Ramallah, occupied West Bank – As the world’s attention has been fixed on Israel’s brutal bombardment of the Gaza Strip for the past two weeks, killings of at least 76 Palestinians by Israeli forces in the same period have barely made it to the headlines.
More than 3,500 Palestinians, including over 1,000 children, have been killed in Israel’s deadliest assault on Gaza, which began on October 7.
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In the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces have killed an average of one Palestinian a day over the past two years, the number has increased drastically since events unfolded.
At least 76 Palestinians have been killed, including eight by armed settlers, across the West Bank and Jerusalem when the latest escalation between Israel and Palestinians began.
Israeli army raids into Palestinian cities and villages have also sharply increased, along with confrontations and protests against the bombing of Gaza.
Tensions are also growing with the Palestinian Authority (PA), which has limited administrative control over a small part of the occupied West Bank and is seen by many as a subcontractor for the Israeli occupation.
What has been happening in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem?
Israel’s latest assault on Gaza began after fighters from Hamas, the Palestinian armed resistance movement governing the occupied Strip, launched a surprise attack on October 7 just outside the besieged enclave on Israeli territory. So far, at least 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, according to Israeli officials.
Since then, the Israeli army has stepped up its daily deadly raids on Palestinian neighbourhoods, villages and cities in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, where more than three million Palestinians live. Killings of residents by armed settlers have also increased.
These attacks have led to an average of five Palestinians being killed every day in those areas since October 7. The Palestinian Ministry of Health said on Wednesday that more than 1,300 have been injured so far.
Between Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon, Israeli forces and settlers had killed at least 12 people, including at least four children, and injured dozens of others with live ammunition.
Israeli forces carried out a large-scale raid on the Nur Shams refugee camp in Tulkarem on Thursday, killing at least seven Palestinians and causing heavy destruction, the health ministry said.
“We have indications that there are other martyrs that ambulances have not been able to reach,” it noted.
Earlier on Thursday, the Israeli army killed two children, who were both shot in the head during confrontations.
The health ministry identified them as 15-year-old Taha Mahameed, also killed in the Nur Shams refugee camp, and 17-year-old Ahmad Muneer Sdooq, killed in the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem.
Israeli forces shot and killed four Palestinian boys across the occupied West Bank in the last 24 hours: Khalil Mohammad Khalil Shalash, 15, Qais Mohammad Hassan Shalash, 17, Ahmad Munir Yousef Sdouq, 17, and Taha Ibrahim Mohammad Mahmeed, 15.
— Defense for Children (@DCIPalestine) October 19, 2023
Israeli forces have also arrested at least 850 Palestinians in raids in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem over the past 13 days, including at least 120 overnight on Wednesday. This is apart from hundreds of other Palestinians, including labourers, from Gaza who have been arrested inside Israel.
The escalating violence has sparked sporadic and organised protests and confrontations against both the Palestinian Authority (PA) in West Bank city centres and Israeli forces at checkpoints, military bases and settlements.
The protests increased drastically after the bombing of a hospital courtyard in Gaza on Tuesday night killing 471 people, in what has been described as a massacre and spurred worldwide outrage. Palestinians blamed Israel for the hospital bombing while Israel pointed fingers of blame at armed groups.
Images and videos aired by journalists at the scene showed countless bodies strewn across the ground and people carrying the limbs of their slain loved ones in bags, on the 12th day of Israel’s relentless bombardment of Gaza.
Some 70 percent of those killed were women and children, the health ministry said on Wednesday, and at least 314 others remain injured, including 22 in critical condition.
What has the PA’s response been?
On the night of the hospital attack, thousands emerged in protests across occupied West Bank cities, which the PA cracked down on with live ammunition, teargas and stun grenades.
A young Palestinian girl, 12-year-old Razan Nasrallah, was shot and killed by the PA security forces in the northern city of Jenin, and dozens of others were injured, including at least one in critical condition.
In Ramallah, where the PA is based, protesters hurled rocks, chairs and other items at PA armoured vehicles attempting to disperse them.
The most common chant in protests has been: “Put the sword before the sword, we are the men of Mohammed Deif,” in reference to the commander of Hamas’s military wing, the Qassam Brigades, but protests on Tuesday also included a call for PA President Mahmoud Abbas to step down.
The PA was created under the 1993 Oslo Accords between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel, making it 30 years old this year.
It was formed as an interim, five-year governing body, meant to lead to a Palestinian state comprising of the 1967-occupied territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s 56-year military occupation of these territories, including the building of illegal settlements – the majority of which were built either entirely or partially on private Palestinian land – has prevented that prospect.
Under the agreement, the PA is also required to share intelligence with Israel as part of its highly controversial policy of “security coordination” and to aid in thwarting armed resistance by Palestinians, including by helping with arrests, making it unpopular with most Palestinians.