|The growing levels of tension and violence recorded during April across the West Bank highlighted ongoing concerns related to the protection of civilians, particularly children.
By the end of April, the monthly average of Palestinian civilians injured by Israeli military forces in the West Bank, since the beginning of 2013, had reached a level twice as high as the 2012 monthly average (523 vs. 252). While nearly half the injuries this year were caused by inhalation of tear-gas, the monthly average of civilians injured by rubber-coated metal bullets and live ammunition more than tripled compared to last
year (213 vs. 68). Additionally, since the start of the year, nine Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli forces, including two youths this month, compared to three in the equivalent period in 2012.
The majority of this year’s casualties have occurred in the context of clashes that erupt during demonstrations, mostly in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. Overall, the increase in civilian casualties has raised concerns about possible instances of excessive use of force by Israeli forces, compounded by the absence of effective investigations, particularly in cases of serious injury.
According to the Israel Security Agency, this month, there was also a rise in the number of Palestinian attacks on Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank. On 30 April, a Palestinian man stabbed and killed an Israeli settler at a checkpoint in the northern West Bank, launching a wave of settler-related violence that extended into early May.
Against the backdrop of growing tensions comes a reported rise in Israeli forces’ arrest of Palestinian children in the southern West Bank. According to the Israeli authorities, an increase in stone-throwing incidents against Israeli forces and settlers triggered a series of arrest operations targeting Palestinian children in April. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Club reports that 30 children, aged 12 to 17, were arrested in the Hebron governorate alone. Most of the children were taken from their homes in the middle of the night, handcuffed and blindfolded, and were interrogated without the presence of a lawyer or an accompanying adult; some of the cases also triggered complaints of ill-treatment during the course of interrogation.
Following a virtual freeze in March, April also witnessed a resumption of demolitions by the Israeli authorities in East Jerusalem and Area C, on the grounds of lack of building permits. A total of 46 structures were demolished during the month, displacing 64 Palestinian civilians, half of them children, and negatively affecting over 350 others. Overall in 2013, there has been a 30 per cent rise in the number of people displaced as a result of demolitions, raising an additional protection concern.
As the occupying power, Israel has the legal obligation to protect the civilian population under its jurisdiction, especially children. This includes taking all necessary measures to prevent incidents of excessive use of force, which involves reviewing regulations on the use of weapons and crowd-control means, and by ensuring that effective investigations are conducted into all incidents resulting in civilian casualties.