Israel kills more than 500 Palestinians in the West Bank since October 7

People mourn Palestinians killed in an Israeli raid in Nur Shams camp, Tulkarm, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, April 21, 2024 [Ammar Awad/Reuters]By Al Jazeera StaffPublished On 16 May 202416 May 2024

Israelis have now killed at least 502 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since October 7.

The latest killings came on Thursday when three youths – Mohamed Youssef Nasr Allah, 27, Ayman Ahmed Mubarak, 26, and Hossam Emad Deabes, 22 – were killed by Israeli forces raiding Tulkarm.

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More than 230 Palestinians were killed during Israeli raids, while at least 20 are reported to have been killed by settlers from illegal settlements and outposts.

October 7 was the date of the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel, and the beginning of Israel’s relentless war on Gaza, which has killed more than 35,000 people and injured more than 70,000 more, with some 10,000 missing, presumed dead under the rubble of the destroyed Strip.

The violence has spilled over into the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, already tense after an Israeli campaign of military raids and an increase in settler violence.

According to United Nations figures, 154 Palestinians were killed in the occupied West Bank in 2022 after Israel began near-daily raids in the territory.

One of those killed was Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by an Israeli sniper in Jenin in May 2022 while covering an Israeli raid there.

A far-right government led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came into power at the end of 2022 and further stepped up the violence.

Before October 7, at least 199 Palestinians had been killed in the West Bank in 2023.

Israeli raids, both before and after October 7, have ostensibly targeted Palestinian armed groups in the West Bank, part of a policy Israel labels “mowing the lawn” – eradicating any threat from Palestinian fighters before they could grow stronger.

Israel has reportedly focused on ensuring that new resistance groups without direct ties to pre-established organisations such as Fatah or Hamas could not become nodes of armed power.

Since October 7, Israel has used the cover of the war on Gaza to step up its attacks in the occupied West Bank and has become more brazen in using air power such as helicopters and drones to kill Palestinians. Israeli forces have killed many unarmed Palestinians.

“Israeli forces have [since October 7] unleashed a brutal wave of violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, carrying out unlawful killings, including by using lethal force without necessity or disproportionately during protests and arrest raids, and denying medical assistance to those injured,” Amnesty International said in February.

The UN told Israel to stop “unlawful killings” in the occupied West Bank in December, with the head of the UN Human Rights Office in the occupied Palestinian territories telling Al Jazeera at the time that a lack of accountability, and even incitement from Israeli officials, had led to an increase in violence by Israeli forces and Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank.

“I think that’s extremely important to underscore: where there is impunity, violations will continue to happen,” Ajith Sunghay said.

The Israeli settler movement seeks to illegally populate the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem – and in some instances, Gaza – with Jewish settlers at the expense of Palestinians.

With representatives of the movement now sitting at the top levels of the Israeli government, many settlers appear to have used October 7 as a pretence to step up attacks against Palestinians, betting that the Israeli government would look the other way.

Israeli settlers have repeatedly descended on Palestinian towns and villages and attacked residents, forcing them out in some cases.

Last month, after one such round of settler violence, Palestinians living near Ramallah expressed their fear to Al Jazeera.

“We’re terrified … Most people are trying to leave the town or to [go to] other countries if they have other citizenships,” said one resident at the time.

Paramedics assist a wounded man in an ambulance in Tulkarm, April 19, 2024 [Raneen Sawafta/Reuters]

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank fear that they could eventually face the same intensity of attacks and violence as Gaza has faced.

The occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, has been under continuous illegal Israeli occupation since June 1967. Its status as an occupied territory has been affirmed by the International Court of Justice and, with the exception of East Jerusalem, the Israeli Supreme Court.

UN rulings dating back to 1979 stipulate that establishing any Israeli settlement on the territory is illegal.

But Israel has constructed more than 140 settlements on Palestinian land, which house hundreds of thousands of Israelis. The settlements restrict entry to Palestinians, including those who own the land they are built on.

A separate network of roads has also been built for Jewish settlers – roadways that Palestinians are almost always unable to use.

Israeli policy in the West Bank has therefore been described as one of “apartheid” by Palestinians and human rights defenders around the world.

Source: Al Jazeera