At the onset of this year’s olive harvest in the West Bank, settler violence against Palestinians and their property increased. Settlers injured four Palestinians, stole or damaged olive crops and vandalized around 250 trees this week.
Increase in settler violence
Settler violence increased again this week with the onset of the annual olive harvest.
In three separate incidents, Israeli settlers physically assaulted and injured four Palestinians, including an elderly man, while they were harvesting their olives near the villages of Jit and Jinsafut in the Qalqiliya governorate and Awarta in the Nablus governorate. In another five incidents, resulting in no injuries, settlers attacked Palestinian farmers during the olive harvest and damaged or stole their crops. All of these incidents occurred on Palestinian-owned land located in the vicinity of Israeli settlements, during times which had been allocated by the Israeli authorities to allow farmers to access their land and harvest their olive crop. In some of the incidents, Israeli forces intervened and removed the settlers, allowing farmers to resume their work. Also, settlers set fire, cut down and uprooted around 250 olive, fig and almond trees belonging to Palestinians in the Bethlehem and Nablus governorates. There have been no reports of compensation for these acts of violence.
Also this week, seven other Palestinians, including three children (aged between 12 and 14 years), an elderly man and two women, were injured after being stoned or physically assaulted by settlers in the Ramallah and Nablus governorates. In a separate incident, Palestinian eyewitnesses reported that settlers from Tuqu’ settlement sprayed grazing land near the settlement with chemicals that subsequently caused the death of six sheep and injured ten others belonging to Palestinian herders (Bethlehem governorate). During the week, there were also a number of stone-throwing incidents by settlers that led to the damage of three Palestinian vehicles in the Jerusalem and Qalqiliya governorates.
Violence remains low
Violence inside the Gaza Strip and southern Israel remained at a low level during the week, with no reports of injuries or damage to property. Israeli forces opened fire towards farmers present near the fence separating Israel and the Gaza Strip, while Palestinian armed factions fired a number of rockets towards southern Israel. On 10 October, however, an alleged member of an armed Palestinian faction was killed in northern Gaza while he was handling an explosive device, which exploded prematurely.
Israeli restrictions on Palestinian access to areas up to 1,500 meters from the fence (which is 1,200 meters beyond the 300 meters that Israel has officially announced) continue to hinder the livelihoods of thousands of people. In at least four separate incidents, Israeli forces opened warning fire towards farmers working their land near the fence, forcing them to leave their fields. Restrictions on access to sea beyond three nautical miles from the shore also continue to affect the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Palestinian fishermen. During the week, the Israeli Navy opened fire towards Palestinian fishing boats on at least three occasions, forcing them ashore.
Tunnels continue to claim lives
On 5 October, a Palestinian worker died of wounds he sustained on 24 September, while working inside a tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt border. Also, Egyptian Security Forces discovered and detonated four tunnels during the reporting period, resulting in no injuries. Since the beginning of 2011, 28 Palestinians have been killed and 50 others injured in tunnel-related incidents, including air strikes, tunnel collapses and electrocution. While tunnel activity has declined since the Israeli decision to ease the blockade on 20 June 2010, it remains a main source for the transfer of construction materials that are still restricted through the official crossings with Israel, as well as fuel, which is significantly cheaper to buy from Egypt than from Israel.