Israeli occupation authorities demolished 300 buildings in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem since the beginning of the year, according to data from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The data is composed of each permanent closure or destruction of a residential or commercial property, or key piece of infrastructure such as water pipes, roads and network facilities.
The report issued by OCHA also warned that an imminent Israeli demolition of a Palestinian residential building, consisting of 12 housing units, based in the Wadi Qaddum neighbourhood of Silwan, will leave 74 Palestinians homeless, including 42 children.
Two of the households in the building are Palestine refugees, and another two would be displaced for the second time in two years, following previous demolitions.
The site on which the building is located has been designated by the Israeli authorities as an open green space, which will be used as a public garden.
The UN agency said it aims to prevent the demolition through engagement with relevant authorities, adding that it stands ready to support those displaced if the demolition goes ahead.
Demolitions of Palestinian-owned buildings in Silwan and other parts of occupied East Jerusalem are common, as Palestinians in the city face difficulties in obtaining building permits from the occupation’s municipality.
Israel widely uses the pretext of lack of construction permits to demolish Palestinian homes, especially in Area C in the occupied West Bank, which constitutes around 60 per cent of its space.
Under the 1995 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, was divided into three portions, Area A, B and C. Area C is under Israel’s full administrative and security control until a final status agreement is reached with the Palestinians.
Thirty-one-year-old Ghofran Warasnah was shot dead by the Israeli occupation forces located at the entrance of Al-Arroub Palestinian refugee camp near Hebron. Ghofran was a Palestinian journalist who was heading to work. According to reports paramedics were barred from reaching her for 20 minutes and the ambulance carrying her dead body was attacked by Israeli forces.
Of course, this kind of extra-judicial killing is the norm in the West Bank, this year alone 50 Palestinians have been killed, including 15 children. In most cases Israeli occupation soldiers claim that the victims were assailants armed with knives who had to be shot to protect the occupation forces. No evidence is ever provided for their claims.
Unlike others, Israel kills suspects then seeks to legitimise the murder.
How are Israelis able to play the role of the victim? They are able to manipulate facts and escape the consequences of their actions. Basic facts which are not “disputed” by anyone except by the illegal Israeli occupation forces, such as that Al-Aqsa Mosque has been a Muslim holy site for the last 1,400 years. This fact is recognised by all concerned international organisations and laws.
Unfortunately, most of those who acknowledge this do not act accordingly, save some empty statements that denounce Israel’s actions especially those related to human rights violations. They act with indifference towards Israeli violations and aggression, to the extent that they practically forgot their commitments and obligations towards the tenets of the UN and perceive and deal with Palestinians who are resisting a brutal colonial occupation in Jerusalem as vagabonds and trouble makers, not as freedom fighters and martyrs. This approach makes them complicit in the atrocities being committed.
This contradiction was evident when Israeli fanatics marched through the Old City of Jerusalem hoisting Israeli flags, abusing and cursing Islam’s Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and Palestinians, then broke into Al-Aqsa Mosque and practiced their prayers inside this Muslim holy site under the protection of Israeli occupation police, while the real owners of the mosque were beaten with batons and accused of disturbing the peace.
These crimes are legalised by the Israeli judiciary, who gave Jews the right to intrude into Al-Aqsa, protected by Israeli police who watch over them when they were reciting their prayers, justified by Western media which always claims that Muslim holy sites are disputed places, governed by the Israeli government.
So, does the world really believe that Israel is an occupation state? Theoretically speaking yes. In practice, however, this same world has not done anything tangible over the last 55 years to deter Israel or punish it. On the contrary, economic relations continued and helped strengthen the occupation’s clout. All the European countries, America and most of Latin American, Asian, African and even some Arab countries have diplomatic relations with Israel. During the Trump era, the United States – the most powerful country on Earth – even relocated its embassy to occupied Jerusalem in contravention of international law. Turning the UN resolution on the matter into rhetoric.
Inaction and neutrality in the face of aggression is a sign of ethical bankruptcy. The world has long crossed this line to a more inferior one; the stage of covering, justifying and aiding the Israeli aggression on the Palestinian people. This same world who has been giving the occupation a green light for the past 55 years, condemning the Palestinian victims as they try to defend themselves.
What we see on the ground proves beyond no doubt that the world only believes in the language of nuclear war heads, aircraft carries, nuclear submarines, jet fighters and supersonic missiles and not in justice for the oppressed and those whose rights have been ripped from them.
After the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, three journalists share how Israeli forces deliberately targeted, shot, and wounded them in the line of work.
By Vera Sajrawi / June 1, 2022
The first time I experienced the violence of Israeli forces as a journalist was shortly after I returned from the United States in 2014, where I had spent a few years studying and working in the media. A documentary filmmaker asked me to help him cover the annual Nakba Day protest in Bethlehem. By then, I had already worked in the occupied West Bank, but never in Bethlehem, where Israeli forces are known for using excessive force from a close range.
There are snippets from that day that I not only still remember, but feel like I relive even on a physical level, no matter how much therapy or healing I do. I remember the moment the Israeli soldiers charged at the journalists. We were all bundled together in one corner to the side of the soldiers and protesters, dressed in full protective gear.
Our helmets and vests were clearly labeled “press.” From this, and the fact that we were holding cameras and microphones, there was no way to mistake that we were journalists. Nor were there any protesters near us.
Yet suddenly, the soldiers charged at us, shoving us and screaming at us to leave the scene. Before we even had a chance to move, they fired stun grenades and tear gas. The sounds were deafening, and the air burned.
As I struggled to put on my gas mask, one of the soldiers came right up to me and screamed in my face. He then sandwiched me between his rifle and a nearby wall while bellowing in my ear to move. Luckily, the American filmmaker I was with intervened and told the soldier we were leaving. I still had my eyes shut, and I remember thinking the way I used to when I was a child — that if I don’t lock eyes with the monsters (which, back then, were imaginary and hiding under my bed), they cannot kill me.
As soon as I put on the gas mask, I saw the soldiers shove another journalist. He did not scream or cry like me; he kept hugging his camera and raising it in the air to protect it. In the end, they detained him. It was the first time I saw the army detain a journalist in front of my eyes. I wanted to save him, to go and scream at the soldiers to leave us alone, but I was too terrified to say anything.
Israeli forces routinely attack, arrest, and sometimes even kill Palestinian journalists simply for doing their job. According to the Palestinian Journalists’ Union, as many as 55 Palestinian journalists have been killed by Israeli forces since the year 2000. Since the start of 2022, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) recorded 215 attacks on Palestinian journalists by Israeli forces. Meanwhile, according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, 15 Palestinian journalists are currently sitting in Israeli prisons, including one in administrative detention.
On top of the physical traumas we sometimes face, we also have to constantly endure the emotional trauma of witnessing and documenting the oppression of our people, and our colleagues, at the hands of occupying forces. The killing of Shireen Abu Akleh earlier this month has resurfaced that collective trauma for all of us.
Following Shireen’s killing, +972 Magazine spoke to three journalists from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to shine a light on their experiences of working in the field while under occupation and siege. Here are their stories.
‘I felt like a missile hit me’ Mo’ath Amarnih is a photojournalist who has been taking photos since he was 10 years old. In November 2019, while covering a protest against land confiscation in Khirbet Safa, a few miles north of Hebron, Amarnih was shot in the face with a rubber bullet and lost his eye from the damage.
“On that day, the brutalization was monstrous,” he tells +972. “As soon as people started gathering, the army began firing dozens of tear gas grenades. Then there was a period of calm, but my gut told me something worse was going to happen.”
Amarnih was filming from a position behind a dirt pile which hid his lower body, and was wearing a press vest and helmet. “I thought this would protect me from their bullets,” he says. But it wasn’t enough.
“When you are hit with a bullet, you do not hear its sound,” says Amarnih. “I felt like a missile hit me and my head was blown away. I did not comprehend what was happening to me. I was unconscious, and for a few seconds my whole life flashed in front of my eyes. I did not know if I was alive or dead.”
According to Amarnih, the army did not provide any medical care after he was shot. Instead, soldiers came and took photos of him, while help came from other journalists on the scene. Later, when his lawyer asked the police about the results of their investigation into the incident, they told him that the army concluded that the bullet was not theirs.
“Until today I still cannot believe that I survived,” he continues. “I still live with the bullet in my head. They shot me in the eye — the most important part of my body for my work.”
For several years after the incident, Amarnih was physically unable to return to taking photographs. “When I focused my seeing eye on the lens of the camera, I would fall into holes in the ground,” he says. He also encountered an emotional block: “Every time I would look into the lens, a flashback would take me back to the moment I was shot.”
Amarnih says he received the emotional support he needed after the incident from his family and his colleagues, who were also traumatized by what they had witnessed. But the trauma still resurfaces, as it did after the recent killing of Shireen Abu Akleh. “I saw myself in her killing,” says Amarnih. “I did not comprehend that it was her funeral — I felt like it was me being carried in her casket. I thought they were burying me.”
On reflection, Amarnih sees this incident as part of a pattern. “When there are no clashes, the army attacks journalists,” he says. “They go crazy as if they have seen the devil. We sometimes prefer not to wear press vests, since we do not want them to recognize and target us. They suppress us because our photos prove to the world that they are a criminal army. We want the whole world to know how much we suffer to show them the whole picture. We need international protection. We want the world to hold Israel accountable for its attacks on us.”
‘I heard them laugh, saying “I got him”’ Mohammad al-Azza was born in Aida Refugee Camp next to Bethlehem, where he lives today. In 2013, he was working as the communications director at a youth center in the camp, documenting life in the camp through photos and videos, when he heard gunfire outside. He immediately picked up his camera.
“I saw a bunch of soldiers who came down from their base standing 150 meters away from the entrance to Aida,” he tells +972. “I went out to the balcony on the second floor and started taking photos. I was alone.”
As the soldiers continued approaching the entrance of the camp, they fired tear gas, sound bombs, and rubber bullets at a group of Palestinian youth who were trying to resist their entry. Then, al-Azza saw the commander of the army unit point at him while talking on the phone.
“Usually when the military raid the camp they would yell at me to leave the scene, curse at me, or fire stun grenades and tear gas toward me,” he says. “That day, they did not mess with me. It was weird but I kept taking photos, especially of the commander who spent time focusing his rifle then firing toward the kids.”
At a certain point, the soldiers yelled at al-Azza to go home, so he started leaving the balcony. But suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a fire spark and realized immediately that it was coming from the rifle of one of the soldiers. The rubber-coated bullet hit Mohammad in the face, on his right cheek.
“I screamed so loud,” he says. “I heard the soldiers and the commander laugh, saying ‘I got him.’ My face was covered in blood, and the friend who came to help me freaked out when he saw.”
Because the army had blockaded the camp, the ambulance was unable to reach al-Azza. “I walked with my friend, bleeding heavily. The soldiers told us to stop but we kept walking toward my house, and they started firing tear gas canisters at us.” Al-Azza’s neighbor took him in his car to the hospital, using a back road to avoid the soldiers.
“All the bones on the right side of my face were fractured, and my eye fell because the bones surrounding it were not holding it anymore,” al-Azza continues. “I was in surgery for nine hours. They took bones from my hip and planted them in my face, and they also used platinum in place of the facial bones that were shattered.”
The army accused al-Azza of throwing stones at the soldiers, and the Israeli media parroted the army’s claims. But al-Azza had taken photographs of the commander, so he decided to sue him. “The army started asking every single person they arrested from the camp about me in an attempt to accuse me of something, to counter my lawsuit,” he says.
After spending two weeks sleeping at two different hospitals, and 10 hours in operations, al-Azza was allowed to go home and continue visiting the doctors for further medical care. The first night after he was released from the hospital, though, the army raided his house. They broke the door down and destroyed everything in the house, before threatening his mom: “If he doesn’t come to us, we will bring him back to you dead.”
Al-Azza was not at home that night, nor did he return home for the next several weeks in order to avoid the army and to continue his medical treatment. “They kept breaking into our house and beating up my family,” he says. “One time, they detained my father and brother and made them call me to turn myself in, but I refused.” ‘When the camera is present, they panic’ After two exhausting months of living away from home, al-Azza decided to go back. The army immediately raided his house. “They started beating me up,” he recalls. “I begged them not to hit me in the face, but they deliberately struck me on my injury. Blood started running down my neck and chest.
“They took me to Etzion interrogation center; I was wearing my shorts and they refused to let me change or put on shoes, or to receive medical care,” al-Azza continues. After four days in detention, the army started interrogating him and tried to force him to sign a confession, which he refused to do.
Eventually, the army took al-Azza to a hospital in Jerusalem so that he could be examined by an eye doctor. Before long, however, he realized the real reason they had brought him there: they wanted a doctor’s opinion that would counter al-Azza’s lawsuit, in which he stated how his sight had been affected by the injury. “I kept asking the doctor what exams he was doing and he did not answer me,” al-Azza explains. “Israeli forces were present with us in the room. I’m sure they had an agreement.”
After that, the soldiers returned him to Ofer detention center where he spent 10 more days before being released on bail. He continued to pursue his lawsuit against the army.
“Every month for three years I went to Ofer for yet another court session in my case,” he continues. “The Israeli authorities banned me from traveling to the United States for facial reconstruction surgery and kept trying to force me to drop the case — including by making up a bunch of allegations against me. My case is still at the High Court. I do not know where it stands today.”
Like Amarnih, al-Azza sees a pattern in the way Israeli forces target Palestinian journalists at protests. “The soldiers always target the journalists first with [sound and tear gas] bombs and yell at us to leave so they can operate freely,” he says. “When the camera is present, they panic. They do not want the world to see [what they’re doing].”
When I ask him why he keeps going back out into the field despite the risk of injury or even death as a Palestinian journalist, he responds that it is his duty to continue. “The Israelis worry about their image, so they try to stop Palestinians from documenting their crimes,” he says. “They want to decide the narrative and to appear powerful and humane, when in reality it is the exact opposite.
“The army raided my refugee camp every day and confiscated my footage, and once broke my camera,” he continues. “But I never thought I would be targeted deliberately — perhaps only injured by mistake. I was very lucky to live because by shooting me in the face they intended to kill me. But I am not scared; on the contrary, I feel like I have nothing to lose.” ‘My life could have ended in seconds’ Youmna al-Sayed works as Al Jazeera’s English-language correspondent in the besieged Gaza Strip. She is originally from Egypt and was born in South Africa, where she spent most of her life before marrying a Palestinian from Gaza and moving with him to the strip. They have four children between the ages of four and eleven.
Al-Sayed had already become accustomed to Israeli soldiers firing stun grenades — and often live fire — at journalists while covering demonstrations at the Israel-Gaza fence, particularly during the Great March of Return. But the events of May 2021, and in particular Israel’s aerial attacks on the strip during that month, were beyond anything she could imagine. During those days, she tells +972, “no place was safe.”
She remembers sitting in her car when Israeli forces bombed another vehicle just meters away. “My life could have ended in seconds,” says al-Sayed. “Our car hit the sidewalk from the impact of the missile, and I had bruises from hitting my head on the dashboard. I didn’t feel any pain because I was too shocked to understand what just happened. The driver spoke to me and started shaking me, but I couldn’t hear his voice. I just felt like I could see my kids in front of my eyes.”
Shortly thereafter, paramedics arrived at the scene and al-Sayed found herself in Al-Shifa hospital — a location she knew well from reporting, but where she was now a patient. “I carried on after that incident, but I won’t lie to you if I tell you that I can still feel the same feelings of shock from that day until today.”
To prepare for any possibility of violence, al-Sayed says that she and her colleagues make sure they wear protective gear every single time they report, although that doesn’t help much in the face of Israeli bombings. “We try everything that shows who we are and why we shouldn’t be targeted. But journalists can be targeted at any time, anywhere, with press vests and helmets — none of that will keep you safe. It doesn’t matter if you’re not Palestinian: if you’re a journalist covering Gaza, you’re a possible target.”
The solution, she believes, is to hold Israel accountable for its crimes against journalists “who are only messengers, just like the international community would do with any [other] country that targets journalists. Only then will Israel be deterred.”
On Monday dawn, Israeli soldiers abducted at least eleven Palestinians from their homes in several parts of the occupied West Bank.
In Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank, the soldiers invaded and ransacked many homes in the city and abducted four Palestinians, including one child.
The abducted Palestinians have been identified as Yazan Rajabi, Moammar Rajabi, Muthanna Qawasma, and Odai Mahran Burqan, 15.
In Bethlehem, south of occupied Jerusalem, the soldiers abducted Qotada Nasser Shousha, Badawi Tareq Hamamra, Mohammad Fuad Hamamra, and Montaser Mahmoud Shousha, from their homes in Husan, west of the city, and former political prisoner Sami Awad Atallah from Harmala village, east of the city.
It is worth mentioning that Mohammad Hamamra is the brother of Qussai Hamamra, 13, who was killed by the Israeli army in Husan on April 13, 2022.
The soldiers also invaded the al-Am’ari refugee camp near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, searched homes, and abducted a young man, Rihan Yacoub Rihan, 23.
Many Palestinian youngsters protested the invasions and hurled stones at the invading military vehicles.
In Nablus, in the northern West Bank, the soldiers abducted former political prisoner, Yasser Badrasawi, from his home.
The soldiers also invaded Salem village, east of Nablus, and Kafr Qalil town, south of the city.
On Sunday night, the Israeli army said a Palestinian hurled an explosive at a military vehicle near Nablus.
The army claimed two Palestinians, driving a motorcycle, drove by a military vehicle and threw the explosive at it before the soldiers opened fire. There have been no reports of injuries.
On Sunday evening, the soldiers invaded Sur Baher town, southeast of occupied Jerusalem, and removed many Palestinian flags from its streets.
On Monday, the Palestinian Detainees’ Committee reported that two detainees, held by Israel under the arbitrary Administrative Detention orders without charges or trial, continue the hunger strike despite their deteriorating health.
The Committee said Khalil Awawda, 40, from Ethna town northwest of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, continues the hunger strike he started 96 days earlier.
It added that Raed Rayyan, 27, from Beit Duqqu village, northwest of occupied Jerusalem, started the hunger strike 61 days earlier.
The Committee said that, despite their seriously deteriorating health, the two detainees are determined to continue the hunger strike until reaching agreements ending their arbitrary Administrative Detention.
Twelve days ago, the Israeli authorities transferred Awawda to the infamous Ramla prison clinic that lacks specialists and basic supplies, although just a day earlier, an Israeli court authorized his transfer to a hospital due to the seriousness of his condition.
Awawda suffers from various issues, including sharp pain in the joints, migraine, fatigue, and blurry vision, and is now wheelchair-dependent because he has become unable to walk or even stand.
Awawda, a married father of four children, was abducted on December 17th, 2021, and has been held under the Administrative Detention orders without charges or trial. He is also a former political prisoner, abducted and detained several times.
On November 3rd, 2021, Rayyan was abducted and was slapped with a six-month Administrative Detention order renewed for four additional months shortly before the first order expired.
It is worth mentioning that more than five hundred Administrative Detainees continue to boycott the Israeli military courts for the 157th day, rejecting their continued illegal detention without charges.
On Monday, Israeli bulldozers continued the bulldozing of Palestinian lands in the Khirbat Ehmayyir area in the Khirbat al-Farisiyya village, in the Northern Plains of the Jordan Valley, in the occupied West Bank.
Local human rights activist Aref Daraghma said the Israeli bulldozers continued the destruction of the illegally annexed and isolated Palestinian lands to benefit the illegal colonialist activities.
Daraghma added that the bulldozers were working on a hilltop and large areas, accompanied by many Israeli soldiers.
It is worth mentioning that the Israeli army initially declared the lands a “closed military zone,” preventing the Palestinians from entering it, but at the same time allowing the colonizers to enter them to establish an outpost.
The Palestinians fear that the Israeli army plans to annex 28.000 Dunams of Palestinian farming and grazing areas, which are essential for the shepherds and farmers.
On Monday dawn, Israeli soldiers attacked many Palestinian workers close to the Annexation Wall gates near Aneen town and Tayba villages, west, and northwest of the northern West Bank city of Jenin. The army also abducted several workers near Hebron.
Eyewitnesses said the soldiers attacked the workers with many concussion grenades and gas bombs while waiting at the gates of the illegal Annexation Wall near Aneen and Tayba villages.
The soldiers also chased many workers and fired gas bombs at them, forcing them to leave the area.
In related news, the soldiers abducted several Palestinian workers near the Annexation Wall in Tarqoumia town, west of the southern West Bank city of Hebron.
On Sunday night, the soldiers abducted Ahmad Issa Abu Zeid, 23, from Qabatia town, south of Jenin, from a construction site across the green line.
Israeli soldiers abducted four Palestinians on Sunday evening, detained, and assaulted many others near Bab Huta, one of the gates leading to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem, in the West Bank.
Eyewitnesses said the soldiers stopped and assaulted a young man and a young woman near Bab Hutta, in the Old City, before abducting them.
They added that the soldiers also assaulted with batons many Palestinians, including several women, and interrogated them.
The Palestinians were struck with batons on several parts of their bodies, including the head, and suffered various injuries.
The soldiers also summoned for interrogated several women and abducted two young men before moving them to an interrogation facility.