By Chloe Benoist | Ma’an News Agency | – –
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — In October 2015 began what has been in turn called a wave of unrest, a Palestinian upheaval, or even the “Jerusalem Intifada.” Whatever the name, the past year has seen an intensification of deadly violence in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel.
Over the course of the year, Ma’an has collected data regarding every person who has died as part of this latest chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In total, Ma’an has recorded the death of 274 individuals from Oct. 1, 2015, to Sept. 30, 2016. Of these dead, 235 were Palestinians (85.8 percent of deaths), 34 were Israeli (12.4 percent), and five (1.8 percent) were foreign nationals — two Americans, one Eritrean, one Sudanese, and one Jordanian.
The first six months — from October 2015 to March 2016 — saw the vast majority of deaths, following clashes at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem ahead of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. With 234 people dying in these first six months, the rate of casualties has since drastically slowed down, although a spate of killings in September have led to fears that violence could once again surge.
Looking at Palestinian casualties
After a year, a clearer picture has emerged of the Palestinians who have died in that time span. Of these 235 Palestinians, 231 were killed by Israelis, two by other Palestinians during attacks against Israelis, and two others killed themselves while carrying out or attempting to carry out attacks.
Drawing from statistics, a general portrait emerges of the average Palestinian to have died during this time: a young man in his late teens or early twenties from the West Bank district of Hebron, killed by Israeli security forces.
According to Ma’an’s records, the average age of slain Palestinians was 23. However, the most frequent age of death was 19 years old, with 22 Palestinian youth of that age losing their lives in the past year.
Minors comprised a quarter of the victims of Israeli violence, with 59 slain Palestinians under the age of 18, the youngest being an eight-month old baby killed by excessive tear gas inhalation during clashes. In total, 11 Palestinian children under the age of 14 were killed, and another 48 between the ages of 15 and 17.
Another 119 Palestinians between the ages of 18 and 24 were killed, making a total of 178 Palestinian casualties in the past year to have been born around or after the signature of the 1993 Oslo Accords.
Three quarters of those who have been killed since October 2015 have never known anything other than Oslo — seemingly corroborating links made between the rise in violence and the frustrations regarding the agreement’s failure to establish a Palestinian state, amid a worsening situation in the occupied Palestinian territory marked by home demolitions, violent night raids, and staggering settlement expansion.
While a number of Palestinian women and girls were killed — 17 of whom while allegedly or actually carrying out attacks — during this time period, their numbers paled in comparison to Palestinian men and boys. Of the 235 Palestinians killed, 213 were male and 22 were female — just under one in 10 of the casualties.
Geographically speaking, the majority of Palestinian deaths — 161 to be exact — took place in the West Bank, while 36 occurred in the city of Jerusalem, 29 in the besieged Gaza Strip, and nine in Israel.
Meanwhile, 182 were originally from the West Bank, 20 were residents of occupied East Jerusalem, 29 were from Gaza, and three were Palestinian citizens of Israel. Residents of the Hebron district, amounting to 73 of the dead, constituted 31 percent of the slain Palestinians, confirming the southern West Bank district’s status as the epicenter of the wave of unrest.
Trying to quantify the circumstances in which Palestinians have died, meanwhile, has proved to be a tricky question. While a majority of cases were straightforward, with video footage or eyewitnesses able to corroborate the facts, in many instances, the official Israeli version of events when Palestinians were killed at the hands of Israeli security forces or settlers was strongly contested. In a number of cases, eyewitnesses maintained that the slain Palestinians did not constitute a threat at the time of their death, or that Israeli forces planted knives or otherwise manipulated the scene of the crime.
Due to the difficulty of ascertaining the exact circumstances of each case, Ma’an has classified attacks as “alleged” in instances when the official Israeli version of events recorded no injuries to Israelis and there were either no outside witnesses, or those witnesses contested the Israeli version of events.
Meanwhile, situations in which there were no records of outside witnesses, but where there were reports of Israeli injuries, were classified as actual attacks. This imperfect system of classification is a reflection of the murkiness which continues to permeate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on a daily basis.
Given these caveats, Ma’an’s records show the following:
– 69 Palestinians killed while committing or attempting to commit stabbing attacks
– 48 Palestinians killed while allegedly attempting to commit stabbing attack
– 62 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during clashes, police and/or army raids
– 13 Palestinians killed while committing vehicular attacks
– 8 Palestinians killed while allegedly committing vehicular attacks
– 8 Palestinians killed while committing shooting attacks
– 4 Palestinians killed while allegedly committing or attempting to commit shooting attacks
– 5 Palestinians killed while committing simultaneous shooting and stabbing attacks
– 3 Palestinians killed while committing simultaneous shooting and vehicular attacks
– 1 Palestinian killed while committing simultaneous stabbing and vehicular attack
– 2 Palestinians killed while committing attacks with incendiary or explosive devices
– 2 Palestinians killed while allegedly committing attacks with incendiary or explosive devices
– 5 Palestinians killed by airstrikes and shelling
– 5 Palestinians killed while bystanders of violence
Based off of these numbers, 122 Palestinians, or 52 percent of them, were killed while committing or allegedly committing stabbing attacks, confirming the perception of the past year being marked by small-scale attacks with knives or similar weapons.
Looking at Israeli casualties
Meanwhile, the demographic profile of Israeli victims of violence painted a different picture.
While for Israeli casualties the average age was 37, with the youngest victim being 13-year-old Hallel Ariel, the only Israeli minor killed in the wave of unrest. The most frequent ages were 19 and 21 — an unsurprising fact given that a very large proportion of Palestinian attacks targeted soldiers, who typically begin their military service at 18 years old.
However, soldiers and police officers accounted for only seven of the dead, which could be explained by the high levels of armor and protective gear worn while on duty, which most likely prevented deadly injuries from occurring in a number of attacks.
Meanwhile, 18 of the slain Israelis resided in illegal settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Settlers being less armed or armored than soldiers made them more vulnerable targets for attacks, while the restrictions on Palestinian movement outside of the occupied Palestinian territory have made Israelis living in these areas more accessible targets for Palestinians seeking to commit attacks against Israelis.
Some 24 Israelis were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, while ten others were killed in Israel. Within Israel, the coastal city of Tel Aviv was by far the most targeted, with three separate attacks killing eight Israelis — as well as one Palestinian citizen of Israel.
Gender-wise, eight of the slain Israelis were female, making 23.5 percent of casualties, with only one of them being a member of security forces.
Regarding the circumstances of death, according to Ma’an records:
– 16 Israelis were killed in stabbing attacks
– 13 Israelis were killed in shooting attacks
– 2 Israelis were killed in confirmed or alleged vehicular attacks
– 1 Israeli was killed in a simultaneous shooting and stabbing attack
– and 2 Israelis were killed by friendly fire.
While the pace of violence has significant slowed down since October 2015, the past month has seen a distinct uptick in casualties. The latest casualty, 28-year-old Naseem Abu Meizar, was killed by Israeli forces on Sept. 30, while seven Palestinians and one Jordanian were killed by Israelis in the span of five days.
Almost one year after United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a warning tying the violence in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel to the social and political impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinians, a resurgence of deadly violence remains a real possibility.
“We cannot ignore the sense of desperation that comes with the slow evaporation of hope,” Ban said at the time. “We must stop the endless, needless, and mindless cycle of suffering, and begin the hard work necessary to restore the belief that genuine progress towards peace is possible. A failure to do so will only embolden the advocates of violence and division.”