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“Collective Punishment”: As Gaza Assault Continues, Israel Ramps Up Violence in Occupied West Bank

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As the death toll in Gaza tops 34,000 Palestinians killed since October 7, Israeli forces and settlers have continued to ramp up violence in the occupied West Bank. The army killed at least 14 people during a two-day raid on the Nur Shams refugee camp near the city of Tulkarm over the weekend, and separately killed a Palestinian ambulance driver near Nablus as he was trying to reach Palestinians injured in an attack by Jewish settlers. Ramallah-based writer Mariam Barghouti says the Israeli military and armed settlers “are trying to continue the illegal annexation of lands in the West Bank” and says Israel is deliberately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, just as in Gaza, to make life unbearable. She also responds to reports that the Biden administration is preparing to sanction the Netzah Yehuda battalion, a notorious unit within the Israeli military composed of ultra-Orthodox soldiers that is accused of carrying out human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank. “It should not be against a select few. This entire regime is engaging in crimes against humanity, and it is U.S.-sponsored. It is being paid for by American tax dollars.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

We turn now to the occupied West Bank, where Palestinians staged a general strike Sunday after Israeli forces killed at least 14 people during a raid that lasted more than 50 hours on the Nur Shams refugee camp near the city of Tulkarm. The residents of Nur Shams said the Israeli siege left the refugee camp uninhabitable.

AHMAD AL-AZZEH: [translated] Seeing it is not like hearing about it. You can see with your eyes what happened: destruction, Gaza number two. What happened is that they left no trees, nor people, nor stones. It is unbearable, uninhabitable by humans. What happened is destruction. Destruction. They turned the camp into something uninhabitable. It is terrible.

AMY GOODMAN: In a separate attack, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society reports Israeli settlers shot dead a Palestinian ambulance driver south of Nablus as he was trying to reach Palestinians injured during a raid by Jewish settlers.

For more, we go to Ramallah, to Mariam Barghouti, Palestinian writer and journalist. Her recent op-ed for Al Jazeera is headlined “Palestinians and the world must not lose hope.”

Mariam, welcome back to Democracy Now! If you can explain what happened over the weekend, not only — just in the occupied West Bank overall?

MARIAM BARGHOUTI: Thanks for having me back, Amy.

So, what we have seen in the West Bank, across the weekend and in general and in this month, is an intensification and escalation by the Israeli military, as well as armed Israeli settlers, that are trying to continue the illegal annexation of lands in the West Bank. The concentration of these attacks, as we have seen earlier, have been in Tulkarm and Jenin, which is north of the West Bank. And that is because there is few youth groups that are engaging in armed confrontation. But as you have seen, the Israeli military, just as it is conducting in Gaza, is trying to focus on the attack of the civilian infrastructure. It is making any life for Palestinians unbearable, and it is using excessive violence and slaughter to do so. So, what we are seeing is a disregard for Palestinian lives. And we are seeing it happen in the most brutal and savage ways, that I don’t think any of us really could have imagined.

And over the weekend, Palestinians went on a strike, yesterday, in mourning of 14 Palestinians killed in one of the longest siege being conducted by the Israeli military on Nur Shams refugee camp. This is an attack on Palestinians that were already displaced from their homes in 1948 only to have the same army come back and attack the generations that came afterwards that chose to fight for life. Fourteen were killed, and of those, two were children, which is on brand for Israel. A fifth of all Palestinians killed in the West Bank were children, as we have seen in Gaza, where nearly half of all Palestinians killed are children and minors.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the significance of Nur Shams, the refugee camp there in Tulkarm?

MARIAM BARGHOUTI: The significance of Tulkarm and Nur Shams is like the significance of Jenin refugee camp, is like the significance of the Old City in Nablus, in that it allows for youth who have refused to be silenced, who have witnessed the brutality engaged against them, from arrests under administrative detention by the Israeli military to the continuation of Israeli settler attacks. So, you have the Nur Shams Brigade, and you have the Jenin Brigade, which is youth with very humble weapons, that are no match — no match — for Israel’s nuclear army, who have chosen to confront the Israeli military.

And we need to keep in mind that the Israeli military went and engaged in an offensive, in an attack on the refugee camp, and these youth engaged in confrontation to try and protect the refugee camp from the destruction. And what Israel did is go ahead and greenlight an attack on the civilian infrastructure in order to punish Palestinians in a punitive and collective measure, which, again, is part of Israel’s policy in order to ensure the pushing out of Palestinians, in order to ensure the erasure of Palestinian existence and to create the space to replace them by Israeli settlers.

AMY GOODMAN: Mariam, the Biden administration is reportedly preparing to issue sanctions on Netzah Yehuda, an ultra-Orthodox Israeli military unit accused of committing human rights abuses against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, has vowed to fight any sanctions on the battalion. The Guardian reports soldiers from the unit were accused in the death last year of Omar Assad, a 78-year-old U.S. citizen who died of a heart attack after being detained, bound, gagged, then abandoned by members of the unit. Can you tell us more about them?

MARIAM BARGHOUTI: I mean, I think, in this regard, it’s really fruitless to give more attention to the Biden administration’s symbolic gestures, that are very hollow. Likewise, Benjamin Netanyahu is corrupt, known for corruption, has engaged in crimes against humanity. These sanctions mean nothing in light of the billions of dollars that the U.S. Congress just approved for Israel in support, again, for this military that is conducting crimes against humanity.

And in regards to sanctions in order to preserve citizenship rights — right? — the dual citizen, let’s go back to Shireen Abu Akleh, who was a journalist, was wearing a press vest that had the press insignia on it, and still was shot and killed on May 11th, 2022, by the Israeli military. And until now, no accountability was held — none — for Shireen Abu Akleh, who was press, who was a dual citizen with the United States and Palestinian. So, the Biden administration is really trying to scurry, using these words like “sanctions,” while putting amendments of it’s against a select few. It should not be against a select few. This entire regime is engaging in crimes against humanity, and it is U.S.-sponsored. It is being paid for by American tax dollars. And the U.S. is also sending soldiers on the ground to engage in these crimes. So I think these are just hollow.

AMY GOODMAN: I also wanted to get your response to the breaking news that Israel’s chief of military intelligence has resigned. Major General Aharon Haliva is the first senior Israeli official to resign over Hamas’s October 7th attack on Israel. In a statement, he said his office, quote, “did not live up to the task we were entrusted with.” Many see this as a direct hit on Benjamin Netanyahu, calling for him to resign, as well.

MARIAM BARGHOUTI: I think Haliva’s resignation again is telling of how the Israeli security institution is failing. It has constantly tried to showcase to the world that it is an institution that provides national security, when it is an institution that perpetuates crimes of persecution and apartheid. And what is happening now is his resignation is an attempt to evade future accountability as a commander or as a senior position in this institution of repression and abuse. So, again, what I see as an evasion of accountability for what is to come, because Israel is committing and engaging in crimes of genocide, in not just Gaza but in the West Bank and as well as against Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, where the Israeli police shot and killed four Palestinians with Israeli citizenship so far.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Mariam Barghouti, I wanted to ask you about the attack on journalists. You mentioned Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed May 11th, 2022 — May 11th, 2022 or ’23, was it?

MARIAM BARGHOUTI: ’22.

AMY GOODMAN: '23, 2023 [sic]. The memorial — 2022. But I wanted to ask you about the other journalists. I mean, it's about 100 Palestinian journalists who have been killed since October 7th.

MARIAM BARGHOUTI: Thank you for asking that, Amy. The numbers are actually higher than that. It’s closer to 135 Palestinian media personnel being attacked and killed since October 7th by the Israeli military. And this is really important, because what Israel is doing is targeting journalists. It is not accidental. It is a strategic attack with precision in order to attempt and control the narrative of what is happening on the ground. And, you know, as Palestinian journalists, there’s not a lot, right? There’s few media personnel. So, this attack is very dangerous, because the more and more we’re risking our lives, the more and more we’re getting killed, with the impunity being provided to Israel, then more and more it is able to try and control the narrative and dub its attack and its attempt at erasing Palestinians as self-defense, when it is de facto the slaughter and ethnic cleansing of a population under the pretext of defense.

AMY GOODMAN: Mariam Barghouti, I want to thank you for being with us, Palestinian journalist in the occupied West Bank, in Ramallah. We’ll link to your piece at Al Jazeera, “Palestinians and the world must not lose hope.”

Next up, investigative journalist James Bamford on how the NSA wants carte blanche for warrantless surveillance. We’ll talk about the FISA bill that passed amidst a great deal of opposition. Back in 20 seconds.

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