Israel Approves West Bank Settlements; Poverty Rates Increase in Gaza, Despite Truce; HRW: Syria Needs to Investigate Prison Deaths

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

JERUSALEM – On July 24, Israeli officials revived plans to construct a new settlement in the occupied West Bank.  Two years ago, Israel was prevented from constructing a new settlement, Maskiyot, in the Jordan Valley, due to US pressure.  The decision to begin construction is significant because of the promises made by Israel in the Annapolis conference late last year.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Israel of undermining US-backed peace talks with the latest settlement plan.  “This is destroying the process of a two-state solution,” Erekat said. “I hope the Americans will make the Israelis revoke the decision. I think they can make the Israelis do this.”

The new settlement would be the first in a decade and would contribute to a wave of building going on across the West Bank, as Israel adds thousands of new homes to existing settlements despite international calls to halt construction.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said that he was “deeply concerned” about the construction plan, adding that it would violate international law.  Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the transfer of civilians to occupied lands.

For more information, please see:

The Daily Star – Israel Set to Build More Illegal Settlements in Occupied West Bank – 25 July 2008

Independent – Israel Relaunches Plan for West Bank Settlement in Snub to US – 25 July 2008

Washington Post – Revived Israeli Plan for New Homes in West Bank Sparks Outcry – 25 July 2008

International Herald Tribune – West Bank Construction Wins Approval in Israel – 24 July 2008


GAZA CITY, Gaza – On July 23, UN Relief Works Agency released a report stating that over half of the population in Gaza from falling below the poverty line.  “The number of households in Gaza below the consumption poverty line [has] continued to grow, reaching 51.8 per cent in 2007 despite significant amounts of emergency and humanitarian assistance,” the report said.

Salem Ajluni, an economist with UNRWA and author of the report, stated that Gaza has historically been more vulnerable to difficult economic conditions for a number of reasons, especially due to the fact that two thirds of the territory are refugees and dispossessed of their property.  He also stated that the economic conditions were worsened because of the economic blockade imposed on the territory.

The report stated, “Israeli imposed movement restrictions in the occupied Palestinian territory, whose population is estimated to have grown by about one third since 1999, have resulted in considerable regression over the past eight years and remain the main barrier to economic recovery and development.”

In addition, the report noted that economic conditions continue to decline, despite the truce declared one month ago.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – UN: Poverty Worsening in Gaza – 24 July 2008

ReliefWeb – OPT: More than Half of Gaza Households Slump Below the Poverty Line: Youth Hardest Hit by Unemployment – 24 July 2008

UNRWA – Prolonged Crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory: Socio-Economic Developments in 2007 – 23 July 2008

Xinhua – Gaza Poverty Mounts Despite Hamas-Israel Truce – 23 July 2008


NEW YORK CITY, United States – Human Rights Watch called on Syria to investigate the deadly shooting of inmates by military police at Sednaya prison.  According to reports from inmates, the riot occurred when Islamists protested against an “aggressive search” by prison guards.  In the process of quelling the riot, prison guards fired on the inmates killing an unknown number.

HRW called on Syria to investigate the July 5 riot and to publish the findings.  HRW also called on the government to immediately publish the names of those killed and injured in the incident.  “We still don’t know how the prison standoff ended, or the number and names of those killed and wounded,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW Middle East Director.

Even two weeks after the incident, the Syrian government has not released an official statement.  The official state news agency, SNA, printed a short statement on July 6, which stated “a number of prisoners…incited chaos and breached public order in the prison and attacked other fellow prisoners…during an inspection by the prison administration.”

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Syria Urged to Probe Prison Riot Deaths – 22 July 2008

Human Rights Watch – Syria: Investigate Sednaya Prison Deaths – 22 July 2008

Reuters – Rights Group Calls for Syria Prison Riot Inquiry – 22 July 2008

Author: Impunity Watch Archive