|Massive military operations following the suspected abduction of three Israeli youth; one civilian killed and over 73 injured in clashes
Large scale military operations have been ongoing since 13 June following the suspected abduction of three Israeli youth (two of them aged 16 and one 19), southwest of Bethlehem city (in Area C), with the stated objective of finding and releasing them. The three were on their way back home from the religious high schools (Yeshiva) they attend, in two Israeli settlements in the southern West Bank. While no organization has so far claimed responsibility, the Israeli authorities attributed the act to a Hamas cell.
The military activities have included massive raids, initially focused on Hebron City, but later expanded to other areas. Over the course of these raids hundreds of homes were searched, mainly in Hebron City, and the nearby villages of Taffuh, Beit Kahel, Halhul, Dura, and Beit Ummar; destruction of furniture has been reported in some cases. In one of the searches in Hebron City on 15 June,
Israeli forces reportedly exploded the main door of a house, injuring two children. In the context of these operations, Israeli forces imposed multiple access restrictions, affecting primarily Hebron residents (see section below). Overall, more than 200 Palestinians, mostly Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists and leaders (including former PLC members), were arrested as of the end of the reporting period.
Some of the operations triggered confrontations between Israeli forces and Palestinian residents, which resulted in one fatality and at least 30 injuries. On 16 June at around midnight in Al Jalazon refugee camp (Ramallah), Israeli forces shot and killed a 21 year-old Palestinian man and wounded two others during clashes that erupted following a search operation in the camp. Violent clashes in the same context were also recorded in various localities across the Hebron governorate, including in Hebron city, Halhul, Dura and Beit Ummar, as well as in Al ‘Isawiya neighborhood of East Jerusalem, Qatanna village (Jerusalem) and Nablus city.
Additional clashes were recorded this week during demonstrations held in solidarity with over 100 prisoners under Israeli administrative detention, who are on hunger strike, as well as in the regular protests against the Barrier and settlement expansion. A total of 40 Palestinians were injured in these confrontations, the majority (28) on 13 June in Al Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem, and the remaining in Hebron city, Beit Ummar, Al ‘Arrub and Halhul (Hebron), Bil’in (Ramallah) and Kafr Qaddum (Qalqiliya). Two members of Israeli forces were also injured.
Overall, 73 Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces during the reporting period, well above the weekly average of injuries since the beginning of the year (44). The majority of the injuries were sustained by rubber-coated metal bullets (24), shrapnel from sound grenades or broken windows (22). The remaining were hit by sound grenades (11), live ammunition (3), or pepper spray (4) or a tear gas canister (2) or were treated due to physical assault (5) or tear gas inhalation (2).
Movement restrictions disrupt access to services and workplaces
Since 13 June the Israeli authorities have imposed a series of movement restrictions in the context of above military operations, which have disrupted the access of Palestinians to services, markets and workplaces. The bulk of these restrictions were implemented across the Hebron governorate, with focus on Hebron city, or regarding their residents (over 680,000 people or around 25 per cent of the West Bank population, PCBS 2014 estimate).
Three of the main entrances to Hebron city have been blocked for vehicular traffic, while access through the remaining three routes (Halhul, Nabi Yunis and Al Fahs) is controlled by newly established checkpoints, where Israeli soldiers check people’s documentation and search their vehicles (as of the end of the reporting period). While this has resulted in prolonged delays, no cases of denial of access have been reported. Additional routes in the vicinity of Hebron city have been also controlled by new checkpoints, including the main entrances to Halhul, Dura and Idhna towns and Al Fawwar refugee camp, where Palestinian-plated vehicles are being stopped and inspected.
The vast majority of Hebron governorate’s residents have been subject to a series of additional movement restrictions, including preventing people from crossing the Wadi An Nar checkpoint, which controls the single route available for most Palestinians between the central and southern West Bank; the invalidation of permits to access East Jerusalem, Israel and some settlement areas; and preventing men between 20 and 50 years of age from traveling to Jordan via the Allenby Bridge.
Additionally, long delays were reported at the Qalandiya and Az Zayem checkpoints leading to East Jerusalem, both for pedestrians and cars, as well as cases of confiscation of permit for West Bank ID-holders.
In the same context, Israeli forces blocked the main entrances to the villages of ‘Izbet at Tabib, by placing an earthmound, and ‘Azzun (Qalqiliya), by closing the gate at the main entrance to the village, respectively (both in the Qalqiliya governorate), forcing over 9,500 residents to take long detours.