Israeli occupation forces shot and killed a Palestinian motorist in the occupied West Bank during April. The month also saw Israelis violently rampage against Palestinians in Jerusalem amid Ramadan while hundreds of lives were lost to COVID-19 in both the West Bank and Gaza.
In the early hours of 6 April, an Israeli soldier stopped Osama Mansour and his wife Sumaya while they were traveling in their car near the Jerusalem-area village of Bir Nabala.
The couple told the soldier that they were on the way to a medical clinic. The soldier permitted the pair to drive off but when they did, occupation forces sprayed bullets at the car, fatally injuring Osama. Sumaya was wounded by a bullet in her back but survived.
Israel claimed that the soldiers opened fire after an attempted car-ramming attack.
The incident occurred at a checkpoint that had been set up during an arrest operation, which are nightly occurrences in the occupied West Bank as Israel seeks to stamp out any and all resistance to its military rule.
“There’s a very trigger-happy approach in the West Bank in which Palestinians are guilty until proven otherwise,” Roy Yellin, spokesperson for the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, told media.
Mansour was the sixth Palestinian killed by Israeli occupation forces and settlers in the West Bank so far this year.
Child’s body returned
On 22 April, Israel returned the body of Yousif Abu Jazar, 15, who was killed by soldiers while he approached the Gaza-Israeli boundary fence nearly three years ago. Last September, Al Mezan, a human rights group in Gaza, petitioned Israel’s high court to demand the return of the child’s body.
“Al Mezan deplores Israel’s long-held policy of withholding Palestinian bodies for use as leverage in political exercises of the state, at the expense of anguished families,” the group said.
As of September last year, Israel was holding the bodies of 67 Palestinians killed by its forces since 2015. Israel’s high court has approved the withholding of bodies to be used as bargaining chips in negotiations with Hamas, which is believed to be holding the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed during the 2014 invasion of Gaza.
Hamas is the Palestinian resistance faction that governs Gaza’s internal affairs.
Al-Haq, a prominent Palestinian human rights group, says that the “practice of withholding bodies amounts to a policy of collective punishment,” which is prohibited under international law.
It is one of many forms of collective punishment that Israel imposes on Palestinians.
Another example of a punitive measure that Israel imposes on Palestinians is additional restrictions on where Gaza fishers are allowed to sail, or banning them from practicing their trade entirely.
On 25 April, Israel reduced the permitted fishing area off of Gaza’s southern coast from 15 to nine nautical miles. The following three days, fishers were “prohibited [from] sailing at any distance from the shore,” the United Nations monitoring group OCHA stated.
The restrictions were lifted on 29 April after being challenged by human rights groups.
COVID-19 spikes in Gaza
Meanwhile, around 1,000 new COVID-19 cases per day were being reported in Gaza at the close of the month, accounting for the majority of all cases in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. New cases were slowly subsiding “but numbers are still high with deaths in the last week at record levels,” the World Health Organization stated on 29 April.
As of that date, nearly 2,900 Palestinians had died from COVID-19 in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. In Gaza, nearly 900 people have died from the disease.
Muslims worldwide began observing the second consecutive Ramadan during the pandemic in mid-April.
Just as in past years during Ramadan, Israeli occupation forces escalated their violent repression of Palestinian worshippers in Jerusalem.
Police used water cannons and stun grenades against Palestinians who protested against fencing installed around the steps leading to the Old City’s Damascus Gate, traditionally a bustling and festive gathering place during the fasting month.
Palestinians celebrated after the barriers were removed following nearly two weeks of nightly protests.
The removal of the barriers also came after mobs of ultranationalist Israelis rampaged through Jerusalem chanting “death to the Arabs” and attacking Palestinians and their property.
More than 150 Palestinians and 20 Israelis “were injured in multiple violent incidents across Jerusalem” since the beginning of Ramadan, according to OCHA.
Also during April, the US government resumed funding to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees – though to less than half of the annual amount provided before the Trump administration slashed assistance to the Palestinians.
April closed with the deaths of at least 45 people in a stampede during a Jewish religious festival in the Upper Galilee. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the disaster was “one of the worst” in the state’s history.