|Israeli forces kill the two people suspected of the killing of three Israeli youths in June
On 23 September, in a military operation carried out in Hebron city, Israeli forces killed two Palestinian men, suspects in the June 2014 abduction and killing of three Israeli youths near Bethlehem. The operation involved an exchange of fire with the suspects, as well as the Israeli forces’ explosion and bulldozing of the building where the two were hiding. The building was set on fire and partially destroyed.
Other clashes with Israeli forces during the week resulted in the injury of 28 Palestinians, including 11 children. While this is nearly double the number of injuries recorded during the previous week (15), it remains well below the weekly average since the beginning of the year. According to Israeli media reports, six Israeli policemen were injured this week by stone throwing, all in the Old City of East Jerusalem.
Six of this week’s violent incidents occurred within, or next to educational facilities, disrupting classes and resulting in injuries. The gravest incident took place on 24 September when, following claims of stone throwing by Palestinian students, Israeli forces fired rubber bullets towards the Dar al Aytam School in the Old City of Jerusalem, injuring three children, all in the upper parts of their body, including one in the head. On four different days, Israeli forces stationed near Al Khadr secondary school (Bethlehem) fired tear gas canisters towards students as they were leaving the school premises, allegedly following stone throwing by students. Also, on 24 September, the Zeita Secondary School evacuated its 350 students, following the firing of tear gas canisters by Israeli forces in the context of clashes with Palestinians allegedly involved in stone throwing by the Zeita Barrier gate (Tulkarem) near the school.
In two separate incidents on 24 September, clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians erupted in Al Aqsa Mosque compound and near Bab Hutta area of the Old City of Jerusalem, in the context of protests against Israeli settlers’ entry into the compound as well as restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities on Palestinians’ access to the mosque. In the mosque compound, ten Palestinians, mostly elderly, were injured as a result of firing of rubber bullets, sound grenades and tear gas into the compound by Israeli forces, and according to Israeli media, five Israeli policemen were injured as a result of stone throwing. Nine Palestinians were arrested. On 29 September Israeli forces arrested three Palestinians for verbally protesting against the Israeli settlers’ entry into the compound.
Israeli restrictions on Palestinian access into the compound continue to be imposed based on age, gender and occurrence of religious holidays. During the week, Israeli forces prevented men below the age of 45-50 from gaining access to Al Aqsa Mosque compound on two different days, and on five occasions restricted access of all Palestinians, whilst settlers and other Israeli groups, protected by Israeli forces, entered and toured the yards. Since 2013, the entry of Israeli settlers into the mosque compound has increased from weekly to semi-daily visits, leading to associated clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians.
During the reporting period, Israeli forces arrested 111 Palestinians in the course of 85 search and arrest operations, compared to a weekly average of 90 since the beginning of the year, resulting in 220 casualties.
Low levels of settler violence continue
Low levels of settler violence continue during the week, there were two incidents of settler violence, one resulting in injury and the other in damage to Palestinian property. In the first incident, on 22 September, a 25-year-old Palestinian was physically assaulted and injured by a group of settlers as he got out of a bus serving settlements, at the Ariel settlement bus stop (Salfit). In the other incident, on 23 September, stone throwing by settlers near Yitzhar junction resulted in damages to a Palestinian vehicle.
On 24 September, Israeli settlers leveled and excavated plots of cultivated land next to Jalud village (Nablus), in an area that requires prior coordination for access of Palestinian farmers. According to the Village Council, water pipes were installed between the settlement outposts of Ahiya and Esh Kodesh.
Community sources reported a failed attempt to kidnap an 11-year-old Palestinian child, by settlers near Gethsemane in East Jerusalem; the boy was subsequently detained by Israeli forces. This brings the total number of such reports since June in East Jerusalem to five, excluding the kidnapping and killing of a 16-year-old boy on 2 July 2014.
According to Israeli media sources, during the week, there were 12 incidents resulting in damage to settler vehicles, compared to a weekly average of six incidents recorded since the beginning of the year. All incidents were the result of stone throwing by Palestinians in Bethlehem, East Jerusalem, and Ramallah, with the exception of two incidents which involved Molotov cocktail throwing in Ramallah governorate. In addition, two incidents of stone throwing towards the light rail in Shu’fat (East Jerusalem) were recorded.
Additionally, according to Israeli media reports, Palestinians damaged several tombstones in the Jewish cemetery in At Tur area of East Jerusalem. This followed an incident on 21 September, when the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority accompanied by Israeli forces, demolished 30 Palestinian graves near Lion Gate just outside the Old City walls. According to the Head of the Jerusalem Committee for Islamic Cemeteries, the graves are located on Waqf land immediately adjacent to Al Yousifieh cemetery.
Nine demolitions recorded in the West Bank
During the week, Israeli authorities demolished six structures, in addition to three structures that were self-demolished, bringing the number of structures demolished since the beginning of the year to 464 compared to 529 in the same period in 2013. Six of the structures were located in Area C, two in East Jerusalem and one in the Palestinian controlled part of Hebron city (H1). The demolitions resulted in the displacement of 34 Palestinians, including 20 children, and affected around 440 others including at least 150 children.
The structure in Hebron City was a multi-level commercial/residential building in the University neighborhood, which was partially destroyed during the Israeli military operation of 23 September (see above). During the operation, Israeli forces used bulldozer(s), and explosives, which resulted in severe damage to an apartment in the building, displacing a family of five, including two children, and affecting175 people. Three other levels were caught on fire, which accelerated due to the nature of material in the shops in the building, including shoe-making workshops, a carpentry workshop. Losses are estimated at NIS 1.2 million.
The same day, in East Jerusalem, a Palestinian family was forced to self-demolish a residential roof in a five-storey building in Beit Hanina for the lack of building permit, displacing a refugee family comprising eight people, including six children. The family also agreed to seal the fourth floor, to avoid demolition, which will displace two other refugee households (20 people including 13 children). Also in East Jerusalem, on 29 September, the Israeli Ministry of Interior demolished three stories of a five-storey structure, belonging to a Palestinian family, due to lack of Israeli-issued building permits. The building is in an area of Abu Dis located within the Israeli-defined municipal boundary of Jerusalem, but on the West Bank side of the Barrier. As a result, two non-refugee families who still reside on the first two floors were affected, comprising 11 people, including seven children.
On 24 September, the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) demolished and confiscated three residential tents belonging to three refugee families in Al Luban al Gharbi village (Ramallah) for being built without Israeli-issued permits in Area C. As a result, 21 people, including 12 children, were displaced. Since the beginning of the year, the ICA has been increasingly using confiscation procedures in Area C, as an alternative to demolition, targeting “removable” structures. This procedure is faster as, unlike demolition orders, it does not require the issuance of prior warnings nor does it entitle the owner to appeal the order.
On 29 September, the ICA dismantled the electricity network, including 69 electrical poles and around 3,500 meters of wire, in the community of Tell al Khashaba (Nablus), rendering 22 families without electricity. The community is located in an area closed for military training, or “firing zone”, in Area C. Stop work orders for the electricity network were originally delivered in 2008. The electricity network was funded by an international donor and implemented by the municipality of Aqraba. The damage is estimated at around 200,000 NIS. Of note, access of the community to water is likely to be impacted as the extraction of water from some water cisterns in the community requires electricity. Additionally, seven demolition and stop work orders were delivered on 29 September, on grounds of lack of Israeli-issued building permits in Area C. The orders target five residential houses in Wadi An Nis (Bethlehem) and two kindergartens serving the children of the Abu Nuwar Bedouin community (Jerusalem). The latter is one of the Bedouin communities at risk of forcible transfer in the central West Bank in the context of an Israeli “relocation” plan.
Ceasefire continues to hold
The ceasefire agreed on 26 August, largely continues to hold, with no reported rocket or airstrikes coming into or emanating from the Gaza Strip or Israel. However, several incidents involving opening of fire by Israeli forces took place, in the context of access restrictions along Gaza’s perimeter fence as well as at sea.
In two incidents on 28 and 29 September, two Palestinians, including a farmer, who was reportedly working on his land, were shot and injured by Israeli forces, north of Beit Lahia, 300 meters from the fence.
In another two incidents on 23 and 26 September, Israeli forces positioned near the fence opened fire towards an agricultural area east of Khan Younis and towards north of Beit Lahia, respectively. No injuries were reported, but farmers were compelled to leave the area.
At sea, on two occasions this week, Israeli naval forces opened warning fire towards Palestinian fishing boats approaching or exceeding the six nautical mile fishing limit, forcing them ashore. No injuries were reported. Access restrictions on land and at sea continue to undermine the agricultural sector in Gaza, which is the primary source of income for thousands of farmers and fishermen and their families.
Entry of construction materials to Gaza remains severely restricted
While agreement between Palestinian and Israeli authorities on a mechanism to facilitate the entry of construction material in Gaza has been announced; he system is not yet in place and the import of materials continue to face restrictions. Between 21 and 27 September, the Israeli authorities permitted the entry of 906 truckloads of goods through the only operational commercial crossing with Israel, Kerem Shalom. The materials included 62 truckloads of basic construction materials designated for projects pre-approved by Israeli authorities and to be implemented by international organizations in Gaza.
The halt in the entry of construction materials for the Qatari projects through Rafah Crossing with Egypt, ongoing since early July 2014, continues. As a result, three vital construction projects, including of two main roads and a housing project, were suspended this week.
The Ministry of National Economy in Gaza estimates that to cope with the current construction caseload, around 3,000-4,000 truckloads of cement aggregates and iron bars need to be entered per-day to address the mass destruction in Gaza following the recent hostilities, including the housing needs of over 100,000 people whose houses were completely destroyed or rendered uninhabitable during the conflict.
With some limited exceptions, the import of basic construction materials from Israel has been prohibited since the imposition of the blockade in 2007. Until mid-2013, however, these materials were smuggled from Egypt via the illegal tunnels running under the border. The destruction or closure of the latter by the Egyptian authorities triggered a severe shortage of building materials, which continues to the present, as well as the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the construction sector.
57,000 Internally Displaced People (IDPs) remain in UNRWA schools
Tens of thousands of people displaced due to the Gaza offensive, including women, children and the elderly, continue living in overcrowded conditions in emergency shelters, abandoned buildings and with host families. As of 29 September, there were 57,006 IDPs sheltering in 18 UNRWA schools, and one government school (housing 5,300 IDPs) supported by UNRWA. As a result, the facilities are not available for schooling. It is estimated that some 40,000 to 50,000 people continue to live with host families.
With winter approaching, many IDPs will require additional humanitarian assistance including clothing, winter blankets, and heaters. The Ministry of National Economy in Gaza indicated that at least 1,000 tons of cement is urgently needed to repair two thousand partially damaged houses, which could house displaced families.
Restrictive procedures at the Rafah crossing remain in place
Gaza’s Rafah crossing with Egypt remains partially open for the movement of a limited number of travelers. This week, due to the ongoing restrictions imposed by the Egyptian authorities, the Border and Crossing Authority in Gaza re-enforced the registration mechanism allowing only specific categories of prioritized cases to register, including medical cases and people with residency permits in other countries.
Since July 2013, access of Palestinians via Rafah has been severely restricted, and subsequently the number of travelers declined from over 1,600 per day prior to July 2013 to less than 700 per day in September 2014. Access restrictions at Rafah are exacerbated by the long-standing restrictions on access through Erez Crossing with Israel.
The Gaza Power Plant remains shut down, pending fuel supply
Despite the completion of significant repairs to the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) in early September 2014, the operation of the GPP has not been resumed, due to the inability to secure the necessary fuel. After being hit several times by Israeli forces, the GPP was shut down on 29 July, rendering Gaza exclusively dependent on electricity purchased from Egypt and Israel, through feeder lines which provide 30 and 150 megawatts respectively, compared to the required 470 megawatts. Since the attack, electricity outages exceed 18 hours per day, severely disrupting the provision of basic services, including health and water throughout Gaza.
Due to the limited electricity supply, service providers, including water and health providers, have been relying heavily on stand-by generators to run hospitals, water wells and wastewater pumping stations. However, they face difficulties in securing adequate amounts of fuel to keep the facilities operational and are currently relying on emergency fuel donations to run a select number of prioritized facilities.