JERUSALEM (AFP) – More than one third of the Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in 2007 were civilians who were not involved in hostilities, an Israeli human rights group said in a report released on Monday.
“In 2007, about 35 percent of those killed were civilians who were not taking part in the hostilities when killed,” said the report by the B’Tselem organisation.
Out of the 373 Palestinians killed, 131, or some 35 percent, were civilians who were not involved in fighting, the report said — a decrease of 19 percentage points from the 2006 figure of 54 percent.
The number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in 2007 nearly halved compared to the previous year — 373 died up to December 29 this year, while 657 were killed in 2006, it said.
The majority of the Palestinians who died by Israeli fire in 2007 were killed in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas — an Islamist movement pledged to Israel’s destruction — violently seized power in June.
Since then, Israel has launched regular air and ground operations in the densely populated Palestinian territory aimed at stopping the near daily firing of rockets and mortars from the territory.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said she could not immediately comment on the report because the army had not yet received a copy of it.
The report also said that 2007 saw a “deterioration in many other measures of the human rights situation in the occupied territories. The primary one is the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, which has declined to an all time low, following Israelآs siege on the area.”
Following Hamas’s seizing of power, Israel in September declared Gaza a “hostile entity,” upping restrictions on the movement of goods and people to the impoverished territory.
On the Israeli side, seven civilians were killed this year by militants, three of them in a suicide bombing attack in the Red Sea report town of Eilat in January, two in rocket attacks on the town of Sderot near Gaza, and two by gunfire in the occupied West Bank.
Six members of Israel’s security forces were also killed in 2007, including two off-duty soldiers shot dead in Friday near the West Bank town of Hebron.