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Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
16 September 2013

Key issues

Israeli forces demolished dozens of residential and livelihood structures, displacing an entire community in the Jordan Valley.

The Egyptian authorities closed the Rafah Crossing on 11 September until further notice, restricting access to specialized healthcare and education abroad. On 18 September, the Egyptian authorities re-opened Rafah Crossing.


Decline in injuries and clashes

Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces across the West Bank led to fewer injuries this week, compared to last week (25 vs. 72). Almost one-third of this week’s Palestinian injuries (8) were sustained in confrontations with Israeli forces, who were accompanying an Israeli group that came to pray at the Tomb of Joseph (a religious site located in Nablus city). The clashes occurred after the Israeli group was stoned by local Palestinian residents.

Clashes took place in three other locations during the week, including the villages of Abu Dis (Jerusalem) and Beit Ummar (Hebron), and Al Jalazun refugee camp and Ofer checkpoint (both in Ramallah), after Palestinian youth threw stones at Israeli forces patrolling the areas. Nine Palestinians were injured. Two other Palestinians were injured during a weekly demonstration against the prolonged closure of one of the main entrances of Kafr Qaddum village (Qalqiliya).

Increase in settler-related incidents

During the reporting period, OCHA recorded at least ten settler-related incidents resulting in injury to Palestinians or damage to their property and another one affecting settlers. This is an increase in incidents compared to a weekly average of four in the past three weeks.

On 10 September, a Palestinian working in Teqo’ settlement (Bethlehem) was attacked by a dog unleashed by an Israeli settler. In addition, another Palestinian man was injured after being physically assaulted during clashes with a group of Israelis who entered Al Aqsa Mosque Compound/Temple Mount, in the context of the Jewish holidays.

In two communities, Deir Al Hatab (Nablus) and Mikhmas (Jerusalem), residents reported that settlers set fire to around 500 and 100 dunums of land, respectively. An unknown number of olive and almond trees and grazing land were damaged. Also on 15 September, Israeli settlers set fire to a small structure containing agricultural and electric equipment in Madama village (Nablus).

In two other incidents, around ten olive trees belonging to Tuwani village (Hebron) were cut down and damaged by settlers; and more than 50 grape vines belonging to Al Khader village (Bethlehem) were also damaged by sewage that leaked from the nearby settlement of Efrat over two days during the reporting period. Residents of ‘Ein Ad Duyuk Al Fauqa village (Jericho) reported that settlers harvested and stole eight kilograms of dates from their land on 12 September.

Also this week, on 12 September, a female Israeli settler was injured after Palestinians threw stones at her vehicle while travelling near Beit Ummar (Hebron). Three Palestinian-plated vehicles sustained damage in two additional stone-throwing incidents perpetrated by settlers near Al Mughayyir village and Al Jalazun refugee camp (both in Ramallah). Also on 10 September, a group of Israeli settlers slashed the tires of three Palestinian buses in Ath Thuri (Jerusalem) and sprayed “price-tag” graffiti on them.


Large-scale demolitions in several locations; an entire community displaced

On 16 September, the Israeli authorities demolished all residential and livelihood structures (except two fodder storage rooms and a solar panel) in the Bedouin community of Mak-hul in the Jordan Valley due to the lack of Israeli-issued building permits. The 58 structures, included ten residential tents, 28 animal shacks and pens, nine kitchens, nine latrines, a storage room and a zinc shade that was used as a kindergarten (which was partially demolished). Some of these structures were funded by international donors. As a result, ten families comprising 48 people, including 16 children, were displaced. In the course of the demolitions, a number of animal troughs and small water tanks as well as personal belongings were buried under the rubble.

After the demolition incident, the Israeli authorities declared Mak-hul as a “closed military zone”, prohibiting the families to return back to their community until 6 am the next day. Despite the order, the majority of the residents remained in the immediate vicinity of the demolition site and spent the night there in the open, along with their herds (approx. 1,700 sheep). A truck carrying humanitarian assistance was seized by Israeli forces staffing Tayasir checkpoint (which controls access to the Jordan Valley in the northern West Bank). Initial field reports indicate that this is the first demolition incident experienced by this community.

Earlier this week, on 11 September, the Israeli authorities demolished 18 structures, including eight residences, five animal structures, three kitchens and two storage rooms, in Az Zayim Bedouin community in Jerusalem, due to the lack of building permits. As a result, seven families comprising 13 people, including eight children, were displaced and their livelihoods affected.

Also this week, in the village of Barta’a Asharqiya (Jenin), located in the closed area between the Barrier and the Green Line, three livelihood structures, including two car repair workshops and one structure under construction, intended for commercial uses, were demolished, affecting 45 people. In addition, in Al ‘Aqaba village (Tubas), three residential tents, one animal structure and personal belongings were damaged, after an Israeli military helicopter descended near the structures during a military training. As a result, 19 people, including ten children, were affected.

In addition on 12 September, Israeli forces uprooted over 600 trees and seedlings of guava, olive and citrus in Ras ‘Atiya and Ad Dab’a villages (both in Qalqiliya). While reasons for damaging the trees are not yet clear, the affected farmers from the nearby villages claim ownership over the land.

Relative calm continues

While there was relative calm in the Gaza Strip this week, with no reports of Israeli airstrikes or Palestinian rockets, incidents in the context of Israeli restrictions on Palestinian access to land and at sea continued. On at least two occasions, Israeli forces stationed near the fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip opened warning fire at farmers, forcing them to leave their land. No injuries or damage to property were reported. Israeli forces also conducted three land-leveling operations.

Israeli naval forces opened warning fire at Palestinian fishing boats on at least three occasions in the context of enforcing restrictions on access to fishing areas beyond 6 nautical miles from shore. No injuries or damage to property were reported.

Incidents by Egyptian forces at sea

On several occasions this week, Egyptian naval forces opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats, reportedly capturing and physically assaulting two fishermen, and confiscated two boats. The incidents took place near the Gaza-Egypt marine border.

Tunnel activity remains low, resulting in shortages of fuel and construction materials

As part of ongoing measures aimed at countering illegal activities and insecurity in the Sinai, Egyptian forces have reportedly continued to demolish smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border as well as houses that are used as entrances to tunnels, on the Egyptian side. Such measures have resulted in significant shortages of goods, including fuel and construction materials, over the past two months. It is estimated that approximately ten tunnels are currently functioning, compared to 300 before June 2013. While local sources indicated that there has been a slight increase in the volume of goods transported via tunnels per day compared to last week (30 vs.10), these amounts still constitute less than 15 per cent of the volume of goods that entered before June 2013 (up to 200).

Due to the decline in tunnel activity, less than 300,000 liters of fuel per day entered Gaza via the tunnels for all needs, including for the Gaza Power Plant (GPP), compared to approximately one million per day prior to June 2013. With no fuel reserves available, the GPP has continued operating at half of its full capacity, triggering long electricity blackouts of up to 12 hours per day; in some areas, power cuts are reaching up to 16 hours per day.
Fuel shortfalls have also continued to disrupt the provision of basic services, including water supply, sanitation, health and transportation services. Access to running water declined among 40 per cent of Gaza’s population to 6 – 8 hours, three times per week. The Gas Stations Owners Association indicated that while limited amounts of diesel is coming from Egypt, long queues of vehicles and people continue to be seen at the operating petrol stations across the Gaza Strip.

The shortage of construction materials in the markets has also continued. This week, there was a slight increase in the amounts of construction materials (mainly cement) that entered per day this week, compared to the previous one (around 300 vs. 100). However, these quantities remain well below the daily average of more than 7,500 tonnes in June 2013, as reported by the Palestinian Federation of Industries. These shortages continue to result in significant increases in the prices of building materials, which has lead to a reduction in construction activities and, subsequently, the loss of livelihoods. The Ministry of National Economy in Gaza estimates daily needs at around 6,000 tonnes of gravel, 4,000 of cement and 1,500 tonnes. Palestinian officials in Gaza announced that Israel will allow entry of building materials next week.

Closure of Rafah Crossing has significant effect on access to medical and educational services abroad

The Egyptian authorities closed the Rafah Crossing on 11 September until further notice, citing security concerns in the Sinai Peninsula. So far since early July, the crossing has been completely closed for 24 days. Since then, when open, the crossing has operated four hours per day (six days per week) compared to nine hours (seven days per week) prior to early July.

On 10 September, around 200 persons were allowed to cross into Egypt and approximately 150 others allowed to enter Gaza, most of whom were patients, foreign nationals and people holding visas. This is a significant decline compared to a daily average of 440 people who crossed in recent weeks and to the approximately 1,860 who crossed per day in June. Currently, there are over 5,000 people registered and waiting to travel to Egypt and other destinations via Egypt, including medical cases and students, as reported by the Border and Crossing Authority in Gaza. Out of those, around 500 students, who are registered at universities abroad, might miss the new semesters at their universities. The 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.

On 13 and 16 September, dozens of Palestinians protested the closure of Rafah in front of the Representative Office of Egypt in Gaza city, demanding an immediate re-opening of the crossing. The demonstrations ended peacefully.

On 18 September, the Egyptian authorities re-opened the crossing partially for the movement of special categories of passengers - mainly medical cases, students, people holding visas and foreign nationals.

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