● West Bank fatalities: one Palestinian was killed by Israeli forces while reportedly attempting to break into a military base: one Israeli settler was killed by Palestinians.
● Following the official start of the olive harvest season, over 540 Palestinian olive trees were vandalized by Israeli settlers.
● The Israeli authorities halted the entry of all types of construction materials into the Gaza Strip, including for projects implemented by international organizations, until further notice, following the discovery of a 1.8- kilometer-long tunnel running from Gaza into Israel.
One Palestinian killed in an incident at an Israeli military base
On 17 October, a 29-year-old Palestinian man from East Jerusalem was shot and killed by Israeli forces at a military base next to the Ar Ram town, north-east of Jerusalem, while driving a bulldozer; one Israeli force member was also injured during the incident. According to the army’s spokesperson, the man attempted to break into the base and run over the guards before being shot; the man’s family members dispute this version. The man’s brother was killed in 2009 in West Jerusalem in a similar incident, during which he injured two Israelis with a bulldozer. This week’s incident brings the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank since the beginning of 2013 to 16, compared to four in the equivalent period of 2012.
Also during the two week reporting period a total of 26 Palestinian civilians, including five children, were injured in a number of incidents with Israeli forces. On a weekly basis, this represents a significant decrease compared to the weekly average of injuries recorded since the beginning of the year.
Of note, ten of these injuries occurred in the context of attempts by Palestinians to cross into Israel in search of work without permits. In one of these incidents, an Israeli military jeep struck a Palestinian vehicle carrying workers near Ar Ramadin village south of Hebron following a chase, injuring eight of the passengers. In the second quarter of 2013, at least 33,800 Palestinians from the West Bank were employed inside Israel and Israeli settlements in the West Bank without the required permits, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
During the two-week period, OCHA oPt recorded 20 incidents involving Israeli settlers and resulting in casualties or damage to property, of which 18 affected Palestinians and two affected settlers.
The gravest of the incidents affecting settlers occurred on 11 October, when an Israeli settler was beaten to death in the Sdemot Mehola settlement in the northern Jordan Valley. Two days after the killing, the Israeli Security Agency arrested two Palestinian men from a Hebron village, who, according to the Israeli media, subsequently confessed to the killing. So far in 2013, two Israeli settlers have been killed by Palestinians, compared to no killings in the equivalent period of 2012.
The reporting period recorded two separate stabbing incidents in East Jerusalem. On 14 October, a 20-year-old Palestinian woman was stabbed and injured in the hand and abdomen by an Israeli settler in the neighborhood of Musrara. On 20 October, an Israeli settler was stabbed and injured by a Palestinian in the Silwan area. Police forces who arrived at the scene were stoned by Palestinians and responded by shooting tear gas canisters and sound grenades; a 10-year-old Palestinian child was injured after being hit by a sound grenade. Silwan is a densely populated Palestinian neighborhood where several properties have been taken over by settlers.
Also during this period, another three Palestinians were injured by Israeli settlers in three separate incidents, including two due to stone throwing at vehicles along main roads in Nablus and Jerusalem, and one by physical assault while grazing his sheep near the Susiya settlement (Hebron).
Coinciding with the official opening of the olive harvest season, this period witnessed a significant increase in settler attacks targeting Palestinian-owned olive trees: a total of seven such incidents of burning of or damage to 546 trees were recorded. Additionally, OCHA recorded at least another two incidents involving the stealing of produce by Israeli settlers alongside multiple incidents of harassment and intimidation of farmers. Thus far in 2013, OCHA has recorded the damage or destruction of over 8,880 trees or saplings in the context of reported settler-related incidents, compared to the parallel figure of slightly more than 8,500 trees or saplings in all of 2012.
On 9 October, in one of the most serious reported incidents affecting the olive harvest, a group of Israeli settlers set fire to over 50 dunums of Palestinian land and burned 350 olive trees in Jalud village (Nablus), affecting six farmers. Subsequently, the same group of settlers raided Jalud secondary mixed school, damaged five cars belonging to teachers and disrupted the classes. (For more information on settler violence in this area see case study published by OCHA this week: The Case of Al Mughayyir Village)
The families were allowed to return the following day, some ten hours later, during the first day of the “Eid al Adha” Muslim holiday. By the end of the reporting period, another nine families from the Bedouin community of Humsa Al Baqai’a in the same area, comprising 62 people, including 27 children; have been ordered by the Israeli forces to evacuate their homes for an upcoming military exercise.
On several occasions during the reporting period, Israeli forces opened warning fire as a mean of enforcing restrictions on Palestinian access to restricted areas (ARAs) by land and sea. None of these incidents resulted in injury or damage to property.
On at least four occasions, Israeli forces opened warning fire at farmers working their land, near the fence separating Israel and the Gaza Strip, forcing them to leave the area. In an additional incident on 20 October, cross-fence clashes took place between Israeli forces and members of Palestinian armed groups. Also Israeli troops located and detonated an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) during a land-leveling operation conducted on 21 October near the fence.
On at least six occasions during the reporting period, Israeli naval forces opened warning fire at Palestinian fishing boats, reportedly sailing near or within the 6 nautical mile limit, forcing them ashore.
Palestinian armed groups also reportedly fired a number of projectiles towards southern Israel, some of which landed short in open areas near the fence, resulting in no injuries or damage.
According to local sources, the volume of goods transported via the illegal tunnels under the Gaza- Egypt border during the reporting period declined further, with less than half the daily volume entering during the reporting period, compared to the previous weeks (15 vs. 30-40 truckloads).This number constitutes only 7.5 per cent of the amount of goods that entered via the tunnels per day prior to June 2013 (equivalent to 200 truckloads). As a result, shortages of essential goods, including fuel and construction materials, have continued, leading to rising prices.
Similar to previous weeks, around 200,000- 300,000 liters of fuel entered Gaza per day via the illegal tunnels, compared to a daily amount of approximately one million litres prior to June 2013. Slightly over half the amount of fuel that entered during this reporting period was designated for the Gaza Power Plant (GPP); shortages in recent weeks have forced the GPP to operate at half of its full capacity, triggering long electricity blackouts of up to 12 hours per day. Fuel shortfalls have also continued to disrupt the provision of basic services, including water supply, sanitation, health and transportation, with 40 per cent of Gaza’s population receiving water three times per week for 6-8 hours. According to the Fuel Stations Owners Association, fuel imported from Israel is currently available; however, it is sold at double the price of subsidized-fuel purchased from Egypt. Long queues of vehicles and people form at the operating petrol stations across the Gaza Strip, particularly at those selling cheap Egyptian fuel.
The prices of construction materials have also remained high due to significant shortages. Only 100 to 150 tonnes of building materials (mainly cement) entered per day via the illegal tunnels during the reporting period, compared to a daily average of more than 7,500 tonnes in June 2013, as reported by the Palestinian Federation of Industries.
On 13 October, the Israeli authorities announced that it was suspending the entry of construction materials to the Gaza Strip. According to Israeli officials, the announcement followed the discovery of a 1.8 kilometer-long underground tunnel running from the Gaza Strip into Israel. In September, the Israeli authorities had increased the amount of construction materials allowed entry per day for commercial use to 70 truckloads. Since 14 October, no construction materials for commercial or humanitarian projects have entered via the Kerem Shalom Crossing. During the reporting period, the Crossing was closed between 14 and 19 October, due to the Eid Al Adha Muslim holidays.
Since the beginning of 2013, an average of 1,052 truckloads (67,000 tonnes) of constructions materials, designated for building projects implemented by aid agencies, including UN and other international organizations, have entered each month.
Limited numbers of people continue to cross Rafah
During the two-week reporting period, the Egyptian-controlled Rafah Crossing was open for seven days only, closing between 14 and 20 October for the Eid Al Adha holidays. Since early July, when open, the crossing has operated four hours per day compared to nine hours (seven days per week) prior to early July.
During the reporting period (8 – 21 October), a daily average of approximately 230 travelers, mainly humanitarian cases, including patients, students and visas and foreign passports holders, were allowed to cross into Egypt and around 90 others entered Gaza per day. These numbers remain well below the daily average of approximately 1,860 who crossed in June this year, before the imposition of the current Egyptian restrictions. On 20 October, the Gaza Border and Crossing Authority re-opened the travel registration office in Gaza city, which had been closed since early July 2013 due to the uncertain operation of the Rafah Crossing. The office is currently accepting travel requests for humanitarian cases, students and foreign passports holders, in line with limitations set by the Egyptian authorities. Reports indicate that approximately 4,000 people are registered and waiting to travel to Egypt and abroad. The Rafah crossing remains the primary exit and entry point to the Gaza Strip for Palestinians, due to the long-standing restrictions imposed by Israel on movement via the Erez Crossing.