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Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
26 August 2013

Key issues

Four Palestinian civilians were killed and 24 injured in clashes with Israeli forces during search and arrest operations carried out in two refugee camps in the West Bank.

34 structures in East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank were demolished due to the lack of building permits, displacing 50 people. An entire Bedouin community was forced to leave East Jerusalem, where they were living since the 1950’s, following a prior demolition.

Egyptian authorities re-opened Rafah crossing for the movement of travelers in both directions, however, the majority of the Gazans are not allowed to leave.


Four civilians killed in clashes during search and arrest operations

In two separate clashes that broke out during search and arrest operations this week, Israeli forces killed four Palestinian civilians and injured another 24. A total of 76 such operations were recorded during the week, of which at least six evolved into violent clashes with local residents. This week’s incidents bring the total number of Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank this year to 13, compared to four during the equivalent period in 2012. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has raised concerns about the possible excessive use of force by Israeli security forces during the recent incidents.

In the early hours of 26 August, Israeli military and police forces conducted an arrest operation at the Qalandia Refugee Camp (Jerusalem governorate), triggering widespread clashes. During the confrontation, hundreds of local residents came out into the streets and onto rooftops, throwing stones, blocks and other objects at the Israeli forces. According to the IDF, during the incident Palestinians also shot and threw Molotov cocktails at several armored vehicles. Israeli forces responded by opening fire with live ammunition, killing three men and injuring another 19, including six minors. Among those killed was an UNRWA staff member, while another UNRWA staff member was among the injured. No casualties were reported among the Israeli forces. The IDF Military Police opened an investigation into the circumstances of the killings. At least three separate demonstrations protesting the killings were recorded in the Jerusalem area on the same day, all of which resulted in violent confrontations, but no casualties.

Another similar, violent clash was recorded earlier during the week (20 August) in Jenin Refugee Camp. During the incident, Israeli military forces used live ammunition, killing one Palestinian civilian and injuring another five; two Israeli soldiers were also injured. According to the IDF, in addition to stone throwing, Palestinians also used fire arms and improvised grenades during the clash.

Another six Palestinians were injured during the week in various incidents, including three Palestinians who were injured during weekly demonstrations in Kafr Qaddum, against the longstanding closure on one of its main access roads, and three in Bil’in, against the Barrier.

Significant decline in settler-related incidents

During the week, OCHA recorded only one incident involving Israeli settlers which resulted in Palestinian injuries or property damage, compared to a weekly average of seven incidents so far this year. This is the lowest number of such incidents recorded so far this year.

On 20 August, a group of Israelis, including settlers, entered Nablus city, escorted by Israeli soldiers, to pray at the “Tomb of Joseph” religious shrine, when they were pelted with stones by local residents. The soldiers responded by shooting tear gas canisters and rubber-coated-metal bullets, injuring a nine month-old infant, who suffered from tear gas inhalation, and a man who was hit by a rubber bullet.

Also this week, a vehicle owned by settlers living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem was set on fire by Palestinians. Various incidents involving stone and Molotov cocktail throwing at Israeli vehicles were also reported during the week, but no casualties or property damage resulted from these.


Demolitions on the rise; entire community forcibly displaced out of East Jerusalem

During the reporting period, Israeli authorities demolished 34 Palestinian-owned structures on the grounds that they lacked building permits, displacing 50 people, half of them children.

Fourteen (14) of the demolished structures were located in East Jerusalem. One of the affected sites in is an area between Al Isawiya and At Tur neighborhoods, where one residential building (comprising two households where nine people lived), one house under construction, two livelihood-related structures, and an access road, were demolished. Since February 2012, the Israeli authorities have demolished a total of five houses in this area, displacing 45 people. Many of them have continued to reside in the area, either in the remains of their previous homes or in rebuilt structures. The area has been allocated by the Jerusalem Municipality to a future “national park”. This plan has raised a number of concerns, including the reduced space that would be available for the residential development of Palestinian communities, as well as the territorial linkage that this park would create between Israeli settlements in the area, disrupting the territorial contiguity of the West Bank.

Also in East Jerusalem, in the Silwan neighborhood, Israeli authorities demolished two residential structures, four agricultural and animal sheds, a kiosk and a fence. At least 15 trees were also uprooted during the demolitions.

On 25 August, the remaining members of the Bir Nabala/ Tel al Adassa Bedouin community in East Jerusalem, along with most of its herd, left the area for the “West Bank” side of the Barrier. These developments followed last week’s demolition of all structures in the community. Initial information indicates that the affected families have temporarily dispersed into two locations. Unless community members are allowed to return to their previous location, this will be the first ‘dislocated’ community in the Jerusalem area to have been displaced in its entirety to the “West Bank” side of the Barrier.

In 2013, there has been a significant rise in demolitions and displacement in East Jerusalem. The number of people displaced this year in East Jerusalem now stands at over 200, by far the highest number since 2009, and more than the combined total of persons displaced in East Jerusalem in all of 2011 and 2012.

The remaining 20 structures demolished this week (all on 20 August), which included eight residential structures resulting in the displacement of 33 people, were located in three small Bedouin communities in Area C: Humsa Basalia and Al Jiftlik, both in the Jordan Valley, and in Al Baqa’a, in the Jerusalem governorate.

Two children shot and injured in an access restricted area

The relative calm in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel continued during the week with no reports of Palestinian rocket fire or Israeli airstrikes. However, there were several incidents affecting Palestinian civilians in the access restricted areas (ARA). In an incident on 20 August, two Palestinian children, aged 14 and 16, were shot and injured by live ammunition by Israeli forces in the ARA, east of Jabalia. According to initial information gathered by human rights organizations, Israeli soldiers positioned next to the fence ordered a group of Palestinian youngsters who were walking approximately 100 meters from the fence to stop and to then approach them. The youngsters however, began walking in the opposite direction (towards Gaza), following which the Israeli soldiers opened fire towards them.

In the ARA in the sea, the Israeli navy continued to prevent fishermen from sailing beyond six nautical miles (NM) from the coast. On at least six separate occasions, the navy opened warning fire towards fishing boats approaching or exceeding the limit. No injuries, property damage or arrests were reported.

Rafah crossing reopens; prior restrictions remain

On 24 August, following four days of full closure that followed the 19 August killing of 26 Egyptian policemen in Sinai, Egyptian authorities re-opened the Rafah crossing for the movement of travelers in both directions. However, as has been the case since 10 July 2013, only limited numbers of people, including foreign nationals and patients officially referred for medical treatment in Egypt, have been allowed to cross into Egypt. This, combined with the severe restrictions imposed by Israeli authorities on Palestinian movement via the Erez crossing, means that the vast majority of Gazans are effectively “locked in”, without any option to leave.

Since the reopening of Rafah until the end of the reporting period, a daily average of 117 people crossed into Egypt, and approximately 212 people crossed into the Gaza Strip, which is approximately 25 per cent of the equivalent figures prior to recent events in Egypt. As of last week, over 10,000 people are registered and waiting to travel to Egypt and other destinations via Egypt, including medical cases and students, according to the Border and Crossings Authority in Gaza.

Tunnel activities remain extremely limited

As a result of Egyptian measures targeting the tunnels in the past two months in the context of growing violence in the Sinai Peninsula, the volume of tunnel activities continues to remain extremely limited. As estimated last week by various local sources, a maximum of ten tunnels may currently be operational, down from approximately 50 up until mid-August. The Egyptian media reported that between 30 June and 20 August 2013, the authorities destroyed approximately 520 tunnels. As a result, it is estimated that only 20 to 30 truckloads of goods per day entered Gaza via the tunnels during the week, compared to up to 200 before the recent events. The tunnels have served as the main channel for the supply of basic construction materials as import of these materials via Israel remains restricted, as well as the primary entry point for transfer of fuel from Egypt, which is cheaper than fuel from Israel.

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