In an escalating environment of violence and tension, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) reports that the Israeli government's incursion into the Jenin refugee camp in Palestine marks six months of intense conflict. This incursion signals a period in which the Israeli government matched a record for killing Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli forces have shown the use of unwarranted lethal force, displaced Palestinians forcibly, and destroyed their homes with impunity.
According to data analyzed by NRC, gathered from the United Nations (UN) and Peace Now, this year could be the deadliest in the occupied West Bank since the UN started recording casualties in 2005. The escalation of conflict coincides with the return of Benjamin Netanyahu to power late last year, as conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory have rapidly deteriorated since then.
Since the beginning of this year, at least 152 Palestinians, including 28 children, have been killed in the West Bank, matching last year's record. The majority of the casualties were caused by Israeli forces using live ammunition.
Caroline Ort, the NRC's Country Director for Palestine, has spoken out against the escalating violence and the mounting humanitarian suffering it has caused. "Settlement expansion, home demolitions and violence perpetrated by Israeli forces and settlers are increasing humanitarian suffering and fuelling further tensions across the West Bank," Ort warned.
Within the past week alone, a minimum of 12 Palestinians, including at least four children, were killed and over 100 injured during the Israeli incursion into the Jenin refugee camp. More than 3,500 refugees have fled the camp, becoming internally displaced as Israeli airstrikes and bulldozers damaged homes, roads, and other civilian infrastructure, including electricity and water supplies.
The violent landscape this year is also on track to surpass 2022's record-setting year for settler attacks and demolitions by Israel in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
At least 447 Palestinian structures, including homes, water and sanitation facilities, agricultural structures, and a school, were demolished or seized by Israeli forces during the first six months of this year. The numbers also included 61 structures that were funded through international aid. In comparison, 391 structures were demolished during the same period last year.
The UN has documented more than 441 settler attacks in the first half of this year, compared to 343 during the same period last year. Israeli authorities have also promoted more than 13,000 new settlement housing units so far this year, another record.
According to international law, "internal disturbances and tensions" characterized by riots and isolated and sporadic acts of violence do not rise to the level of hostilities. In cases such as seen in Jenin, Israeli forces are only permitted to use lethal force when there exists a serious and imminent threat of death or serious injury, and only if the threat cannot be adequately addressed through non-lethal means.
Israeli authorities must protect Palestinians and prevent any military or settler-perpetrated attacks and take appropriate measures to hold accountable those violating international law. Israel, as the occupying power, is prohibited from transferring members of the occupied population from their existing communities against their will. The current situation points to a dire need for urgent intervention to uphold accountability and protect Palestinians.
The extensive data collected and analyzed by NRC from the UN and Peace Now demonstrates an urgent need for intervention from third states. These countries must demand that Israeli authorities respect and protect the rights of Palestinians, abide by the law of occupation, and apply the relevant rules on the use of lethal force, in order to de-escalate the ongoing violence.