Six major developments that shaped 2022 for Palestinians

The UN called 2022 the deadliest year for Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in 16 years. Here are some of the year’s most important events.

A man waving a Palestinian flag next to two Israeli soldiers
Palestinians have continued to resist the Israeli occupation in the West Bank, but near-daily raids have led to the deadliest year for Palestinians in the territory since 2006 [File: Mussa Qawasma/Reuters]

Ramallah, Occupied West Bank and Gaza City – Conflict, raids, and the killing of one of Palestine’s most well-respected journalists – just some of the most important events to happen in Israel and Palestine in 2022.

The United Nations declared the year the deadliest for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since 2006, evidence of increased use of force by Israel, amid a further shift to the far right in the country.

Here are six major developments that shaped 2022 for Palestinians.

Conflict in Gaza, again

Less than 15 months after the previous Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, the blockaded territory was attacked by Israeli warplanes for three days in early August, killing at least 49 Palestinians, including 17 children.

The arrest of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader in the West Bank by Israeli forces raised fears of an escalation, leading to Israel reinforcing its military presence on the border between Israel and Gaza.

On August 5, Israeli warplanes launched a wave of air attacks on Gaza, which the PIJ responded to by firing rockets at Israel.

While there was a real fear that the outbreak of fighting would lead to a prolonged conflict, especially following the killing of PIJ commanders, the conflict ultimately stopped after three days, after an Egyptian-mediated truce came into effect.

One of the main reasons why the conflict did not escalate was the decision by Hamas, which has governed Gaza for 15 years, to stay out of the fighting.

Despite that, there was considerable damage in Gaza, which has barely been rebuilt since the 11-day conflict of 2021. And the threat of another outbreak of prolonged violence has not gone away, leaving Palestinians in Gaza constantly fearful of what many feel is the inevitable next war.

Growing Palestinian armed resistance

One of the main changes in the West Bank in 2022 was the growth of small armed resistance groups centred in the northern cities of Jenin and Nablus.

The phenomenon started back in September 2021 with the formation of the first group, the Jenin Brigades, in the city’s refugee camp following Israel’s killing of fighter Jamil al-Amouri in June.

This was followed in 2022 with the creation of the Nablus Brigades, the Lions’ Den, the Balata Brigades, the Tubas Brigades and the Yabad Brigades. While the groups are made up of members of various traditional Palestinian parties, the new groups refuse to align themselves with any specific party or movement.

While the groups are limited in terms of their capabilities, they have been focused on clashing with Israeli forces in response to the latter’s near-daily raids, and have also carried out shooting at Israeli military checkpoints. They have also taken responsibility for attacks that have killed Israeli soldiers and settlers.

The emergence of these groups is the first time since the second Intifada (2000-05) that organised groups have fought Israeli forces in the West Bank. At the end of that Intifada, or uprising, most weapons in the territory came under Palestinian Authority’s (PA) possession.

Daily raids and killings

Following a string of individual attacks in Israel that began in March, Israel launched a military campaign called “Break the Wave” that has included near-daily raids, mass arrests and killings in the West Bank, with a focus on Jenin and Nablus.

Civilians confronting the Israeli army during raids and uninvolved bystanders have been killed, as well as Palestinian fighters in targeted assassinations and during armed clashes.

Israeli forces killed at least 170 Palestinians in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem in 2022, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, including more than 30 children. At least 9,000 others have been injured.

Several of the killings have caused particular outrage among Palestinians, including recently on December 12, when a 16-year-old in Jenin was shot dead while standing on the roof of her home watching an army raid. A 23-year-old Palestinian was also killed by an Israeli soldier in public on December 2. The killing was filmed and Palestinians described it as an “execution”.

Observers, diplomats and rights groups have expressed “concern” over Israel’s use of excessive lethal force in the West Bank this year, leading to the high number of killings.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has previously noted that Israeli forces “often use firearms against Palestinians on mere suspicion or as a precautionary measure, in violation of international standards”.

Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh

On May 11, Israeli forces shot dead veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh while she was covering a military raid on the Jenin refugee camp.

Abu Akleh was a 51-year-old Palestinian-American TV correspondent for Al Jazeera Arabic and had covered the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories for more than 25 years. Her killing led to an international outcry and sent shockwaves throughout the world.

The reporter was honoured in a  three-day funeral procession that saw an outpouring of grief and respect, with her body being transferred from Jenin to Jerusalem.

In East Jerusalem, Israeli forces attacked mourners carrying her coffin. Despite the efforts of Israeli authorities, thousands of Palestinians filled the streets of Jerusalem for the funeral.

Multiple investigations have found Israel responsible for her killing, and Israel eventually admitted in September that there was a “high possibility” that one of its soldiers had killed Abu Akleh. However, Israeli authorities refused to launch a criminal investigation.

In December, Al Jazeera submitted a formal request to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate and prosecute those responsible for Abu Akleh’s killing.

Rise of the far right

In 2022, the fifth Israeli parliamentary elections in less than four years were held. While the results appear to have temporarily ended Israel’s long-running inability to form a stable government, it has resulted in the creation of the most far-right government in the country’s 74-year history.

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party formed an alliance with religious Zionist and ultraorthodox parties, winning a 64-majority in the 120-member Knesset.

The third largest bloc in the election results was the Religious Zionist alliance – a merger of the party with the same name led by Bezalel Smotrich, and the Jewish Power party led by Itamar Ben-Gvir.

The two controversial figures are known for their frequent incitement of violence against Palestinians and have publicly stated their intentions to deepen illegal Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.

Last year, Smotrich said Palestinians in Israel “are here by mistake – because [former PM] Ben-Gurion didn’t finish the job” and throw them out in 1948.

Meanwhile, Ben-Gvir, who previously called for the deportation of Palestinian citizens “deemed disloyal to Israel”, called on settlers to carry guns, and regularly criticised the Israeli army and government for not using stronger measures against Palestinians.

The policies and views of the politicians, who are set to be given roles responsible for security in the West Bank, are set to further ignite the already-tense situation on the ground there.

Increased settler attacks

Attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank increased and became more brazen and coordinated in 2022.

At least three Palestinians were killed by settlers this year. Some of these attacks have come as Israeli military forces watched on.

“Disturbing evidence of Israeli forces frequently facilitating, supporting and participating in settler attacks, makes it difficult to discern between Israeli settler and state violence,” UN officials said in a statement on December 15.

“2022 is the sixth year of consecutive annual increase in the number of Israeli settler attacks in the occupied West Bank,” the statement continued. “Armed and masked Israeli settlers are attacking Palestinians in their homes, attacking children on their way to school, destroying property and burning olive groves, and terrorising entire communities with complete impunity.”

Between 600,000 and 750,000 Israeli settlers live in at least 250 illegal settlements scattered across the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Source: Al Jazeera