Palestinian Occupied West Bank Death Toll Highest in Years

At least 85 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank so far this year as Israeli soldiers stepped up their nightly raids in cities, towns, and villages, making it the deadliest since 2016. It included armed activists, several civilians, including a veteran journalist and a lawyer, as well as teens who violently protested in response to Israel’s military operations in their neighborhoods.

The funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh at the Old City of Jerusalem, May 13, 2022 (Photo: Activestills)

According the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry, 85 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem since the start of the year. Israel is also holding more than 600 Palestinians without charge or trial in what’s known as administrative detention — the highest number in six years.

There were three notable cases of civilians killed this year: Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran on-air correspondent, Omar Assad, a 78-year-old man who died shortly after Israeli soldiers bound and blindfolded him and left him in the January cold and Salah Sawafta, who was shot outside the bakery as he returned from dawn prayers in the town of Tubas earlier this month. 

Israeli rights groups say that while some Israeli missions are aimed at combating specific threats, others are intended as a show of force, or to protect the population of settlers. Ori Givati, the head of Breaking the Silence, a group opposed to the occupation that gathers testimonies of former soldiers, said some witnesses recall carrying out mock arrests in which fully armed soldiers raid a home in the middle of the night for training purposes.

Even more common, he said, are so-called “stimulus and response operations”, which he said he took part in himself when he served in the West Bank. In those, Israeli troops roll through Palestinian areas, sometimes with lights and speakers on, hoping to lure stone-throwers or gunmen into the streets so they can arrest or confront them. “The way we occupy the Palestinians is by creating more and more friction, making our presence felt,” Givati said. “We invade their towns, their cities, their homes.”