Human Rights and Democracy Report 2016 - The State of Israel and The Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs)

We continued to be concerned by the human rights situation in Israel and the OPTs in 2016. We were concerned by the Israeli Government's violation of international human rights and humanitarian law in the context of Israel's occupation of the OPTs. We also had concerns about human rights infringements by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and grave concerns over those by Hamas in Gaza.

The upsurge in violence, which began in late 2015, continued until April with 'lone-wolf' style terror attacks on Israelis, and clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli security forces. Attacks were characterised by random stabbings, shootings and vehicle rammings. We were concerned by the apparent role of incitement, particularly on social media. President Abbas condemned the violence in general terms in January but did not comment on specific attacks. On 9 March, the then FCO Minister for the Middle East and Africa, Tobias Ellwood, issued a statement condemning the violence. Some of the measures Israel introduced in response (including punitive house demolitions, and restrictions on movement and access) exacerbated existing human rights concerns. We were concerned over possible use of excessive force by the Israeli security forces against  Palestinians.

Israeli demolitions of Palestinian structures increased significantly, marking the highest incidence since 2009, and resulting in the displacement of more than 1,600 Palestinians in the West Bank including East Jerusalem. The UK was deeply concerned by the scaling up of Israel's systematic policy of settlement expansion. On 23 December, the UK supported UNSCR 2334 which reaffirmed that settlements were illegal under international law. Mr Ellwood issued a statement on 8 December expressing concern at the introduction of the Land Regularisation Bill to the Israeli Knesset, which seeks to 'legalise' settlement outposts considered illegal even under Israeli law.

The number of Palestinians Israel held in administrative detention increased, with 700 being held at the end of the year. We continued to seek improvements in the treatment of Palestinians in detention, particularly  children.

We were also concerned by continued reports of mistreatment towards detainees by the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank. For example, in August a detainee in Nablus was beaten to death by the Palestinian security forces.

We continued to have concerns about abuses of human rights under the Hamas de facto authorities in Gaza. 17 death sentences were issued and three were carried out without the ratification of the Palestinian President. We continued to have concerns over restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and respect for LGB&T rights. We remained deeply concerned that Hamas and other militants were re-arming, re-building tunnels, and holding military training camps.

In 2017, we will continue to work for a negotiated settlement to the conflict based on a viable and secure two state solution. We will continue to oppose aspects of the Israeli occupation that violate human rights and international law, including demolitions and settlement construction, and to advocate improvements in the treatment of detainees. We will support efforts to promote Palestinian reconciliation, which will ultimately alleviate the humanitarian situation in Gaza by helping create the right conditions for easing movement and access restrictions which would aid reconstruction. We will challenge the PA to make substantive progress on human rights, including on incitement.


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