Israel has been launching a series of attacks on the Gaza strip under the pretense that it is doing so to “eliminate Hamas”, but while the world is focused on the news emerging out of Gaza, the occupation has been taking this opportunity to silently launch a series of attacks on the West Bank.
But why is Israel targeting the West Bank where Hamas has no presence, when it has tirelessly promoted its goal of “eliminating Hamas”?
As Israeli airstrikes continuously bomb residential buildings, journalistic crews and medical personnel in Gaza, other Israeli forces and Israeli settlers have escalated violence in the West Bank.
As of October 23, at least 95 Palestinians were killed, and at least 1,650 were injured in the occupied West Bank since October 7. Between October 7 and October 24, Israel has doubled its Palestinian prisoners to 10,000 in the past two weeks alone, according to a report by Al Jazeera.
Prior to October 7, an estimated 5,200 Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons.
“Arrests are taking place 24 hours a day,” Sahar Francis, head of the Ramallah-based Addameer prisoners’ rights group, told Al Jazeera. They are often done through surprise military raids at dawn, searches of family memebrs and their homes, in addition to destruction of property and belongings. Various videos have also shown occupation forces inflicting verbal and physical abuse while detaining Palestinians.
A report by Al Jazeera shows how Israel has doubled its Palestinian prisoners to 10,000 in the past two weeks alone.
Israeli Forces have continued targeting refugee camps populated by descendants of dispossessed Palestinians, such as the Jenin refugee camp, and killings have taken place in Qabatiya, Tammun, Nablus and other areas.
Arming Settlers and Killing Children
Videos of Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir distributing arms and weapons to Israeli settlers to kill Palestinians in the West Bank have circulated on social media platforms.
Ben-Gvir is doing so as part of his plan to arm 400,000 settlers, which was one of the first decisions that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government took after it was formed.
Between the afternoon of October 18 and the early morning hours of October 19, Israeli forces killed four Palestinian boys aged between 15 and 17 as checks on Israeli aggression are nowhere to be seen with Western governments enabling war crimes.
This year alone, Israeli forces and settlers have shot and killed at least 59 children in the occupied West Bank. One additional Palestinian child was killed by Israeli forces with a targeted drone strike.
Countless others have been abducted under the pretense of being arrested – a popular technique used by occupation forces to coerce the fathers of the children to turn themselves in as political prisoners.
State of Affairs in the West Bank
It’s important to note that even before the al-Aqsa flood operation, Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank were constantly subject to violence by Israeli forces and settlers, who have repeatedly killed, arrested, injured and terrorized Palestinian adults and children.
Occupation forces have alxo restricted Palestinians’ mobility, attacked and occupied Palestinian households and destroyed property, in addition to many other violations.
All of this violence comes in spite of the fact that Hamas has no presence in the West Bank, demonstrating that the true motivation behind Israel’s crimes is the forced displacement and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
Days before the al-Aqsa flood, armed Israeli settlers stormed the village of Qusra, firing at unarmed residents and destroying cars and electricity lines.
Most notably, the occupation forces normally guarding the security checkpoint in Gaza were instead placed in the West Bank on October 7, in a bid to forcibly displace Palestinians from the West Bank
Since the onslaught of aggressions on Gaza, Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank have organized demonstrations in solidarity with Palestinians residents in Gaza as Israeli bombings escalate, killing at least 5,791 (2,360 of whom are children), injuring at least 16,297 and destroying 42 percent of housing units.
Dire prison conditions
In a press conference on Thursday afternoon in Ramallah, head of the Palestinian Authority’s Commission for Detainees’ Affairs Qadura Fares spoke of the dangerous developments regarding prisoners.
When Palestinians are detained, they are often subject to assault. Al Jazeera reported that in many cases, limbs, hands and legs have been broken, and insults and curses have been hurled. Handcuffs are normally tightened to the point of inflicting severe pain, and prisoners are forced to strip down for a humiliating search.
“Prisoners are subjected to starvation and thirst; they are prevented from accessing their medicine, specifically for those suffering from chronic illnesses that require regular medication,” said Fares.
Prisoners have been prevented from going to hospitals and external clinics, and the prison’s clinic has been shut down. Not only so, but prisoners have been severely restricted, with no yard time, no contact with families or visits, and no regular lawyer visits.
Occupation authorities have also shut off access to canteens, where prisoners can obtain basic supplies, and limited mealtimes to two instead of three a day. The occupation’s parliament has also approved a plan to reduce the living space of each prisoner down from 3.5 square meteres to accommodate the copious arrests made over the past two weeks.
All of this serves as adding pressure on Hamas, by exerting excessive force on a people with limited resources, mobility, and ability to defend itself. In spite of this, Palestinian factions across the West Bank have responded, and armed clashes have repeatedly broken out across areas targeted by the occupation, such as in Jenin.