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Annual B'Tselem report sees sharp drop in Israeli, Palestinian fatalities
Human rights group records significant drop in number of Palestinians killed by IDF fire in 2007; but warns 131 out of 373 killed were civilians. Number of checkpoints in West Bank hasn't lessened despite Israel's promises and more than 80% of Gazans depend on international aid
The number of people killed in Israeli-Palestinian violence dropped dramatically in 2007, according to a report from Israeli human rights group B'Tselem released Monday.

 

Israeli forces killed 373 Palestinians during 2007, a 45 percent drop from the previous year, the report said. Of those killed 53 were minors and 131 were bystanders not engaged in fighting at the time of their death. In 2006 the number stood at 657, with 348 of those killed reported as innocent bystanders.

 

Palestinians killed 13 Israelis over the same period of time; of these seven were civilians and six were security personnel. The civilians were killed in rocket and shooting attacks and one suicide bombing. B'Tselem said its numbers were accurate as of Dec. 29.

 

In its review of the status of the Palestinian Territories, the group charges Israel with committing grave human rights violation in the West Bank and Gaza.

 

B'Tselem blamed Israel's rules of engagement for the deaths of bystanders: "Since the eruption of the second intifada in September 2000, the military has on several occasion changed and broadened the rules of engagement that apply to soldiers serving in the Territories."

 

Another section of the report examines the "siege and collective punishment inflicted upon Gazan Palestinians." According to the organization Israel "seized almost complete control over many domains of life in the Gaza Strip" in 2007, but "shirked" the responsibilities that come with taking command of the coastal territory.

 

According to report more than 80% of Gaza's residents directly rely on international aid agencies to supply their food. "If the stranglehold over the Gaza Strip is not removed immediately, the UN expects this number to keep rising."

 

The report also noted that the siege has brought about the collapse of the health care infrastructure in the strip. 

 

Freedom of movement

The authors of the critical work also took up the issue of IDF checkpoints in the West Bank, which they charge restrict Palestinian movement. They claim that the average amount of roadblocks has remained virtually unchanged, placing the number at around 102. Sixty-six of these are located deep within the West Bank and only 36 are checkpoints along the Seam Line.

 

The group said that the roadblocks have essentially divided the region into six separate units. But Israel continues to maintain that the steep drop in Israeli causalities is thanks to the efficiency of the checkpoints, which stop suicide bombers before they can enter Israel.

 

Water rights

The report claims that Palestinian residents of the West Bank continue to suffer from water shortages for domestic and municipal use. As a result, the capacity to maintain hygienic sewer systems and capacity to use water for agricultural and livestock purposes has been greatly limited.

 

Hebron

According to B'Tselem the Palestinian residents of the divided city of Hebron have been particularly hit hard by IDF restrictions and the burgeoning settlement activity.

 

The group asserts that since early 2007, 1,829 stores and commercial storage rooms – which comprised an estimated 76% of all places of employment in the area – had been closed since the beginning of the second intifada.

 

"Israeli policy in the center of Hebron is openly declared and wholly based on the 'principle of separation' between Palestinians and Israeli settlers."

 

East Jerusalem

The report also criticizes Israeli policy in east Jerusalem. The report accuses Israel of "canceling residency status, building separation barriers…and continuing to refrain from allocating funds for resources for services and infrastructure intended for the Palestinians population in the city."

 

News agencies contributed to this report

 

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