Israeli security forces committed “heinous killings” throughout 2020, shooting dead at least 27 Palestinians across occupied Palestinian territories and in Israel, according to Israeli rights group B’Tselem.
“Over the course of 2020, Israeli security forces killed 27 Palestinians, seven of them minors: one in the Gaza Strip, 23 in the West Bank [including East Jerusalem] and three inside Israel,” B’Tselem said on Monday.
In at least 11 of the 16 killings investigated by B’Tselem in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinians “posed no threat to the lives of the forces” or any other person at the time they were shot.
Some of the examples highlighted in the report included the killing of Iyad Hallaq, a 32-year-old autistic Palestinian man who attended and worked at a school for people with special needs in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City.
At the time, Israeli officers said they suspected Hallaq was carrying a weapon and began chasing him when he panicked and began to run.
He was shot dead as he hid behind a dumpster, just a few metres from his school.
Hallaq’s father told Al Jazeera in June his son had the mental capacity of an eight-year-old and no understanding of the dangerous reality of life under occupation.
“For years, Israel has been implementing a reckless, unlawful open-fire policy in the West Bank. This policy is fully backed by the government, the military and the courts, in utter indifference to the predictable lethal results,” B’Tselem said.
In the rare event in which members of the Israeli forces are indicted for killing Palestinians, the charges and sentences “do not reflect the gravity of the offenses”, the group added.
Over the course of 2020, amid the raging coronavirus pandemic, Israeli authorities also destroyed at least 729 Palestinian buildings, including homes and non-residential structures.
In 2020, the group said, more Palestinians lost their homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem than in every year since 2016.
“In total, Israel demolished 273 homes in 2020, leaving 1,006 Palestinians – 519 of them minors – homeless,” B’Tselem said.
“In 2020, Israel also demolished 456 non-residential structures and infrastructure facilities. This includes humanitarian infrastructure such as water cisterns and pipes or power grids, which are essential to maintaining health and sanitation, particularly important at this time.”
The group said it documented 248 attacks carried out by illegal Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank last year.
The attacks ranged from physical assaults to targeting farmers or their properties, which “could not take place without the sweeping support provided by the state”.