B'Tselem: Palestinian civilian deaths down

Rights group also sharply criticized attacks on Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorists.

IDF, Palestinian 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
IDF, Palestinian 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The number of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces in 2007 has fallen by almost two-thirds compared to the figure for 2006, the human rights group B'Tselem reported Sunday. According to the figures published in the organization's annual report, 131 Palestinian civilians were killed this year - 36 in the West Bank and 95 in the Gaza Strip. Last year, Palestinian civilian fatalities numbered 283 in the Gaza Strip and 65 in the West Bank, for a total of 348. The drop mirrored a decline in overall hostilities this year compared to last. One hundred eighty-eight illegal Palestinian combatants were killed in 2007, compared with 292 the previous year. The figures also paralleled a drop in the number of Israeli civilian fatalities in 2007. Seven Israeli civilians were killed in 2007, compared with 17 in 2006. Four soldiers died this year, compared to six last year. "The figures, nevertheless, still give cause for concern," wrote B'Tselem, which blamed the civilian deaths primarily on Israeli policy allegedly determined by the army's top echelon. The policies include allegedly illegal easing of the military's rules of engagement, faulty transmission of these rules to soldiers in the field, approval of operations that cause disproportionate harm to civilians and failure to independently investigate most cases in which Palestinian civilians are killed. B'Tselem also sharply criticized attacks on Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorists. "One of the major justifications of the armed Palestinian organizations is that given that the occupation is illegal, 'all means are lawful in the struggle against it,'" wrote B'Tselem. "This argument is baseless and undermines the absolute prohibition on aiming attacks at civilians." Surprisingly, B'Tselem found that the number of Kassam attacks against Sderot and the Gaza periphery fell from an average of 149 per month in 2006 to 109 per month in 2007. The report also devoted a section to the restrictions and prohibitions on Palestinian movement in the West Bank. Despite Israeli promises this year to reduce the number of checkpoints, the figures remained the same as in 2006 - an average of 102 at any given time. Sixty-six of the checkpoints were located deep in the West Bank. Meanwhile, the number of administrative detentions in 2007 were up by 13 percent compared with the previous year. The number averaged 830 per month - 100 detainees more than in 2006. In late November, Israel held 858 Palestinians in administrative detention.