of Palestinians from reaching places of worship in Jerusalem and the West Bank, particularly during religious holidays. Citing security reasons the Israeli government frequently prevented nearly all West Bank Palestinians and most male Muslim worshippers with Jerusalem blue identification cards under the age of 45 from attending Friday prayers inside the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, the third holiest site in Islam. Israeli authorities restricted most West Bank residents and virtually all Gaza residents from entering Jerusalem during Ramadan.
Israeli police continued to escort tourists to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount to assert the right of non-Muslims to visit the shrine. Non-Muslims were not permitted to worship publicly at the shrine; however, Waqf officials accused Israeli police of permitting Jewish groups to worship publicly.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
Palestinian media frequently published and broadcast material about the Israeli occupation that included anti-Semitic content. Rhetoric by Palestinian terrorist groups included expressions of anti-Semitism. Some Muslim religious leaders preached sermons on the official PA television station that included expressions of anti-Semitism. Some Palestinian religious leaders rejected the right of Israel to exist. Observers interpreted such attitudes as de facto anti-Semitism. Conversely, in October 2005 Israeli media quoted PLO Chief Negotiator Sa'eb Erekat's statement that the Iranian president's declaration that Israel should be wiped off the map was "unacceptable."
The PA Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOEHE) continued to revise its primary and secondary school textbooks. International academics concluded Palestinian textbooks did not cross the line into incitement; however, critics noted the new textbooks did not recognize Israel on its maps and often ignored historical Jewish connections to Israel and Jerusalem.
For more detailed discussion, see the 2006 International Religious Freedom Report.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Occupied Territories, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The PA generally did not restrict freedom of movement. The Israeli occupation authorities restricted the daily movement of Palestinians and frequently heightened these restrictions citing military necessity.
The Israeli government continued construction of a security barrier along parts of the Green Line (the 1949 Armistice line) and in the West Bank. Palestinians filed a number of cases with the Israeli Supreme Court challenging the routing of the barrier. In June 2004 the court ruled that a section of the barrier must be rerouted; determining that the injury caused by the routing of the barrier did not stand in proper proportion to the security benefits; various portions of the barrier route were rerouted. In July 2004 the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion, concluding that the construction of the barrier was in a number of aspects contrary to international law.
In September 2005 the Israeli Supreme court reaffirmed its earlier decision that the separation barrier is permissible under both international law and Israeli law; however, it questioned whether the segment of the barrier at issue (near Jerusalem in the West Bank) utilized the least intrusive route available, and it asked the government to consider whether there was an alternative route.
On March 22, the Tel-Aviv Magistrate Court voided a section of the barrier that would have cut off the residents of Sheikh Sa'ed from East Jerusalem. On June 15, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the Israeli government to dismantle the eastern portion of the barrier surrounding the Zufin settlement. The court ruled that an earlier petition on the issue was rejected after "the complete picture was not presented to the court" and "the court rejected the petition on the basis of information, only part of which was well-founded." On July 17, the High Court rejected a petition by Palestinian residents of villages around the Ariel settlement opposing the section of the separation barrier that surrounds the settlement. On November 26, the High Court approved the plan to construct a barrier around five Palestinian villages northwest of Jerusalem, enclosing them in a "Bir Nabalah" enclave that will separate them from East Jerusalem and neighboring Palestinian villages. On December 13, the High Court rejected a petition filed by ACRI and the human rights NGO Bimkom against the section of the barrier that severs the Palestinian community al-Ram from East Jerusalem.
At year's end over 40 petitions remained active.
By year's end the route of the barrier divided approximately 142,130 acres with a population of 60,500 Palestinians from the rest of the West Bank. According to OCHA the barrier impeded Palestinians from reaching their land to harvest crops and graze animals. Residents' access to schools, medical care, and other services was also impeded. Israeli military orders require the approximately 5,000 Palestinians residing in "seam zones" between the separation barrier and the Green Line to obtain residency permits to remain in these areas. Permits are valid for up to a year for residents and only for one gate.
Areas near the barrier or its projected route have been designated as military zones; Palestinians had no expectation they could obtain permits to build near Israeli communities or the barrier.
During periods of unrest (in the aftermath of terrorist attacks or during military exercises), Israeli authorities prohibited travel between some or all towns within the West Bank. Such "internal closures" were supplemented, during periods of potential unrest and during major Israeli and Muslim holidays, by "comprehensive, external closures," which precluded Palestinians from leaving the West Bank. During the year there were more comprehensive closures than in 2005. A B'Tselm report through July identified 78 days of closure versus 44 in the same period of 2005. During the year there were blanket closures during Israeli religious holidays, and several Gaza crossing points were simultaneously closed for extended periods, completely closing off Gaza. During the year Israeli authorities prohibited passage between Gaza and the West Bank except for a very limited number of Palestinians holding permits issued by Israel. Palestinian travel from Jericho and in the Jordan valley was extensively limited in early April and remained restricted by ad hoc checkpoints throughout the year. In February B'Tselem claimed that Israel in effect had annexed the Jordan Valley thru residency restrictions and road closures.
In December 2005 Israeli authorities, in response to Qassam rocket fire, implemented a "buffer zone" in the northern Gaza Strip encompassing former Israeli settlements. Palestinian militants had used the area to fire rockets at Israeli communities.
West Bank Palestinians can enter Jerusalem only with an Israeli-issued travel permit. Israel also imposed curfews in some areas, which confined Palestinians to their homes in areas where the IDF conducted military operations. During the year the frequency of curfews remained the same but their duration lessened. The IDF imposed temporary curfews during almost all of its arrest operations--which were conducted virtually daily in the West Bank. However, in contrast to previous years, there were fewer extended curfews.
Beginning in September Israeli authorities required thousands of Palestinian schoolchildren, who resided on the eastern side of the separation barrier around Jerusalem, to transit gated checkpoints to attend school in East Jerusalem.
In 2004 a terrorist attack extensively damaged the Rafah terminal and killed five Israeli soldiers. The IDF closed the terminal and the crossing until February 2005. Following the kidnapping of IDF soldier Shalit on June 25, the Rafah terminal was closed 127 of the next 149 days. In a report on the first year of operation of the Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA), OCHA reported Israel did not act consistently with its provisions, severely restricting movement of persons and goods in and out of Gaza. Since June the Rafah crossing was open only 14 percent of the time. The Karni/al-Mintar crossing opened erratically and at significantly reduced capacity for most of the year. Exports from Gaza averaged less than 20 truckloads per day. Exports in December averaged 44 truckloads a day, in comparison with the AMA goal of 400 per day.
The PA issued passports for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Because there are no commercial flights from the territories, travelers must depart by land into Jordan or Egypt. Transit passes for travelers using Ben Gurion airport were not available, except for a few humanitarian cases. NGOs claimed that Israeli authorities harassed their representatives who were attempting to enter via Ben Gurion airport. In repeated incidents throughout the year, Western citizens of Palestinian ethnicity had difficulty obtaining or renewing visas permitting them to enter the West Bank and Israel both from Ben Gurion airport and land entry points.
Palestinians with Jerusalem identification cards issued by the Israeli government needed special documents to travel abroad. Israeli Arabs required a special permit to enter area A (the area, according to the Interim Agreement, in which the PA exercises security responsibility). However, they could travel abroad using their Israeli passports without restrictions. Upon request the Jordanian government issued passports to Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Palestinians in East Jerusalem who wish to travel to Jordan must leave their Israeli identification documents with Israeli authorities at the Allenby Bridge. Travelers could obtain applications for bridge-crossing permits to Jordan at East Jerusalem post offices. Israeli officials conducted screening at Allenby Bridge.
External and internal closures contributed to increased unemployment and poverty. According to World Bank figures, approximately 61,000 West Bank and Gaza workers, representing approximately 9 percent of the Palestinian work force, depended on daily employment in Israel, the settlements, and Jerusalem in the first quarter of the year. Closures also impeded Palestinians from reaching jobs or markets in the occupied territories and disrupted internal and external trade. In December UNICEF reported that there was a 31 percent unemployment rate in the Palestinian territories. In December UNRWA reported that 87 percent of Gaza and 56 percent of West Bank residents lived below the official poverty line and were unable to support themselves and their families without international assistance. In addition Israel's strict closure policies frequently restricted the ability of Palestinians to reach places of worship.
Since 2000 many of the 350 Gazans enrolled in Birzeit University returned home after West Bank permits expired. During the year there were approximately 35 Gazans studying at the university, many of whom had not seen their families in five years. According to Haaretz on September 8, the IDF stated it would continue to ban Palestinian students from Gaza from studying in the West Bank. Hundreds of Palestinian students petitioned the Israeli High Court to instruct the state to allow them to complete their studies. At year's end the IDF was preparing its response to the petition. Media reported that Israeli authorities also limited West Bank Palestinians from university study in East Jerusalem; dozens of students had difficulty obtaining permits to attend schools in Israel.
Apart from closures, delays at checkpoints and roadblocks affected all aspects of life, particularly emergency health care. According to OCHA approximately 1,661 kilometers (1,000 miles) of roads and sections of roads (including military roads) are used primarily for Israelis in the West Bank. Most Palestinians were not permitted to use these roads. According to OCHA in the West Bank at year's end, there were 527 obstacles to movement, including 71 fully manned checkpoints, 11 occasionally manned checkpoints, 207 earth mounds blocking roads, 62 cement roadblocks, 83 road gates, 14 earthen walls, 12 trenches, and 67 road protection fences. In addition there were 73 gates along the separation barrier. Of the gates along the separation barrier, 38 were accessible to Palestinians in possession of permits. Some gates were not opened even during the harvest season. The operating hours of the accessible gates to Palestinians were short and sometimes irregular; although schedules were announced in advance, openings and closings were erratic and different for every region.
According to OCHA the 527 obstacles to movement in the West Bank compared with 463 at the end of 2005. Ambulances continued to have difficulty attempting to reach remote West Bank villages.
For example, villagers from Jayyus in the West Bank had difficulty exiting the village to tend fields or graze sheep. In April 2005 the IDF confiscated eight dunums (approximately three acres) of their farmland along the Palestinian side of the separation barrier to create a security road. There were two operational gates in the barrier between their village and their fields. One gate was open for 35 minutes, three times per day. The other gate was open 12 hours per day, but the IDF announced that this gate would close once another gate is opened. Palestinians said the confiscation and closures would bar them from land they own and rely on for income. Approximately 500 Palestinian farmers have land on the west side of the barrier. Only those farmers with valid permits from the civil administration could access Jayyus lands west of the barrier; during the year Israeli authorities rejected between 115 and 120 applications for access permits.
Israeli settlers abused Palestinians. According to B'Tselem on March 26, settlers attacked Palestinian shepherds sleeping in tents in the southern Hebron hills. Also in March settlers beat Jamal al Nawaja'a and his wife in Susiya. In October settlers attacked olive pickers in front of IDF soldiers in the Bethlehem District. Israeli authorities have not implemented effective measures to prevent such abuses. A June study by Yesh Din noted that more than 90 percent of complaints submitted against settlers were closed without an indictment being filed. There was no resolution of the cases in March 2005 in which Israeli settlers beat and shot at Palestinian shepherds.
Palestinians residing in the Israeli-controlled section of Hebron (H2), which includes the Old Arab Market and areas adjacent to four Israeli settlements, faced extensive restrictions on movement. According to OCHA there were 87 significant obstacles to movement in H2. Access for Palestinians to the Old City was limited to six IDF-controlled gates. IDF closures of businesses, prolonged curfews, and settler harassment forced Palestinian shopkeepers to relocate. Of the 1,610 shops officially licensed in H2 before September 2000, more than a thousand closed, one-third by military order. In November the IDF Civil Administration extended the closure of nearly 650 Palestinian shops in the center of the city for an additional six months. Hebron-based companies attempting to send products to Gaza through the Karni/al-Mintar crossing reportedly faced extended delays.
Attendance at three Palestinian schools near four Israeli settlements in Hebron has declined by almost 50 percent. Settlers harassed children when they attempted to walk to school. In April according to a human rights worker, there were at least eight attacks by settlers on Palestinians, including school children. On November 19, Israeli settlers attacked a group of human rights workers escorting school children, seriously injuring a 19-year-old Western woman. IDF soldiers intervened after the attack; however, by year's end none of the attackers was charged (see section 1.c.).
In the early 1970s and again in the early 1990s, Israel offered Palestinian residents citizenship following its 1967 occupation of East Jerusalem. Most chose not to accept Israeli citizenship but instead sought a residence permit, known as a Jerusalem identification card. Under the law such residents risk loss of status if their ties with Jerusalem lapse, although human rights groups reported that such revocations were infrequent and selectively enforced. In July 2004 an Israeli ministerial committee reportedly adopted an unpublished resolution calling for the application of the 1950 Absentee Property Law to East Jerusalem. In February 2005 the Israeli Attorney General ordered the government not to apply the Absentee Property Law to land and buildings in East Jerusalem owned by Palestinians living in the West Bank. The government apparently had not attempted to implement that law in East Jerusalem.
The Israeli government, under the Interior Ministry, and the Jerusalem municipality continued to demolish Palestinian houses and other structures in East Jerusalem constructed without building permits. It was a slow and expensive process for Palestinians to receive permits to build in East Jerusalem; 120 permits were issued during the year compared with 100 in 2005.
Residency restrictions affected family reunification. Israeli authorities did not permit Palestinians who were abroad during the 1967 War, or who subsequently lost residence permits, to reside permanently with their families in the occupied territories. It was difficult for foreign-born spouses and children of Palestinian residents to obtain residency. Palestinian spouses of Jerusalem residents must obtain a residency permit and reported delays of several years before being granted residency. According to B'Tselem there were 120,000 outstanding family reunification requests to permit Palestinians to live with foreign spouses in the occupied territories; some have been outstanding for years. The Israeli government occasionally issued limited-duration permits, but renewing the permits could take up to eight months, which resulted in many Palestinians falling out of status. Palestinians in East Jerusalem also reported extensive delays in registering newborn children with Israeli authorities.
Neither the Israeli government nor the PA used forced exile or forcibly deported anyone from the occupied territories during the year.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Elections and Political Participation
On January 25, the 132-member PLC was elected in a process that international observers concluded generally met democratic standards, despite some irregularities. On February 19, Hamas formed a new government with Ismael Hanniyah as the prime minister.
In November 2005 violence and reported fraud disrupted voting in primary elections to determine Fatah candidates for the January 25 PLC elections; primary elections were suspended in Gaza and the West Bank. They were completed in the West Bank in December 2005, amidst allegations of fraud and irregularities, but never completed in Gaza. Efforts to organize the electoral system, candidate and party lists, and campaign rules continued until the January election. Israeli authorities restricted campaigning for the PLC elections in Jerusalem. Hamas candidates participated in the January PLC elections, but only under the name "Reform and Change Movement" not "Hamas."
In January 2005 Palestinians elected Mahmud Abbas as PA president. Seven candidates competed in a vigorous election campaign. In both the 2005 presidential election and the PLC election, the Israeli government and the PA followed the 1996 parameters for Palestinians residing in East Jerusalem to vote, but inadequate arrangements kept turnout in Jerusalem low.
Three Hamas PLC members and one Hamas minister have been jailed since January 28; all hold Jerusalem residency. They have petitioned the High Court regarding their imprisonment on charges of membership in an illegal organization (Hamas); at year's end a threatened Israeli revocation of their Jerusalem residency was pending a court decision.
While Palestinians with residency permits were eligible to vote in Jerusalem municipal elections, most did not recognize Israeli jurisdiction in Jerusalem and did not participate. There were no Palestinians on the Jerusalem City Council.
During the year there were 17 women in the 132-member PLC, and a woman served in a ministerial-level position. There were seven Palestinian Christians in the PLC.
Government Corruption and Transparency
There was a widespread public perception of PA corruption, notably within the security forces. Many social and political elements called for reform. The PA security forces made little progress in rationalizing the security forces' payroll and rooting out corruption in the services. In September 2005 President Abbas appointed a new attorney general to focus on corruption. Local NGOs praised the appointment and hoped he would effectively address PA corruption. The Attorney General had announced investigations into several corruption cases; however, there was little progress on the cases. At year's end there were no proceedings at any of the PA courts on corruption charges. PA members and the general Palestinian public widely criticized the growing lawlessness inside the West Bank and Gaza and the failure by PA security forces to provide security.
On April 13, Fatah-associated militants briefly seized government offices in Ramallah; media reported the action was prompted by corrupt practices associated with distribution of taxi permits. On June 13, gunmen attacked the PLC building in Gaza, damaging and setting ablaze the third floor of the building.
The law requires official PA institutions to "facilitate" acquisition of requested documents or information to any Palestinian; however, the law does not require any PA agency to provide such information. Many Palestinians cited the law when seeking to acquire information; however, there were no PA court cases. NGOs sought to make it mandatory to provide information to Palestinians; however, there was no action during the year.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Local Palestinian human rights groups and several international organizations monitored the PA's human rights practices. By the end of 2005, approximately 305 NGOs were registered; another 45 remained in processing. In May the PA Ministry of Interior froze new NGO registration, reflecting general government paralysis.
PA officials usually met NGO representatives. Since the beginning of the Intifada, several NGOs voluntarily decided to defer criticism of the PA's human rights performance. Observers noted documentation of abuses was very limited. NGOs, however, criticized the PA's inadequate security performance.
At year's end the killers and their motives remained unknown in the 2004 Gaza City shooting death of Khalil al-Zaban, a journalist and advisor on human rights and the media to then PA president Arafat. Al-Zaban headed the PA's government-appointed NGO Council and published its monthly newsletter.
Some PA security organizations, including the General Intelligence Service in the West Bank and the police, appointed officials as liaisons with human rights groups. These officers met human rights organizations and diplomats to discuss human rights cases.
Israeli, Palestinian, and international humanitarian and human rights NGOs monitored the Israeli government's practices in the occupied territories. The Israeli government permitted human rights groups to publish and hold press conferences and provided the ICRC and other groups with access to detainees (see section 1.c.). Some organizations criticized Israeli government practices and cooperation. During the year Israel established direct contact with NGOs and human rights groups. Human rights groups, however, continued to report that Israeli closures impeded and, at times, completely prevented their work.
At year's end the assailants in the 2004 attack on members of the Christian Peacemakers Teams, Amnesty International, and an Italian NGO ("Operation Dove") remained unidentified and had not been apprehended. The group escorted Palestinian children from the village of Tuwani to a nearby school. While walking past the settlement of Ma'on, masked settlers attacked the escorts, seriously injuring a volunteer.
On April 10, a London coroner's court concluded that Thomas Hurndall was unlawfully killed. In 2004 Hurndall, a British International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activist, died from injuries sustained in 2003 when an IDF soldier shot him as he attempted to move Palestinian children to safety during clashes in Rafah. In August 2005 an IDF court sentenced Sergeant Wahid Taysir, earlier convicted of manslaughter and obstruction of justice in Hurndall's killing, to eight years in prison. On February 7, the military prosecution appealed Taysir's sentence, requesting a 20-year sentence instead; at year's end there was no decision on the appeal.
In 2003 gunfire from an undetermined source struck ISM activist Brian Avery, while he was walking during curfew in Jenin. The IDF denied responsibility for the incident. Following a 2004 legal petition to investigate Avery's shooting, in February 2005 the High Court ordered the IDF to investigate the incident further; however, the Judge Advocate General, after interviewing civilian eyewitnesses, decided not to launch a criminal investigation. On September 20, the High Court instructed the government to explain why it opposed an investigation of the shooting. On November 23, the government stated the chief military prosecutor saw no reason to change the previous decision; however, "to remove any doubt," he ordered a military police criminal investigation. The government agreed to pay Avery's court costs of $3,495 (15,000 NIS).
UNRWA and other groups reported increased difficulties transporting goods to Palestinian refugees in Gaza due to frequent closures of Karni, the main commercial crossing between Israel and Gaza, as well as the inability of local staff to acquire border crossing permits. UNRWA also reported experiencing frequent delays at checkpoints and roadblocks throughout the West Bank. UNRWA estimated that during the year, it incurred over $2 million (8.582 million NIS) in excess charges because of an inability to transport humanitarian supplies through during border closures as well as substantial staff delays at checkpoints and roadblocks throughout the West Bank and exiting Gaza at the Erez Crossing. For example, in December UNRWA international staff was delayed for approximately 97 hours at estimated cost of more than $70,000 (300,000 NIS).
UNRWA staff in the West Bank and Gaza, and refugees receiving assistance were harassed by Palestinians. On October 19, seven Palestinian gunmen broke into the UNRWA Relief Office in Rafah and fired shots in the air and inside the building, demanding assistance to reconstruct their family's home, which was destroyed by an Israeli Air Force attack five days earlier.
On September 4, reportedly for the first time in six years, a delegation from the Israeli human rights organization, Physicians for Human Rights was permitted to travel to Gaza to meet with Palestinian counterparts.
The Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights serves as the PA's ombudsman and human rights commission. It enjoys the cooperation of the PA and issues an annual report detailing violations of citizens' rights in the occupied territories by both Palestinian and Israeli authorities. The report documents complaints the organization has received and the recommendations it makes to the appropriate Palestinian authorities.
Section 5 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law states that all Palestinians are equal without discrimination because of race, gender, color, religion, political views, or disability. However, the law does not cover a number of areas, and there was societal discrimination against women, persons with disabilities, and homosexuals; child abuse also persisted.
There were no reliable data on the incidence of violence against women. PA law does not explicitly prohibit domestic violence, but assault and battery are crimes; however, according to HRW few cases were successfully prosecuted. Rape is illegal, but its legal definition does not address spousal rape.
There were reports that Palestinian domestic violence had increased since 2000. Human rights groups reported continued family "honor" killings during the year.
During the year family members killed three women in so-called honor crimes, according to human rights groups. On August 10, PA police discovered the bodies of two Palestinian women in their twenties in the Gaza Strip. The police stated the women had been shot and killed. The police noted that they were investigating the incident and that the women were victims of honor killings. At year's end there were no arrests.
On August 21, the body of an unidentified woman was found in an abandoned water well near Qalqilia. PA police investigated, and initial findings indicated it was an honor killing. On August 21, the police arrested and briefly questioned the woman's brother; however, at year's end there was no further legal action.
On November 3, according to media and HRW reporting, civilian women were human shields for Hamas militants as they exited a mosque in Gaza where they had been cornered by IDF forces.
Prostitution is illegal. There was no openly practiced prostitution.
There were no special laws regarding women's rights in the workplace. Before 2000 women increasingly worked outside the home, often encountering discrimination and, occasionally, sexual harassment. Women were underrepresented in professional life, although a small group was prominent in politics, medicine, law, teaching, and NGOs.
There were a handful of NGO-funded women's shelters in the West Bank; there were no shelters in Gaza. Women generally approached village or religious leaders for assistance.
Palestinian women endured social prejudice and repression. Education and 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. Media reported sporadic instances of women being attacked in Gaza for not wearing Islamic dress.
For Muslims personal status law is derived from Shari'a (Islamic law). Ecclesiastical courts rule on personal status issues for Christians. Shari'a pertaining to women is part of the 1976 Jordanian Status Law, which includes inheritance and marriage laws. Women can inherit under Shari'a but not an equal share. Legally, men may take more than one wife; the practice was rare. Women may make "stipulations" in marriage contracts to protect their interests in divorce and child custody; however, only an estimated 1 percent did so. Children often stayed with the mother after divorce. Until a child reached legal maturity, men paid child support and alimony, depending on the man's income.
Although MOEHE's stated commitment is to provide children access to educational facilities and ensure their welfare, it must rely on the international community for assistance to build capacity for child protection and development.
The September World Bank Education Sector Report stated that in 2005, 88.4 percent of girls age 16 to 17 and 81 percent of boys of the same age were enrolled in school for an average increase of 13.2 percent from 2000. According to the same report, student enrollment for five- and six-year-olds decreased by 7.7 percent from 2000-06. Girls who married before the ninth grade left school at the behest of husbands, and in rural areas and refugee camps, boys left school to help support their families.
In September 90 percent of West Bank PA public school teachers went on strike, and most Palestinian students were unable to attend classes. In some districts teachers who taught the final year of high school held classes despite the strikes. West Bank teachers returned to work in November, following agreement with the government concerning immediate payment of salaries. In Gaza most PA teachers also struck in September but returned to work within a month.
Internal closures, checkpoints, and the separation barrier significantly impeded students and teachers in reaching educational facilities (see sections 2.a. and 2.d.).
Also according to the September World Bank Education Sector Report, in 2005 the average student-teacher ratio in government schools was 26 to one. According to that report, class sizes in the West Bank were much smaller than in Gaza where 56 percent of elementary school classes had more than 40 students, in contrast to 18 percent of classes in the West Bank. In 2005 UNRWA schools' average student-teacher ratio was 33 to one.
Education and health care professionals judged that the violence produced lack of focus, nightmares, and behavioral problems. OCHA reported during 2005 that 42 percent of students in Gaza recorded lower school achievement since 2000. One-third of Palestinian children have had their education disrupted.
According to a 2003 report by the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights, Palestinians constituted 33 percent of the city's total population, but the municipal budget accorded only 10.9 percent to East Jerusalem.
In 2001 the Israeli High Court ordered the municipality to build 245 new classrooms within the next four years. According to a September report by the Jerusalem-based NGO Ir Amim, 48 new classrooms were built in East Jerusalem between 2001-06.
The PA Health Ministry immunized children, and PA insurance provided basic children's medical care for a small monthly fee. The latest available figures showed a slight improvement in nutrition from 2003 when 3.4 percent of Palestinian children suffered from acute malnutrition and 10.7 percent suffered from chronic malnutrition.
Unlike in previous years, child abuse was reported to be a widespread problem. A November study by HRW cited the preliminary findings of a PA statistics bureau survey of domestic violence indicating high levels of violence perpetrated by family members, aggravated during times of political violence. The Basic Law prohibits violence against children and sanctions parents who failed to protect children from abuse; however, PA authorities rarely punished familial violence. PA courts may protect children in cases of neglect or abuse.
The law provides that no one under 14 can work. Those between 15 and 18 can be employed under limited conditions (see section 6.d.). There is no juvenile court system, but certain judges specialized in juvenile cases.
International and domestic NGOs promoted educational, medical, and cultural services for children, and other groups specialized in the needs of children with disabilities.
The IDF allegedly used minors as human shields; Palestinian terrorist groups used minors to conduct attacks, smuggle weapons, or act as human shields. On July 17, according to B'Tselem, during an incursion by Israeli forces into Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip, IDF soldiers seized control of two buildings and used six residents, two of whom were minors (ages 14 and 16) as human shields (see section 1.g.). On February 2, the IDF arrested a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old Palestinian boy at the Huwwara checkpoint, near Nablus, as they attempted to smuggle 11 pipe bombs into Israel.
Trafficking in Persons
Palestinian law does not specifically prohibit trafficking in persons; however, there were no reports that persons were trafficked to, from, or within the occupied territories.
Persons with Disabilities
The Basic Law states all Palestinians are equal under the law and before the judiciary, without discrimination because of race, sex, color, religion, political views, or disability. Access to public facilities was not mandated in the occupied territories. There was societal discrimination against Palestinians with disabilities in most spheres, including education, employment, transportation, and access to public facilities. In 2005 the Health, Development, Information, and Policy Institute estimated that 10 percent of the approximately 29,000 Palestinians injured in the past five years would have permanent disabilities.
Poor quality care for Palestinians with disabilities was a problem. Some underfunded institutions cared for persons with disabilities. The PA depended on NGOs to care for persons with physical disabilities and offered substandard care for those with mental disabilities.
Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination
There was no legal discrimination against homosexuals, and there were no specific reports of abuse because of sexual orientation. However, cultural traditions and religion reject homosexuality, and Palestinians alleged that public and PA security officers harassed, abused, and sometimes arrested homosexuals because of their sexual orientation.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The law permits workers to form and join unions of their choice without previous authorization. Birzeit University conducted a project to disseminate the 2001 labor law and to draft bylaws. By the end of 2005, the PA approved all the bylaws, which were published in the Palestinian Gazette.
Workers may establish unions without government authorization. The two most active union organizers were the General Union for Palestinian Workers and the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU). The PGFTU was a member of the International Trade Union Confederation. Both were registered with the Labor Ministry.
Workers in Jerusalem may establish unions but may not join West Bank federations; however, this restriction was not enforced. Workers holding Jerusalem identity cards may belong simultaneously to West Bank unions and the General Federation of Labor (Histadrut).
Palestinians working in Israel or Jerusalem prior to 2000 were partial members of Histadrut; 1 percent of their wages was withheld. Partial membership entitled them to limited benefits. Histadrut and West Bank union officials negotiated an agreement in 1995 to transfer half of this fee to the PGFTU, which claimed it was owed $6.96 million (29.9 million NIS). One Palestinian official, however, claimed Histadrut owed Palestinians $2.35 million (10.1 million NIS) over the same period. At year's end no money had been transferred.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The labor law provides for the right to strike. Prospective strikers must provide written warning to the other party and the Ministry of Labor two weeks in advance of the basis for the strike. (Strikes affecting public utilities require four weeks notice.) In practice strikers had little protection from retribution. Unions seeking to strike must accept Labor Ministry arbitration and are subject 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 special court. Accordingly, in practice the right to strike remained questionable.
On September 2, PA employees launched a general strike to protest the PA's failure to pay salaries. On November 11, teachers returned to work after the PA agreed on partial salary payments. Health sector workers secured a similar agreement in early December. Although receiving partial salary payments, most West Bank PA employees remained on strike at year's end. The general strike was not strictly observed in Gaza.
There were no functioning Export Processing Zones in the occupied territories.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law states that work is a right, duty, and honor and that the PA will strive to provide it to any individual capable of performing it. According to a Labor Ministry official, the PA also interpreted this law to mean that forced and compulsory labor is prohibited.
d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age of Employment
The minimum employment age is 15, and there are special conditions for employment between 15 and 18. The law states that children shall not be exploited or allowed to perform work which might damage their safety, health, or education. The law also prohibits minors from working at night, hard labor, and travel beyond their domicile. However, many underage children worked in family farms and shops, as street vendors, or in small manufacturing enterprises. Representatives from the PA Ministries of Labor and Social Affairs 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. The Israeli government estimated that 16,800 Palestinians worked in Israeli West Bank settlements and industrial areas; however, it was unclear how many were minors. Officials stated Palestinian child workers illegally entered green-line Israel where they could be exploited.
In 2005 the PA had 10 child labor inspectors for the West Bank and Gaza. Although generally Palestinian students continued their education, thousands who left school sought work and were potentially subject to exploitation.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There was no minimum wage. Prior to 2000 average wages for full-time workers provided a decent living standard; however, the living standard dropped significantly over the past six years.
The normal workweek was 45 to 48 hours, but maximum workweek laws were not effectively enforced. The PA observed religious holidays, but they were not formally incorporated in labor law. Although it is not obligatory for an employer to provide Christians with Sunday off, employers are required to allow Christians to attend church on Sunday if the employee desires. In some establishments employers offered Christians the option of taking Sunday off, rather than Friday.
The PA Labor Ministry was responsible for safety standards, but its enforcement ability was limited. The ministry stated new factories and workplaces met international health and safety standards, but older ones did not. Palestinians who worked in Israel must contribute to the National Insurance Institute and received limited benefits.
Source: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2006, Released by the State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, (March 6, 2007)