Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism – Civilians were targeted, attacked, abused, and killed over the past year at a scale unprecedented in the recent history of Israel and Palestine, Human Rights Watch said today in releasing its World Report 2024.
More than 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals in Israel and, as of January 4, more than 22,000 Palestinians in Gaza, the majority of them civilians, have been killed since October 7, 2023, according to local authorities, amid hostilities between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza that have included unlawful attacks and other grave abuses. Meanwhile, killings, administrative detention, and settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank reached years-long highs.
“The heinous crimes carried out by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups since October 7 are the abhorrent legacy of decades-long impunity for unlawful attacks and Israel’s systematic repression of Palestinians,” said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch. “How many more civilians must suffer or be killed as a result of war crimes before countries supplying weapons pull the plug and otherwise take action to end these atrocities?”
Shortly thereafter, Israeli authorities cut off essential services, including water and electricity, to Gaza’s population and blocked the entry of all but a trickle of fuel and critical humanitarian aid, acts of collective punishment that amount to war crimes and include the use of starvation as a method of warfare. Israeli air strikes have incessantly pounded Gaza, hitting schools and hospitals and reducing large parts of neighborhoods to rubble, including in attacks that were apparently unlawful. Israeli forces also unlawfully used white phosphorous in densely populated areas. They ordered the evacuation of everyone in northern Gaza and had displaced an estimated 85 percent of Gaza’s population—1.9 million people—as of January 2.
In the West Bank, Israeli forces in 2023 killed 492 Palestinians, including 120 children, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than twice as many as in any other year since 2005, when the UN began systematically recording fatalities. This includes unlawful killings stemming from Israel’s regular use of excessive lethal force and some cases of extrajudicial executions.
As of January 1, Israeli authorities also held 3,291 Palestinians in administrative detention, without charge or trial, based on secret information, according to Israeli Prison Services figures. This figure marks a three-decade high, according to the Israeli human rights group HaMoked.
During the first half of 2023, the Israeli government approved building 12,855 new housing units in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, the highest number the Israeli group Peace Now, which has been systematically tracking plans since 2012, has ever recorded. The transfer of civilians into occupied territory is a war crime.