|Ongoing decline in clashes and injuries
The declining trend in clashes and resulting injuries observed since the end of the Israeli offensive on Gaza on 26 August continued during the week. Overall, Israeli forces injured 15 Palestinians, including seven children and an elderly man during clashes, the lowest such figure in over a year. Despite this recent decline, the cumulative number of injuries in the West Bank so far in 2014 (4,281) has already exceeded the equivalent figure for the entire of 2013 (3,736). This week’s clashes also resulted in the injury of one member of the Israeli forces.
Five of this week’s injuries, including those to four children, were caused by rubber-coated metal bullets in Ayda refugee camp (Bethlehem) in two separate clashes on 16 and 20 September next to the Barrier, which surrounds the camp and separates it from East Jerusalem. Since the beginning of 2014, 347 Palestinian children have been injured with rubber-coated metal bullets. Due to its potentially lethal nature, according to the human rights group B’Tselem, Israeli army regulations for crowd control prohibit the shooting of this type of ammunition at children.
Four additional injuries during the week were caused by the physical assault of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces, including of two 16-year-old children. One of the children was assaulted on 16 September in East Jerusalem following a verbal confrontation with Israeli forces, while the other was assaulted on 17 September, when clashes erupted as settlers, protected by Israeli forces, entered Nablus city to tour the Joseph’s tomb shrine.
In another incident on 17 September, Israeli forces raided the village of Ya’bad (Jenin) following claims by settlers of stone-throwing at settler vehicles, and subsequently set up a flying checkpoint at the entrance to the village for several hours. No injuries reported.
During the reporting period, Israeli forces arrested 121 Palestinians in the course of 86 search and arrest operations, down from a weekly average of 100 since the beginning of the year, of which one evolved into clashes, resulting in three casualties.
Low number of settler violence incidents continues
During the week there was only one incident of settler violence resulting in damage to Palestinian property. On 16 September, an Israeli settler rammed a herd of sheep belonging to a Palestinian shepherd from Qwawis (Hebron), killing eight of the sheep and injuring five others, thus undermining the main source of livelihood for an extended family of 22 people. In addition to systematic settler harassment, due to the community’s location on the margins of an area designated by the Israeli military as a closed military zone (Firing Zone 918), residents of Qwawis also face severe restrictions on their access to grazing land.
In the same area, on 20 September, Palestinian farmers from Susiya, together with international activists, held a protest against settlement expansion and recent attempts to take over two plots of Palestinian privately owned land in the area. Protesters removed a tent previously erected there by settlers from Susiya settlement, before being dispersed from the area by Israeli forces. The tent was re-erected the following day. Of note, residents of Susiya have been exposed to systematic intimidation and abuse from settlers coupled with a reported pattern of discrimination by the Israeli Civil Administration between residents of Susiya and surrounding settlements.
On 21 September, settlers leveled plots of Palestinian privately owned land in the village of Burin (Nablus), near the outpost of Giv’at Ronen - an extension of Bracha settlement. According to local authorities, the leveling is to make way for expansion of the outpost.
Increasing attacks on settlers have been observed since the abduction and killing of a 16-year-old child in East Jerusalem on 2 July. According to Israeli media sources, during the week, there were 12 incidents resulting in injury or damage to settler property by Palestinians, compared to a weekly average of three. The incidents took place in the Hebron, Jerusalem and Ramallah governorates. All incidents involved Palestinian stone-throwing, and in two incidents, Molotov cocktails, at Israeli vehicles, resulting in the injury of three settlers.
One demolition in Area C
One demolition was recorded this week in Area C, targeting a concrete wall built without an Israeli-issued building permit around a piece of privately owned land in Abu Dis (Jerusalem). Additionally, a total of 17 demolition orders and stop-work orders were issued against 17 structures in the communities of Sarta in Salfit (five houses), Idhna in Hebron (three residential structures), Um Rukba in Al Khadr village, Bethlehem, (one vehicle repair workshop), Bardala in Tubas (three animal structures), and Kisan in Bethlehem (five houses). A total of 84 people, including at least 43 children, are affected by the orders.
Israeli authorities prevent implementation of development projects in Area C
In an incident on 16 September, Israeli authorities informed farmers from Khirbet ‘Atuf (Tubas) in the northern Jordan Valley of a prohibition on working their land in Area C, detaining eight of the farmers for around six hours. The farmers were preparing a small-scale irrigation scheme, which according to the Israeli authorities lacks the required permit.Prior to this incident, on 11 September, Israeli forces requisitioned around 1,350 meters of water pipesprior to their installation in Area B of Khirbet ‘Atuf. This is part of a joint project between the Ministry of Agriculture and UNDP to provide water to the lands in the area of Khirbet ‘Atuf in order to allow farmers to plant new types of crops which require irrigation systems. The plan involved piping water from a spring in ‘Ein Shibli to the area which would enable farmers to utilize larger areas of land. In three additional incidents in Khirbet ‘Atuf, on 13, 15, and 17 September, Israeli forces detained farmers and their tractors/bulldozers used to farm their land and install water pipes for irrigation due to the lack of Israeli-issued permits for these works. In one incident on 15 September, Israeli forces seized a tractor and electric motor which was taken to the nearby settlement of Beqa’ot without reportedly providing the owner with any official documentation acknowledging the seizure. Similarly, on 15 September, Israeli forces seized a bulldozer operated by the Palestinian Ministry of Public Works and Housing being used without an Israeli permit to open an agricultural road between Sarta, Kafr ad Dik and Biddya villages (Salfit), in Area C
Ceasefire continues to hold
Relative calm in the Gaza Strip continued this week with Israeli military activities limited to two incidents during which Israeli naval forces opened warning shots towards Palestinian fishing boats approaching or exceeding the Israeli-imposed six-nautical-mile fishing limits west of Beit Lahia. Israeli forces injured one fisherman, arrested at least five others and seized one fishing boat. On another occasion, Israeli forces entered the Gaza Strip some 50 to 100 meters from the fence to conduct land clearing operations. Two mortars were fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel; one exploded at the launching site while the other landed in an open area. No casualties or damages were reported, and Hamas reportedly arrested those responsible for launching the projectiles.
Three civilians killed and two injured by unexploded ordnance (UXO)
On 19 September, three Palestinian fatalities and two injuries were reported in an incident involving unexploded ordnance (UXO). The UXO had been loaded by civilians onto their vehicle but exploded while they were driving in the area of Ash-Shuja’iya. Two men were killed on the spot and another died later of injuries sustained during the incident.
The Palestinian Explosive Ordnance Department teams of the Palestinian Police Department in Khan Younis have collected a significant number of UXO following Israel’s recent military operation (7 July-26 August)
As of late August, around 7,000 UXOs were estimated to be present in areas affected by the conflict, threatening the lives of both civilians and humanitarian workers. Operations to clear UXOs however, have been affected as a result of limited capacity and restrictions on the entry of equipment to the Gaza Strip.
Number of IDPs continues to fluctuate
The number of IDPs continues to fluctuate as a consolidation process at UNRWA schools is still ongoing. As of 22 September, there were 62,598 IDPs sheltering in 19 UNRWA schools, and one government school (housing 5,300 IDPs) supported by UNRWA. It is estimated that some 40,000 to 50,000 people remain with host families.
Rafah Crossing opened for pilgrimage
Gaza’s Rafah crossing with Egypt remains partially open for the movement of Palestinians. Between 16 and 22 September, around 2,800 Palestinians left Gaza through Rafah Crossing compared to some 250 during the previous reporting period. The sharp increase is due to the number of pilgrims (at least 2,300) who were exceptionally allowed to travel to Mecca for the hajj between 18 and 21 September. During the same week, around 43 people were denied exit from Gaza through Rafah Crossing. Access restrictions at Rafah are exacerbated by the long-standing restrictions on access through Erez Crossing with Israel. According to the Border and Crossing Authority in Gaza, at least 10,000 people are registered and waiting to cross into Egypt, mainly medical patients, students and holders of visa to third countries.
During the reporting period, one truck of sweet potatoes exited Gaza through Kerem Shalom Crossing. This is the first truckload of exports since June 2014. Since the beginning of 2014, fewer than 100 trucks of exports have left Gaza, due to longstanding Israeli imposed restrictions on the exit of goods to the West Bank and Israel, which are the main markets for Gazan products.
The Gaza Power Plant remains shut down, pending fuel supply
The resumption of operations of the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) continues to be contingent on securing the necessary fuel. However, even if fuel is secured it will be difficult to service the areas worst affected from the July- August offensive. After being hit several times, the GPP was shut down on 29 July, rendering Gaza exclusively dependent on electricity purchased from Egypt and Israel. Even in areas where service has resumed, outages exceed 18 hours per day, severely disrupting the provision of basic services including health and water throughout Gaza.
The shutdown of the GPP continues to have an immense, adverse impact on the lives of Palestinians in Gaza. It has drastically curtailed the pumping of water to households and the treatment of sewage, both of which require electricity. It has also resulted in increased reliance of hospitals, already under strain, on generators. Availability of food continues to be adversely affected by the lack of electricity as basic and essential providers such as bakeries have been forced to reduce their bread production and families have not been able to depend on refrigerators to store food.
In the meantime, emergency fuel distributions to allow the operation of backup generators for water and sanitation facilities, the health sector, and municipalities, continue at an accelerated rate, funded by the Islamic Development Bank. The last distribution to the water and sanitation sector took place during the reporting period while distributions to the health sector are projected to finish by the end of September. Fuel for municipalities will run out by the end of November. Currently, there are no prospects of continued fuel distributions to critical installations, if further funding is not received.