Article first published on Aug. 29 by Ma’an News Service, based in Bethlehem, Occupied Palestine
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — As the eyes of the world focused on Gaza in recent months, Israel stepped up a campaign of repression, detentions, and settlement building across the West Bank, the Palestine Liberation Organization said in a report released on Thursday.
Thirty-two Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in a two month period beginning on June 13, the report said, and 1,397 Palestinians were injured by Israeli fire.
During the same period, 1,753 Palestinians were detained — an equivalent of 24 a day — while Israeli forces conducted 1,573 military raids across the West Bank, or an average of 21 a day.
The PLO report — which was entitled “Business as Usual” — also highlighted that the construction of Jewish-only settlements built on lands confiscated from Palestinian locals in the occupied West Bank had surged during the same period, with three different projects having been announced on Aug. 25-26 just as the Gaza ceasefire was declared.
The report said that over the summer so far, more than 1,472 settlement homes had been approved, slated to house around 6,000 Jewish settlers.
Israeli settlements are generally built on the hills in and around Palestinian towns and villages, and critics charge they are strategically located so as to encircle them and make a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.
The report also said that the period from June 13 to Aug. 26 had also witnessed a total of 249 attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinian civilians, or around three a day.
“Israeli aggression against the Occupied Gaza Governorates ran in parallel with the Israeli oppression and colonization in the rest of the Occupied State of Palestine,” the report said.
“Though Israeli spokespeople tried to present their attacks on Gaza as a particular action against Palestinian resistance groups, Israeli occupation and colonization policies all over the Occupied State of Palestine make it clear that the ultimate Israeli goal continues to be to prevent the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State,” the report continued.
The report also highlighted statements by top Israeli officials which use the situation in Gaza as a “justification for not withdrawing from the West Bank.”
This included a July 11 statement by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu where he said: “The Israeli people understand now what I always say: there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the Jordan River,” referring to the West Bank.
The sharp rise in killings, injuries, and detentions across the West Bank coincided with the launch of the largest Israeli offensive on the West Bank since the Second Intifada in response to the disappearance of three Israeli teens in a settlement near Bethlehem.
The offensive — which many analysts deemed a form of collective punishment due to its widespread nature and tactics like the blockading of Hebron’s 800,000 residents — provoked large protests, in which many Palestinians were killed and hundreds injured.
Soon after the offensive concluded, meanwhile, Israel launched a more than 50-day assault on Gaza, which left more than 2,140 Palestinians dead there.
The assault triggered the largest protests across the West Bank since the Second Intifada, with tens of thousands taking to the streets of all major towns and villages.