Amnesty International Report 2009
Israeli forces launched a military offensive on an unprecedented scale – code-named “Operation Cast Lead” – on 27 December in the Gaza Strip, killing many civilians and destroying homes and other civilian property. Earlier in the year there had been a marked upsurge in killings of civilians and others by both Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) before a ceasefire was agreed in June (see Palestinian Authority entry). Some 70 children were among the 425 Palestinians killed in the first half of the year. In addition to the large-scale destruction of homes and property in the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces also destroyed scores of Palestinian homes in the West Bank and in Bedouin villages in the south of Israel. Throughout the year, the Israeli army maintained stringent restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in the OPT, including a blockade on the Gaza Strip, which caused an unprecedented level of humanitarian hardship and virtually imprisoned the entire population of 1.5 million. This was further exacerbated by the Israeli offensive launched on 27 December. Hundreds of patients with serious medical conditions requiring treatment not available in local hospitals were refused passage out of Gaza; several died. Hundreds of students could not travel to their universities abroad because they could not leave Gaza, where many fields of study are not available. Most of Gaza’s inhabitants depended on international aid, but the Israeli blockade hampered the ability of UN agencies to provide assistance and services. In the West Bank the movement of Palestinians was severely curtailed by some 600 Israeli checkpoints and barriers, and by the 700km fence/wall which the Israeli army continued to build mostly inside the West Bank. The expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on seized Palestinian land increased to a level not seen since 2001. Israeli soldiers and settlers who committed serious abuses against Palestinians, including unlawful killings, assaults and attacks against property, enjoyed impunity in most cases. Hundreds of Palestinians were arrested by Israeli forces; reports of torture and other ill-treatment were frequent, but investigations were rare. Some 8,000 Palestinians remained in Israeli prisons, many after unfair military trials.
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