● One armed Palestinian was killed and 41 Palestinian civilians were injured in clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank
● Twelve (12) Palestinians including at least six children were displaced following the demolition of two Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem
● The total ban on entry of construction materials to Gaza from Israel continues.
● Further reduction in availability of cheap fuel from Egypt triggers longer power outages in Gaza
One armed Palestinian killed and 41 Palestinian civilians injured
In the early hours of 22 October, Israeli forces shot and killed a 28-year-old armed Palestinian who was hiding in a cave in the outskirts of Kufr Ni’ma village (Ramallah) in an exchange of fire. According to the Israeli military, the man was a member of the Islamic Jihad armed wing and was responsible for planning a bomb attack on a bus in Tel Aviv in November 2012, in which 29 Israelis were injured. The incident triggered clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians who gathered at the site following the killing, which resulted in the injury of 14 Palestinians by rubber bullets.
Another 27 Palestinian civilians, including twelve children, were injured this week in various clashes with Israeli forces. Since the beginning of 2013, the number of Palestinian children injured by Israeli forces across the West Bank more than tripled, compared to the equivalent period in 2012 (278 vs 1070), while the proportion of children among all Palestinians injured increased from 15 to 32 per cent.
One of the largest clashes this week occurred on 22 October in Abu Dis (Jerusalem), during the demolition of a Palestinian house located next to Barrier separating the town from East Jerusalem (see also the Demolitions section below). The clashes continued the following day and resulted, overall, in the injury of ten (10) Palestinians, including six (6) children.
Another six Palestinians were injured on 25 October during clashes that occurred in the context of weekly demonstrations against the Barrier in Al Ma’sara (Bethlehem) and Bi’lin (Ramallah) villages, and in Kafr Qaddum (Qalqiliya) against the closure of the main entrance to the village and the expansion of settlements on village land.
Three Palestinian children, including a 9-year-old boy, were physically assaulted and injured by Israeli forces during incidents that took place at checkpoints in the Israeli-controlled part of Hebron city (H2). The Israeli authorities justify the movement restrictions imposed on the Palestinian population as a means to protect Israelis residing in five settlements within the city. Tension in the area has been on the rise in recent weeks, including due to the planned establishment of a new Israeli settlement.
This week, OCHA recorded eight (8) Israeli-settler related incidents resulting in causalities or damage to property - six (6) of the incidents affected Palestinians and two affected Israeli settlers.
Two of this week’s incidents occurred in the H2 area of Hebron City. On 26 October, a 47-year-old Palestinian man and his wife were physically assaulted by a group of Israeli settlers, while they were on their way home with their 5-year-old daughter. The man was sprayed in the face with an unknown substance, his wife was beaten and injured in the head and their daughter was traumatized. On the same day, another 15-year-old Palestinian child was physically assaulted and injured by Israeli settlers in H2.
In another incident this week, on 23 October, Israeli settlers from Yitzhar settlement raided the outskirts of Burin village (Nablus) and attacked an isolated Palestinian house with stones and Molotov cocktails. An 8-year-old Palestinian girl living in the house was severely traumatized, lost consciousness and had to be hospitalized.
Settler violence in the context of the annual olive harvest decreased compared to previous weeks. Overall about 30 Palestinian olive trees were reportedly damaged this week by Israeli settlers in one incident, compared to a weekly average of 280 during the last three weeks. The incident occurred in Huwwara village (Nablus) where trees were discovered cut down or broken on 25 October in an area that is accessible by Palestinians only after ‘prior coordination’ with the Israeli authorities; six Palestinian families who own the trees were affected. Also, on 26 October, a group of Palestinians from Al Mughayyir village (Ramallah) were attacked by a group of Israeli settlers while harvesting their trees next to the Adei Ad settlement outpost; one Palestinian and two Israeli settlers were injured during the incident. Access to this land by the Palestinian owners does not require ‘prior coordination’ with Israeli forces.
Also this week, five Israeli settlers were injured in two incidents of stone throwing by Palestinians at Israeli settlers’ vehicles travelling on a road near Tuqu’ village (Bethlehem), and one Israeli vehicle sustained damage while travelling in At Tur area (East Jerusalem).
This week, the Israeli authorities demolished three houses and one animal shelter in three different sites across the Jerusalem area (Abu Dis, Khirbet Khamis and Jabal Al Mukaber). All were demolished due to the lack of Israeli-issued building permits. A total of 12 people including at least six children, were displaced as a result.
From 1 January to 30 October 2013, a total of 270 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have been displaced following the demolition of their homes, compared to 23 during the equivalent period in 2012.
During the week, for the second time this month, Israeli forces temporarily displaced seven families (53 people including 25 children) from their homes in the Bedouin community of Ibziq, in the northern Jordan Valley. The families were displaced on the evening of 21 October to make way for an Israeli military training exercise in the area. They were able to return about 24 hours later. Another nine Palestinian families from nearby Hamamat Al Maleh, (six) families from Al Burj and (three) families from Al Meita were also forced to leave their homes in the early morning of 22 October for four hours, without prior notice, to make way for an Israeli military exercise. In total, 66 people including 42 children were affected.
Also this week, Israeli authorities issued at least 20 demolition and stop work orders against Palestinian residential (13) and livelihood-related structures across the West Bank, some of which were funded by international donors. Among the targeted structures there is a 500 cubic meter water reservoir in Al Burj (Hebron), serving three villages (620 families), on grounds of lacking Israeli-issued building license.
Between 26 and 28 October Palestinian armed groups fired a number of projectiles towards southern Israel, the majority of which fell inside Gaza or landed in open areas in southern Israel; no casualties or damage were reported. In response, the Israeli Air Force launched an air strike allegedly against a military site in the Gaza Strip; no casualties or damage were reported.
Israeli forces continued to enforce restrictions on Palestinian access to areas near the fence separating Israel and the Gaza Strip, as well as on fishing areas beyond six nautical miles (NM) from the shore: on at least six occasions this week, the Israeli Navy fired warning shots towards Palestinian fishing boats approaching or exceeding the six (NM) fishing limits; no injuries or damage were reported.
Similarly, on at least two occasion this week, Israeli forces reportedly fired warning shots towards farmers working their lands near the fence, forcing them to leave the area; no injuries were reported. In the same context, Israeli tanks and bulldozers reportedly entered approximately 200 meters inside Gaza in various locations including northwest of Beit Hanoun, east of Al Qararah, east of Khan Younis and east of Al Maghazi and conducted land leveling operations.
The ongoing measures undertaken by the Egyptian forces aiming at countering illegal activities in the Sinai continued this week, resulting in further decrease in goods entering Gaza via the tunnels.
According to local sources, less than ten (10) truckloads of goods may have entered Gaza through the tunnels per day between 20 – 26 October, compared to 15 truckloads which entered during the previous week, and 30-40 truckloads during September. This amount represents less than 5 per cent of the volume of goods that entered before June 2013 (up to 200 truckloads per day)
As a result, less than 100,000 liters on average were transferred each day into Gaza via the tunnels . This is almost half the daily amount that entered in the previous two weeks (200,000-300,000 liters), and 10 percent of the amount that entered in June 2013 (around 1 million liters).
The Gaza Power Plant (GPP) indicated that it had not received any of the cheap Egyptian diesel coming through the tunnels this week. However, for the first time in almost three years, around 600,000 liters of Israeli industrial fuel were purchased by Palestinian Energy Authority in Gaza and delivered to the GPP between 20-26 October. The latter partially compensated for the drop in supplies via the tunnels which the GPP had come to rely upon in recent years due to the much lower price. The GPP needs at least 500,000 liters of fuel per day in order to run at full capacity. Due to the low supplies, the GPP shut down the third turbine (out of four turbines) on 24 October, and is consequently currently producing around a quarter of its full capacity (30 out of 120 Megawatts). This has triggered long electricity blackouts of up to 16 hours per day in some areas, forcing people to relay on unsafe methods to light their houses.
The reduction in supplies via the tunnels this week also resulted in an increase in the price of Egyptian fuel on the local. Between 20 and 26 October, around 670,000 liters of petrol and almost 2 million liters of diesel were imported from Israel, an 85 and 426 percent increase respectively, compared to the previous week. However, Israeli fuel is much more expensive and therefore unaffordable for many Palestinians in Gaza and service providers. Shortages of cheap fuel have continued to disrupt the provision of basic services, including water supply, sanitation, health and transportation.
The halt in the import of construction materials to the Gaza Strip via the Karem Shalom crossing, including for projects implemented by international agencies, continued for the third week in a row. This ban has been imposed since 13 October, following the discovery of a 1.8-kilometer-long underground tunnel running from the Gaza Strip into Israel.
According to UNRWA’s spokesperson in the Gaza Strip, construction projects carried out by the agency will be suspended within days if the ban is not lifted. At present, work on the projects is ongoing using supplies still in stock and no workers have yet been laid off. Approximately 18 UNDP projects covering education, health, water and sanitation, electricity and infrastructure are similarly at risk. Combined, the UN projects at risk total nearly USD 83 million – any delays in the implementation of these projects would affect thousands of beneficiaries – some of the most vulnerable people in Gaza.
Up until the ban earlier this month, an average of 1,052 truckloads (67,000 tonnes) of construction materials, designated for building projects implemented by international aid agencies, including UN and other international organizations, have entered Gaza each month since the beginning of 2013.
During the week construction materials continued to enter via the illegal tunnels in limited amounts; around 100 tonnes of building materials (mainly cement) entered per day during the reporting period, about one per cent of the daily average of construction materials that entered in June 2013 (over 7,500 tonnes). The prices of building materials available in the market have continued to rise, and are currently 40 per cent higher than June 2013 prices.
Rafah Crossing update
The Egyptian authorities opened the Rafah Crossing between Gaza Strip and Egypt for four days during the reporting period for passage of humanitarian cases only, before closing it again on 26 October until further notice. During the reporting period, an average of 272 travelers were allowed to cross into Egypt each day including medical cases, students, people holding visas and foreign nationals. Around 350 others entered Gaza, most of whom were pilgrims. These numbers remain well below the daily average of approximately 1,860 who crossed in June 2013, before restrictions were imposed by the Egyptian authorities in relation to their security concerns in the Sinai. Previous reports indicated that approximately 4,000 people are registered and on the waiting list for passage through the crossing to Egypt and third countries. Due to the long-term restrictions imposed on travel of Palestinians through the Erez Crossing with Israel, the Rafah Crossing had become the primary entry and exit point for Palestinians to and from the Gaza Strip.