|One Palestinian child killed and around 50 Palestinians|
injured by Israeli forces in clashes in Bethlehem
The increased incidence of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces continued this week. In the largest incident, on 16 January, clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces at the entrance of Ayda refugee camp near Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem resulted in injury to over 50 Palestinians (two injured by rubber-coated metal bullets and the rest by tear gas inhalation). Two days later, in another clash in the same location, Israeli forces fired live ammunition, injuring a 16-year old boy, who later died of his wounds on 23 January (outside the reporting period).
On 18 January, six Palestinians, including a child, were injured during an anti-Barrier demonstration in Budrus village (Ramallah) that evolved into clashes with Israeli forces. This protest was in relation to last week’s killing of a 17 year old boy from this village in an incident near the Barrier. Five other Palestinians, including two children, along with an Israeli soldier, were injured in two weekly protests in Kafr Qaddum (Qalqiliya) and An Nabi Saleh (Ramallah). The first was held in protest against the longstanding closure of the village’s entrance and the second in protest against the expansion of the nearby Hallamish settlement.
Two other Palestinians were injured during a search-and-arrest operation conducted by nIsraeli undercover unit in Biddu village (Jerusalem). A total of 48 search-and-arrest operations were recorded during the week.
Latest developments: Initial reports indicate that on 23 January, a 22 year-old woman was killed by live ammunition fired by Israeli forces at the entrance to Al Aroub refugee camp in Hebron governorate. More details to follow next week. She is the fourth Palestinian killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank since the beginning of 2013.
More than 280 olive saplings and trees uprooted in settler attacks
In the course of the week, OCHA recorded six incidents in which Israeli settlers damaged Palestinian property, slightly below the weekly average of seven settler incidents (resulting in Palestinian injuries or property damage) recorded in 2012.
Three of this week’s six attacks took place in the Bethlehem governorate, an area that is not normally prone to settler violence; less than 10 per cent of all settler attacks recorded by OCHA in 2012 occurred in this area. The three incidents during the week affected farmers from Al Khader village, involving the uprooting of 190 olive saplings, 45 olive trees and 50 grape vines. The latter occurred during the opening of a dirt road connecting Neve Daniel settlement with a nearby outpost. Also in Bethlehem area, on 16 January, an Israeli boy was injured when Palestinians threw stones at Israeli vehicles passing by Tuqu’town; following this incident, Israeli forces conducted a search operation and clashed with youth in the town, with no injuries reported.
Several additional incidents not resulting in injuries or property damage were also recorded in the course of the week in the Nablus area. On 17 January, an Israeli settler from Mevo Dotan settlement blocked a road with his car and verbally assaulted Palestinians that attempted to pass; according to eye witnesses, Israeli forces observed the incident without intervening. In another incident (on 19 January), a group of settlers from Yitzhar settlement attempted to enter the village of ‘Urif but were, in this instance, prevented from doing so by Israeli soldiers. On 20 January, a group of settlers from Itamar settlement, accompanied by Israeli forces, raided Osarin village and searched several houses, claiming they were looking for lost sheep.
Also this week, Palestinians threw a Molotov cocktail at an Israeli settler bus travelling along Road 60, near the Sha’ar Binyamin settlement industrial area (Ramallah). No injuries or damage were reported.
Over 100 structures demolished in Area C,
displacing around 180 Palestinians
A surge in demolitions was recorded during the week in Area C, where the Israeli authorities demolished over 100 Palestinian-owned structures, including residential and livelihood structures. Most of the targeted structures were located in the Jordan Valley, in areas designated as “firing zones”for military training. Around 180 people were displaced as a result. This is one of the highest numbers of demolitions and displacement recorded in a single week in recent years and a sharp increase compared to the weekly average of 12 demolitions in 2012.
On 17 January, the Israeli authorities demolished a total of 48 structures, including residences, animal shelters and two water tanks in the Bedouin communities of Hammamat el Maleh and Al Maleh al Meitah in the Jordan Valley. Consequently, approximately ten households comprising around 60 people, including 37 children, were displaced. Those families were affected again on 19 January when the Israeli authorities demolished 32 emergency tents provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Palestinian Ministry of Local Government, following displacement on 17 January. During 2012, these two communities were also repeatedly evacuated by Israeli forces to make way for military training in the area; overall, in 2012 over 230 Palestinian families, mostly in the northern Jordan Valley, were temporarily displaced due to military training conducted by the Israeli military in and around their communities.
Also in the Jordan Valley, on 16 January, the Israeli authorities demolished five residential structures, three kitchens and three latrines in Al Mashru’Bedouin community (Jericho), displacing four households comprising around 30 people, including approximately 20 children. Additionally, on 21 January, four residential tents, an animal shelter, a kitchen and a latrine were demolished in the Khirbet ar Rahwah area (near Dhahiriya town in Hebron), displacing four families comprising 29 people, including 20 children.
The remaining demolitions recorded this week included a water cistern (in Ad Dheirat, Hebron), and an electricity pole (in the al Makhrour area in Bethlehem).
Following last week’s eviction of Palestinian activists from a tent compound (named Bab ash Shams), this week Israeli forces dismantled and removed the tents left on the site. The compound was established in protest against the Israeli plan to build thousands of housing units as part of the ‘E1’settlement plan, located between East Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim settlement. A similar tent compound (named Al Karamah), was established by Palestinian activists this week in an area of Beit Iksa village (Jerusalem) which has been seized by the Israeli authorities for the rerouting of the Barrier. This tent compounded was also dismantled and removed by the Israeli authorities.
Four Palestinian civilians injured; ceasefire agreement holds
The overall situation inside the Gaza Strip remains relatively calm, with no reports of air strikes or Palestinian rockets in the two months since the announcement of the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas on 21 November. However, during the week four civilians were injured in incidents related to the Israeli restrictions on Palestinian access to land and sea.
In four incidents during the week (on 18, 19 and 21 January), Israeli forces opened fire at Palestinians gathering, collecting scrap metal or working the land near the fence separating Israel and the Gaza Strip. As a result, four Palestinians were injured, including two children (2 and 17). The children were injured in two separate incidents at a location situated between 600-1,000 meters from the fence. There were reports of a number of incidents of Israeli forces opening fire at Palestinian farmers working their land, although no casualties were reported. Since the announcement of the ceasefire, Palestinians have been allowed to access areas up to 300 meters from the fence by vehicle, and up to 100 meters by foot.
Similarly, the Israeli authorities continue to restrict access to fishing areas beyond six nautical miles from the coast. The area delineated by the new six nautical mile limit is twice the size of the area that was permitted prior to the cease-fire announcement. On seven occasions this week, Israeli naval forces opened fire towards Palestinian fishing boats within the new six nautical mile limit, forcing them ashore. At least one fishing vessel sustained damage.
Three killed in tunnel collapse
On 16 and 17 January, two Palestinian workers were found dead in a tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt border that had collapsed almost a week before, as a result of rainfall during the 7 to 10 January winter storm. In two other incidents on 19 January, another worker died and one was injured when two tunnels collapsed. Since the beginning of 2013, four workers were killed and six others injured in tunnel collapses. In 2012, at least eight workers were killed and 25 others injured in various tunnel-related incidents. Tunnels, some of which are poorly built, remain the main source for the transfer of certain goods into the Gaza Strip, including construction materials and fuel, which are either restricted from entering Israeli-controlled crossings, or purchased at cheaper prices from Egypt.