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Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
22 August 2013

Key issues

All structures in a Bedouin community in East Jerusalem were demolished on the grounds of lack of building permits, displacing the approximately 40 people that still remained there following prior displacements.

Four civilians were injured by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip during an airstrike and in the context of Israeli restrictions on Palestinian access to the sea.

Following a deadly incident in the Sinai Peninsula, the Egyptian authorities have closed Rafah Crossing in both directions until further notice. Additional measures against the tunnels have resulted in a further decline in the volume of transferred goods.


Clashes continue with fewer injuries

During the week, clashes were recorded between Palestinian civilians and Israeli forces. These clashes resulted in the injury of 15 Palestinians; a decrease compared to the weekly average of such injuries in the prior four weeks (24). One Israeli soldier was also injured during the week by Palestinians.

One of the clashes took place next to Al Ma’sara village (Bethlehem), when Israeli forces prevented a group of Palestinian and international activists from accessing the Gush Etzion settlement area to erect a protest tent against settlement expansion; six people, including two children, were injured. Most of the weekly demonstrations against the Barrier and access restrictions also evolved into clashes with Israeli forces; however, only one of them, in Kafr Qaddum (against the longstanding closure of one of its main entrances), resulted in injuries (two). Another man was shot with live ammunition and injured next to Silwad village (Ramallah) during a confrontation with Israeli soldiers following an incident of stone-throwing by Palestinians at Israeli vehicles.

For the second consecutive week, violent clashes took place at the checkpoint controlling access to Azzun ‘Atma village (Qalqiliya); initial reports of four injuries could not be confirmed. The confrontations began when Israeli forces restricted passage only to Palestinians who hold valid permits, or whose place of residence in their IDs is listed as ‘Azzun ‘Atma. The village is located in an area between the Barrier and the Green Line, but in 2010, Israeli forces stopped regularly staffing the checkpoint located at the main gate, allowing unrestricted access to most of the community. The recent re-staffing of this checkpoint is reportedly aimed at preventing the entry of Palestinian workers without access permits to Israel.

The number of search-and-arrest operations carried out during the week by Israeli forces increased by 25 per cent compared to the weekly average of such operations since the beginning of 2013. At least three of the operations - in Beita and Balata refugee camp (both in Nablus) and in Mazra’a Al Qibliya (Ramallah) - triggered violent confrontations, which resulted in six Palestinian injuries, including one two-month old infant who suffered tear gas inhalation.

Twelve Palestinians injured and agricultural property damaged in settler attacks

During the week, OCHA recorded seven incidents involving settlers and other Israelis that resulted in Palestinian injuries or damage to Palestinian-owned property, the same as the weekly average of such incidents thus far in 2013.

On 19 August, a group of armed settlers from Har Bracha settlement gathered at the entrance of the adjacent ‘Iraq Burin village (Nablus), and subsequently opened fire in the direction of the village. Following the arrival of Israeli forces at the site to evacuate the settlers, Palestinians began throwing stones at the soldiers, who responded with tear gas and sound grenades. Eight Palestinians, including two elderly women, a girl and an infant, needed medical treatment as a result of tear gas inhalation.

In one of the incidents that occurred on 14 August in the Old City of East Jerusalem, four Palestinians, including a child and a woman, were injured and subsequently hospitalized after being physically assaulted and sprayed with pepper gas by a group of Israelis. The circumstances of the attack remain unclear. The Israeli police intervened and evacuated the Israelis from the area.

In another incident on 17 August, a group of Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian man from Mikhmas village (Ramallah) with metal batons and sticks, while he was grazing his sheep near the Migron settlement outpost; the man sustained multiple wounds to his head as well as various contusions. The victim’s son was also injured, when he fell after trying to intervene and two of their sheep were reportedly killed by the settlers during the attack. The Israeli Police have opened an investigation.

Also during the week, at least four additional attacks by Israeli settlers resulted in damage to agricultural property belonging to Palestinians. These included setting fire to field crops in Kafr Qalil (Nablus); damaging olive trees near Burin village (Nablus) by settlers from Yitzhar protesting the detention of another settler; damaging a water cistern next to Al Khadr village (Bethlehem) by settlers from Sde Bo’az outpost; and cutting down six olive trees belonging to a farmer from At Tuwani (Hebron) by settlers from Havat Ma’on outpost.

A number of incidents involving stone throwing at vehicles by both Palestinians and settlers, one incident of Molotov cocktail throwing by Palestinians, and various incidents of intimidation by settlers were also reported during the week, none of which resulted in injuries or damage.

A number of incidents involving stone throwing at vehicles by both Palestinians and settlers, one incident of Molotov cocktail throwing by Palestinians, and various incidents of intimidation by settlers were also reported during the week, none of which resulted in injuries or damage.

An entire community in East Jerusalem demolished

Following a lull in demolitions and related displacement during the month of Ramadan (beginning 10 July), the Israeli authorities resumed this week the demolition of Palestinian-owned structures.

On 19 August, all residential and livelihood structures in the Bir Nabala Bedouin community in East Jerusalem were demolished, on the grounds that they lacked Israeli-issued building permits. The community is located on the “Jerusalem side” of the Barrier, around 200 meters from Bir Nabala town. As a result of the demolitions, seven Palestinian households from the Ka’abneh Bedouin tribe were displaced, comprising 39 people, including 18 children. These are the remaining families in this community; four families left the community previously, due to movement and access restrictions.

The Bir Nabala Bedouin community, which exists in the area since the 1950’s, is one of at least 16 Palestinian communities (combined population of 2,500) that are located on the “Jerusalem side” of the Barrier, although the majority of their residents hold West Bank ID cards. The latter, who are living within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, are considered “illegal residents” under Israeli law and consequently are under permanent threat of eviction. All these “dislocated” communities face a range of movement and access restrictions that isolate them from the remainder of the West Bank and contribute to humanitarian vulnerability.

Also in East Jerusalem (Sur Bahir neighborhood), a Palestinian family was forced to demolish their own house following the issuance of a demolition order by the Jerusalem municipality, displacing seven people, including two children.

In 2013, there has been a significant rise in demolitions and displacement in East Jerusalem. The number of people displaced this year in East Jerusalem is now over 200, by far the highest number since 2009 and more than the combined total of persons displaced in East Jerusalem in all of 2011 and 2012.

Latest development: on 20 August the Israeli authorities demolished 23 residential and livelihood-related structures in five locations in Area C and East Jerusalem due to a lack of permits, displacing 40 people.

At least 23 demolition and stop work orders were also issued and distributed during the week in various communities across Area C of the West Bank. Also this week, in the village of Ras Atiya (Qalqiliya), the Israeli Civil Administration uprooted approximately 100 olive, peach and guava saplings on the grounds that they were planted on land designated as “state land”. According to the farmers, the land is privately owned.

Three fishermen injured; airstrikes resume

While the relative calm in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel continued, four Palestinian civilians were injured during the week in two separate incidents. On 14 August, a Palestinian armed group fired a rocket towards southern Israel, which landed in an open area resulting in no injuries or damage. In response, the Israeli Air Force launched an airstrike, east of Beit Hanoun, allegedly targeting rocket launchers; one house sustained damage and one Palestinian civilian was wounded. This is the first airstrike recorded in the Gaza Strip since April 2013.

The other incident took place in the context of the restrictions imposed by the Israeli military on Palestinian access to fishing areas in the sea. On 13 August, the Israeli Navy shot rubber-coated metal bullets towards a fishing boat located at around the six NM limit from the coast, injuring three fishermen. Despite their injuries, the fishermen were ordered to swim towards the Israeli navy ship, where they were arrested, taken to Israel for interrogation and released later that day; their boat remains requisitioned. Another three Palestinians were arrested by Israeli forces while swimming in the sea next to Gaza City’s beach, and taken to Israel for interrogation; it remains unclear at what distance were they apprehended and on what grounds.

Deadly incident in Sinai triggers the closure of Rafah Crossing

Following the killing of 26 Egyptian policemen in the Sinai Peninsula by an armed group on 19 August, the Egyptian authorities have closed the Rafah Crossing with Gaza in both directions until further notice. Over 10,000 people are currently registered and waiting to travel to Egypt, including medical cases and students, according to the Border and Crossing Authority in Gaza. Due to recent restrictions imposed by the Egyptian authorities, the daily average of travelers in August (prior to the closure) was around 300 (in both directions), compared to over 1,800 in June, before the current crisis.

The potential deterioration in the medical conditions of patients referred for specialized treatment in Egyptian hospitals, but who have been denied access or delayed, is of particular concern. Over a fifth of the official referrals to medical facilities outside Gaza are to Egyptian hospitals. The disruption in the functioning of Rafah Crossing has also impacted the supply of drugs and medical disposables: while prior to the crisis, 25-30 per cent of those supplies arrived via the Rafah Crossing, no such consignment has entered since 5 July.

Further reduction in tunnel activities

In the context of the ongoing unrest and violence in the Sinai Peninsula, the Egyptian authorities have also intensified measures against the tunnels under its border with Gaza. Estimates by the Ministry of National Economy in Gaza suggest that as few as ten tunnels are currently operational, down from around 50 the previous week. According to the Palestinian Federation of Industries, less than 500 tons of construction materials per day entered Gaza during the week through the tunnels, compared to 2,000-2,500 tons during the previous week. Prior to 20 June, an average of over 7,500 tonnes of construction materials entered Gaza on a daily basis.

Transfer of fuels through the tunnels has also been severely curtailed this week, with less than 500,000 liters transferred per day, which is half the volume received in previous weeks. However, the Fuel Stations Owners Association indicates that most of the 180 fuel stations are able to operate selling Egyptian diesel and Israeli and Egyptian petrol, although long queues have been widely observed.

Transfer of diesel to the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) through the tunnels has also declined from 350,000 to 300,000 liters per day, resulting in further depletion of the GPP’s fuel reserves. Despite the decline, the GPP continued to operate three out of four turbines, generating around two-thirds of its full capacity (80 out of 120 megawatts). The use of diesel is currently controlled by the local authorities in order to ensure sufficient supplies to support basic services, including hospitals (which rely on fuel to run backup generators, due to the electricity shortfall) and water and wastewater systems. In recent years, the tunnels have become the primary entry point for transfer of fuel from Egypt, which is cheaper than fuel from Israel.

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