Limited clashes and injuries
Similar to previous weeks, the level of violence between Palestinian civilians and Israeli forces recorded during the week has remained relatively low, as reflected in the number of clashes and resulting injuries.
Nine civilians were injured this week in clashes that took place during search and arrest operations conducted by Israeli security forces in Nablus and Hebron cities on 19 and 20 July, respectively. Overall, however, the number of such operations during the week was almost 30 per cent below the weekly average recorded since the beginning of the year (53 vs. 80).
Six Palestinians, including a child, were injured in two weekly demonstrations held in protest at the encroachment of Hallamish settlement onto land belonging to An Nabi Saleh village (Ramallah) and the prolonged closure of one of Kafr Qaddum village’s entrances (Qalqiliya) reportedly for the security of the adjacent settlement of Qeddumim. On 17 July, five other Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli forces during a protest held by Palestinian journalists at the Qalandiya checkpoint (North of Jerusalem) demanding free movement to Jerusalem.
On 20 July, four Palestinian farmers from Qwawis (South Hebron) were physically assaulted and injured during a clash with Israeli settlers and soldiers. Clashes erupted when settlers from Mitzpe Yair settlement outpost prevented the farmers from reaching their land next to the settlement, despite an Israeli court order issued almost a year ago allowing such access. Further clashes took place between Palestinians and settlers in the Old City of Hebron on 19 July after settlers stoned some houses. As a result, one settler was injured and a Palestinian house sustained some damage. Another Israeli was stabbed and injured by a Palestinian outside the Old City of Jerusalem on 16 July. Also this week, a Palestinian woman from Al Mazra’a al Gharbiya village (Ramallah) was physically assaulted and injured by settlers while she was working on her land near Nehali’el settlement on 18 July.
In two separate incidents on 18 and 22 July, settlers set fire to olive trees belonging to the villages of Al Jab’a (Bethlehem) and Mikhmas (Ramallah), respectively, damaging at least 300 trees. In addition, settlers uprooted 150 seasonal vegetable seedlings in Al Baqa’a area near the Old City of Hebron. There has been a significant increase in settler attacks in the past three weeks on Palestinian olive and other agricultural groves. In two remaining incidents in Ramallah, settlers threw stones at Palestinian-plated vehicles traveling on Road 60 in the Ramallah governorate, damaging one car; and sprayed “price-tag” graffiti on three Palestinian cars in the Sha’ar Binyamin settlement commercial area.
For the second consecutive week, no demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures by the Israeli authorities in Area C or East Jerusalem were reported. In previous years, demolitions have come to a halt during the holy month of Ramadan. However during the reporting period, the Israeli authorities issued stop-work and demolition orders against seven residential structures, two water cisterns and two latrines in the Jordan Valley and South Hebron. An eviction order was also issued against a family in East Jerusalem on the grounds that the family failed to pay the rent designated by the Israeli custodian of Absentee Property and was instead paying an amount agreed with the previous Palestinian owner.
Over 2,000 trees to be uprooted
During the reporting period, the Israeli Nature Protection Department accompanied by Israeli forces marked around 2,270 trees (including olive, citrus, almond, fig and banana trees) for uprooting in the Wadi Qana area (Salfit). This followed the issuance of an Israeli court order allowing the uprooting of trees aged less than two years, on the grounds that they were planted in an area designated as a “nature reserve”. Palestinians from the nearby Deir Istiya village, who planted the trees, claim ownership over the land and have reported that some of the marked trees are over two years old.
Approximately 138,600 Palestinians entered East Jerusalem from the remainder of the West Bank through the four authorized checkpoints around the city on the second Friday of Ramadan (19 July), according to Israeli official sources. This is an increase compared to the first Friday (12 July), when around 85,000 crossed into East Jerusalem, but slightly below the numbers who crossed on the second Friday of Ramadan in 2012 (around 156,800). Access through the checkpoints was reportedly smooth and proceeded without incident, despite the crowded conditions.
As reported last week, women and girls of all ages, men above 40 and boys below 12 have been allowed to pass through the checkpoints on Friday without permits, while those above 60 and under 12 were also allowed during the rest of the week, except on Saturdays. West Bank ID holders not included in these age categories are able to apply for special permits to attend the Friday prayers or for family visits. Palestinians from the Gaza Strip continued to be denied access.
Also in the context of the “Ramadan easings”, the Israeli authorities partially opened for Palestinian traffic the main access road into Hebron City from the south. The gate blocking this road has so far been opened daily for a few hours in the morning (5am to 9 am) and in the evening (4pm to 8 pm) and is occasionally staffed by soldiers. This road had been blocked for the past 12 years by the Israeli authorities, citing the security needs of the nearby Beit Haggai settlement. As a result, tens of thousands of Palestinians had been forced to take long detours to access services, markets and workplaces in Hebron city. It is unclear whether these measures will continue after the end of Ramadan.
Fuel supply increases despite ongoing measures to shut down tunnels
While an increase in the volume of goods transferred into the Gaza Strip from Egypt via the tunnels was recorded during this week as compared to last week, the overall amounts were still a fraction of what entered prior to the Egyptian measures adopted since early June.
Fuel saw the most significant increase: local sources in Gaza reported that, on average, around 700,000 liters of diesel and 100,000 liters of petrol entered each day via the tunnels during the reporting period. While these are almost the same quantities as recorded prior to the recent events, there are outstanding shortages due to the reduced supply of fuel in previous weeks. Shortages of petrol, which is still entering in much lower quantities than diesel, are still resulting in long queues of vehicles at fuel stations across the Gaza Strip.
Approximately half of the diesel supplied through the tunnels continued to be allocated to the Gaza Power Plant (GPP), enabling it to keep operating three of four turbines, producing around two-thirds of its full capacity (80 out of 120 megawatts). The remaining amounts of diesel were rationed by the local authorities to support basic services, including hospitals (which rely on fuel to run backup generators due to the shortage of electricity) and water and wastewater systems.
By contrast, no increase has been reported in the volume of construction materials transferred through the tunnels which continued to enter at an estimated 800 tonnes per day - one-tenth of the amount that entered prior to recent events. Due to the ongoing shortage of building materials, the construction of 1,700-2,000 housing units and approximately 90 per cent of municipal infrastructure building projects has been halted. Import of basic construction materials via the crossing with Israel remains severely restricted.
For the past two weeks, the Egyptian-controlled Rafah Crossing has been operating for four hours per day (for six days per week), compared to the previous standard of nine hours per day (for seven days per week). Travel of passengers continues to be restricted to foreign nationals, authorized Palestinians holding dual nationalities and a limited number of Palestinians referred officially for medical treatment abroad. On average, at least 250 people have crossed from the Gaza Strip to Egypt and around 500 others have crossed from Egypt to the Gaza Strip per day since 10 July. The limited opening of the crossing, which is effectively the primary exit and entry point to the Gaza Strip for Palestinians due to the long-standing severe restrictions imposed by Israeli on movement via the Erez Crossing, is affecting thousands of Palestinians wishing to return to the Gaza Strip or to enter Egypt, including for onward travel to third countries. Palestinian NGOs in the Gaza Strip have urged the Egyptian authorities to re-open the crossing fully.