|Sharp decline in injuries following the open-ended ceasefire
This week witnessed a sharp decline in demonstrations and clashes with Israeli forces across the West Bank, largely due to the open-ended cease fire agreement reached between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza, which came into effect on 26 August. Overall, Israeli forces injured at least 38 Palestinians, including 11 children, in various incidents during the week – approximately one third of the weekly average of Palestinian injuries in the West Bank in 2014, and less than half of the injuries reported during the previous week. Four injuries were reported amongst Israeli forces.
Two of the Palestinian injuries resulted from live ammunition in clashes with Israeli forces during a search and arrest operation in Duheisha refugee camp (Bethlehem). A total of 78 such operations were recorded during the week, compared to a weekly average of 126 since 12 June 2014, following the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli youths and the launching of a massive arrest campaign, focused in the southern West Bank. Of note, on 26 September, Israeli forces returned around 1000 computer and surveillance cameras which were seized during the massive arrest campaign in the Hebron governorate.
In two separate incidents on 28 and 29 August, ten Palestinians including four children, were injured in Beit Ummar village (Hebron) during periodic protests against the expansion of the settlement of Karmi Zur on village land. Another seven injures were recorded in Kafr Qaddum during the weekly village protest against the longstanding closure of one of the main routes into the village, which passes through the nearby settlement of Qedumim.
Drop in the number of recorded settler violence incidents
Three incidents of settler violence resulting in damage to property were recorded this week compared to a weekly average of seven incidents resulting in both casualties and damage to property in 2014. Additionally, there were four incidentsresulting in injuries or property damage to Israeli settlers.
In two separate incidents, on 28 August and 1 September in the village of Beit Ummar (Hebron) settlers from Bat Ayin reportedly cut down a total of 37 trees and grape vines on land belonging to Palestinians. These incidents took place despite measures implemented by the Israeli authorities following an Israeli High Court of Justice decision in 2013, to address systematic settler violence in this area. Additionally, settlers from the settlement of Itamar reportedly set fire to ten dunums of landin Awarta village (Nablus). Since the beginning of 2014, 113 incidents of settler violence affecting agricultural property, including arson, were recorded, compared to 219 in 2013.
Other settler attacks not resulting in injuries or damage to property were reported during the week. On 31 August, armed Israeli settlers from a settlement outpost in Nablus (Hill 777) raided a house in the nearby village of Yanun (Nablus) and threatened a Palestinian shepherd they accused of theft. On 30 August, two Palestinians, including a 13-year-old child were physical assaulted by Israeli settlers in Hebron’s old city and subsequently arrested by Israeli forces.
According to Israeli media sources, there were four separate incidents of Palestinian stone-throwing at Israeli vehicles in the governorates of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Ramallah, resulting in the injury of three Israelis, including two women, and damage to one vehicle.
Large area in Bethlehem intended for settlement expansion declared ‘State Land’
On 25 August, the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) announced the declaration of 3,799 dunums of land (1 dunum = 1000 m2) in the Bethlehem governorate, within the Gush Etzion settlement block, as “state land”. The affected areas are adjacent to the Green Line and lie within the village boundaries of Surif, Nahhalin, Husan, Al Jab’a and Wadi Fukin villages. People claiming private ownership over the land were given 45 days to appeal the declaration before a military committee. According to Israeli media, the area is expected to be allocated for the “legalization” and expansion of the settlement outpost of Geva’ot. This follows a case earlier this year, on 6 April 2014, in which the ICA had declared as ‘state land’ 1,000 dunums of land in Area C in western Bethlehem governorate.
On 1 September, the spokesman for the UN Secretary-General stated that “the seizure of such a large swathe of land risks paving the way for further settlement activity, which- as the United Nations has reiterated on many occasions- is illegal under international law and runs totally counter to the pursuit of a two-state solution’’
According to Israeli official data, over 99 percent of all state land in Area C has been included within the jurisdictional boundaries of Israeli settlement local and regional councils and subsequently allocated for settlement or closed military training purposes or nature reserves.
On 26 August, Israeli authorities delivered a requisition order for around 11 dunums of land in the villages of Sa’ir and Ash Shuyukh (Hebron) near the settlement of Asfar(Mezad), citing “military security purposes”. The owners were given seven days to appeal the order.
76 Palestinians displaced following demolitions; plans for the “relocation” of Bedouin communities advanced
During the week, a total of 15 structures, including eight residential structures were demolished by the Israeli authorities in the Jerusalem and Hebron governorates in addition to a residential structure that was self-demolished. In total, 76 people, including 48 children, were displaced, and seven others affected. Five of the structures were funded by international donors. All but one of the affected structures were located in Area C and demolished due to lack of Israeli-issued building permits, bringing the total number of structures demolished in Area C in 2014 to 361, compared to 350 in the equivalent period of 2013.
The demolitions took place in Khirbet Ar Rahwa (Hebron); the town of Az Za’ayyem (Jerusalem); and the Bedouin community of Az Za’ayyem (Jerusalem). The latter, occurred on 28 August, and affected five structures, including one donorfunded, belonging to four refugee families. According to some of the families, they were not given time to vacate their belongings and furniture, and some of it was lost under the rubble. This is one of the Bedouin communities that are at risk of forcible transfer due to an official “relocation plan” advanced by the Israeli authorities.
In connection to this plan, last week the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) deposited for public objection three out of four residential outline plans entailing the creation of a new town in An Nuwei’ma (Jericho), which will accommodate the transfer of Bedouin communities from their current places of residence. Interested parties have 60 days to lodge objections to the plans with the ICA. The UN Secretary-General has stated previously that the implementation of the proposed “relocation” would amount to individual and mass forcible transfers and forced evictions, prohibited under international humanitarian law and human rights law.
On 26 August, in the Beit Safafa neighborhood of East Jerusalem, a Palestinian family self-demolished its house, to avoid paying demolition fees if the demolition were to be carried out by the Israeli authorities. According to the family, the house was built on privately owned land 14 years ago. A stop work order was delivered to the family in 2008 for lack of an Israeli-issued building permit and the subsequent and final demolition order was delivered in June 2014.