Stepped-up repression in West Bank, Gaza
By Sean Malloy
Under cover of the Middle East peace conference, Israel's government is increasing repression of Palestinians in the occupied territories and the bombing of south Lebanon.
In the month of March alone, 19 Palestinians in the occupied territories were killed, 449 wounded and 385 arrested.
The Palestinian Human Rights Information Centre reports the torture of youths aged between 14 and 23. PHRIC has documented cases of torture involving electrocution, beatings, burning and psychological trauma.
Israeli army death squads masquerading as Palestinians have assassinated 19 Palestinians in the first three months of this year and a total of 97 since the beginning of the Palestinian uprising in 1988.
The destruction of Palestinian water supplies, crops and houses continues. The Israeli "Seven Stars Plan" is designed to dissolve borders between Israel and the occupied territories by building settlements between Palestinian towns, straddling Israel and the occupied territories.
The plan aims to break up connections between Palestinian towns, to confiscate land for further expansion and to strengthen the claim that Israel cannot withdraw from the occupied territories because of the settlements.
The right-wing Likud government has actually exaggerated the extent of settlements in order to claim that occupation of Palestinian land is irreversible. The government claims there are 120,000 settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but the Peace Now group has counted only 98,500.
The Israeli government claims to "own" at least 50% of the West Bank, but most of this confiscated land is unsettled. It is made up of allotments for future settlements, security belts around existing settlements, industrial zones and military use.
The actual amount of West Bank land used by Israeli settlers is, according to Israeli Civil Administration officials, around 5%.
In the rush to build new settlements, infrastructure such as sewerage, water and electricity has not been completed.
Material incentives, such as special loans and low mortgage payments, are used to entice Israeli citizens to move to the occupied territories. These incentives are aimed at the 16.9% of Israeli citizens who are living below the poverty line.