As Israel carries out its current genocidal assault of Gaza, it has dramatically escalated violence in the West Bank, where the Israeli occupation killed Palestinians last year at a pace not seen in modern history of the region, a new UN report finds.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 2023 was the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the agency began recording deaths in 2005, with over 507 Palestinians recorded killed. It was also the deadliest year for children in the region, with 124 recorded killings of Palestinian children. In that same time, 36 Israelis, including six Israeli children, were killed in the region.
There were also 1,225 incidents involving Israeli settlers that involved casualties, property damage, or both, in the West Bank in 2023, which is the highest number ever recorded by the OCHA.
Last year’s death toll in the West Bank was more than triple the previous recorded high set in 2022, in which 146 Palestinians were killed amid Israeli settler violence, including Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
Before Israel’s current Gaza campaign began in October, Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were already on track to experience the deadliest year in nearly a decade, with at least 100 Palestinians killed in Israeli raids.
Israel then intensified its attacks on the West Bank while razing Gaza, killing hundreds more in less than three months as the military conducted raids of residential areas and refugee camps and attacked hospitals holding the wounded. According to a recent report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, between October 7 and December 27, Israeli settler attacks in the West Bank surged from an average of three per day to six per day.
Many attacks focused on the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, with Israeli forces raiding homes in search of supposed “terrorists” and killing refugee camp residents, including children and paramedics. Such raids have long been commonplace in the West Bank and Gaza, but Palestinians and aid groups have noted that attacks in the West Bank are now coming at a much faster pace.
At the same time, Israel has been drastically increasing its campaign of detaining and torturing Palestinians, arresting them without charges, and beating, stripping and humiliating them while in custody. Israeli forces have arrested thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank — and, during the temporary pause in Israel’s bombardment in Gaza in November, it arrested more Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem than it released as part of the prisoner exchange.
Israeli officials and U.S. media have endlessly sought to justify Israel’s massacre in Gaza as a campaign to dismantle Hamas. But the West Bank is overseen by a governing body nearly completely separate from Hamas and Gaza governance.
The escalation of violence in the West Bank, then, lends evidence to the argument that Israel is not seeking to eliminate Hamas, as officials claim, but rather to continue its violent settler-colonialism in the West Bank and its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Gaza. This argument is bolstered by decades of violent occupation and apartheid by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza that has often gone overlooked in recent media coverage.