Settler-related incidents: Israeli family killed in a settlement
On 11 March, at close to midnight, five members of an Israeli family, including two boys of eleven and three years of age, and a three-month-old infant girl, were stabbed to death while sleeping in their home in Itamar settlement in the Nablus governorate. The UN Secretary General Bahn Ki-moon strongly condemned the killings, and called “for the perpetrators to be brought to justice, and for all to act with restraint.”
Following the incident, Israeli military forces deployed in the neighbouring village of ‘Awarta, which was placed under curfew until 16 March, and conducted large-scale operations in the village and the surrounding areas in search of the assailants. Dozens of Palestinians were taken for interrogation in connection to the killings. In addition, large numbers of flying checkpoints were erected throughout the Nablus governorate and intensive vehicular searches in the area were reported, as well as general restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in the northern West Bank. Security forces of the Palestinian Authority have reportedly launched an investigation into the fatal incident. (See also next section) Israeli forces were also deployed in several areas throughout the West Bank to contain attempts by Israeli settlers to attack Palestinians and their property, in reprisal to the killings. Despite these efforts, during the three days following the incident, OCHA recorded 32 incidents perpetrated by settlers that resulted in injuries to Palestinians (eight) or damage to their property (24). In the immediate aftermath of the Itamar killings, Israeli settlers rioted in the village of ‘Awarta, setting fire to tires and assaulting an 18-year-old Palestinian. Additionally, incidents of settler stone-throwing and vandalism were reported in the Ramallah, Nablus, Qalqiliya, and Hebron governorates, resulting in 13 Palestinian injuries and damage to tens of vehicles, several homes and other private and commercial structures.
In the days before the killings in Itamar, there was already a sharp increase in the number of settler incidents, beginning on 3 March, when Israeli settlers held a “day of rage” in protest of the demolition of a number of structures in the Havat Gilad settlement outpost by the Israeli authorities, during which they rioted and blocked major roads and intersections throughout the West Bank. Overall, during the two-week reporting period, there were ten incidents involving Israeli settlers that resulted in 15 injuries to Palestinians, and 34 additional incidents resulting in damage to Palestinian property.
Palestinian village placed under military curfew for five days
Immediately following the killings in the Itamar settlement, the Israeli forces searched homes in the nearby Palestinian village of ‘Awarta, and ordered all men under 40 to be gathered at the school and the mosque of the village for interrogation; at least 43 villagers were arrested. The village was placed under curfew for a period of five days, during which time people were not allowed to leave their homes to buy food, children were not allowed to attend school, and ambulances entering the village were delayed. While at one point, some villagers mistakenly believed the curfew to have been lifted, broke the curfew to buy food and other items from a small shop in the village. Others villagers reportedly ran out of food, fuel, and medicine, and the Nablus Governor’s office had to distribute bread and non food items to village residents. In addition, during the time of curfew, Israeli settlers erected an outpost on 15 dunums of privately-owned village land.
65 Palestinian injured by Israeli forces
During the two-week reporting period, Israeli forces injured 65 Palestinians, including 25 children, in various incidents throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; three Israeli policemen were also reportedly injured. Thus far in 2011, Israeli forces have killed five Palestinians in the West Bank and injured 271 others.
As in previous periods, a large number of the Palestinian injuries (28, including 16 children) occurred in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan during clashes that erupted between local residents and the Israeli Police. Two Israeli border policemen and one Israeli settler were hit and injured with stones thrown by Palestinians during the clashes.
Moreover, during the reporting period, 10 Palestinians were arrested from Silwan, including seven children between 12 and 17 years of age. Violence and clashes in this area are taking place in the context of protests against settler activity in the neighborhood, as well as the threat of mass house demolitions by the Jerusalem Municipality.
Another 11 Palestinians, including five children, sustained their injuries during the week in clashes that occurred during regular weekly demonstrations protesting the isolation of land by the Barrier, in Ni’lin and Bil’in villages (Ramallah), and settlement expansion and take over of land in Deir Nidham (Ramallah) and Beit Ummar (Hebron) villages.
Most of the remaining Palestinian injuries by Israeli forces (19) occurred in incidents where Israeli troops intervened during clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians. Of note, on one occasion on 7 March, a group of Israeli settlers from Yash Adam outpost (near Shilo settlement) uprooted olive seedlings from land in the village of Qusra (Nablus). When the Palestinian village residents confronted the settlers, clashes occurred. Israeli forces intervened, firing live ammunition, rubbercoated--bullets and tear gas grenades at the Palestinians. As a result, eight civilians, including three children, were injured, most of them with live ammunition.
Demolitions and displacement
During the reporting period, 65 structures in the Hebron and Nablus governorates were demolished, resulting in a total of 119 people displaced, including 42 children. An additional 204 people were affected by the demolitions. In addition, a Palestinian family living in Sur Bahir in East Jerusalem self-demolished part of their home, following orders to do so from the Jerusalem Municipality, resulting in four people being displaced.
All of those displaced by demolitions are from the community of Khirbet Tana east of Beit Furik village (Nablus), in which Israeli forces demolished 26 residential structures and 25 animal shelters on 2 March, on the grounds that the community is located in an area declared closed for military training. An additional 22 families consisting of 163 members, including 62 children, were also affected by the demolitions. This is the fifth time Khirbet Tana has faced extensive demolitions since January 2010, and the sixth time since 2005.
In the Hebron governorate, the Israeli authorities demolished a water cistern in Al Ba’qa, a cave, an animal pen and two tents in Khashem ad Daraj, and an animal barrack in Beit Ummar. All of the structures were demolished due to lack of Israeli-issued .building permits. A total of 41 persons, including seven children were affected.
Since the beginning of 2011 153 structures have been demolished in Area C, resulting in the displacement of 278 people including 124 children.
No casualties reported
Although airstrikes, shooting incidents and rocket fire continued intermittently during the two-week reporting period, no deaths or injuries were reported. This follows an escalation during the previous reporting period, when two Palestinian fatalities and 22 injuries were recorded.
On 4 and 5 March, Israeli forces launched several air strikes, with a number of targets, including a vehicle allegedly carrying Hamas members, a Hamas training camp, and several other commercial structures, resulting in property damage. Also during the period, Palestinian armed factions launched a number of rockets at various sites in southern Israel., No injuries or damage to property were reported.
Access restrictions continued to be enforced in areas of up to 1500 meters near the Gaza fence and on fishing zones beyond three nautical miles from the shore, with Israeli forces reportedly opening fire on several occasions towards farmers working in their fields, and on Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of Gaza. No injuries were reported in any of these incidents.
Six Palestinians killed in tunnel-related incidents
In nine separate incidents, six Palestinians were killed and ten others injured in tunnel-related incidents. Since the beginning of 2011, eight Palestinians have been killed and 24 others have been injured in such incidents. While the overall number of operating tunnels has declined since the Israeli decision to ease the blockade on 20 June 2010, the number of those dedicated to the smuggling of building materials, whose import remained restricted, increased.
Between 2 and 15 March, 980 Palestinians crossed into Gaza and 2,426 left for Egypt through the Rafah Crossing. However, 367 people, mainly students and visa holders were denied entry to Egypt for unclear reasons .