Israeli air strikes against Gazan targets resumed this week, reportedly in response to rocket firing by Palestinian militants, resulting in five Palestinian civilian injuries and extensive damage to over 20 houses and a school.
Initial information from the Khan al Ahmar community, in the Jerusalem periphery, suggests that the demolition and displacement threat against the community may have been temporarily removed. The level of risk for 19 other communities in the area remains high.
Israeli settler violence increases while injuries during demonstrations decrease
Thirteen Palestinians, around half of whom were children, were injured this week by Israeli forces and settlers in different incidents related to Israeli settlement activity throughout the West Bank. Overall, there were eight settler attacks against Palestinians and their property, an increase compared to the weekly average since the beginning of the year (5).
Two people, including a 15-year-old girl and a woman, were injured when settlers stoned Palestinian-plated vehicles in the Nablus governorate on two occasions. Another 17-year-old boy was physically assaulted and injured by settlers in Sheikh Jarrah (East Jerusalem). Two children (aged 12 and 14) and a man were physically assaulted and injured while grazing their livestock in two separate incidents: one by Israeli forces near Bracha settlement (Nablus), and another by settlers next to Rotem settlement outpost (Jordan Valley).
Settlers also uprooted 60 olive seedlings belonging to Qaryut village (Nablus) and levelled around 16 dunums of uncultivated land belonging to Kafr Qaddum village (Qalqiliya), affecting around four families. In the latter incident, clashes erupted between the settlers and Palestinian farmers, in which Israeli forces intervened and injured an elderly Palestinian man. In another incident, Israeli settlers vandalized the walls of a house in Al Janya village (Ramallah) by writing racist graffiti.
The remaining six Palestinian injuries were caused by Israeli forces in weekly protests against the expansion of Hallamish settlement (Ramallah) and restrictions on access to agricultural land near Karmei Tzur settlement, during which Israeli forces uprooted 25 olive saplings. This week’s number of such injuries represents a decline compared to the weekly average of injuries in demonstrations in 2012 (10) and 2011 (15).
Threat of displacement at Khan al Ahmar community temporarily removed
According to information from the Khan al Ahmar community, Israeli officials have informed community representatives that pending demolition orders, including against the community’s school, will not be implemented until further notice. The officials also reportedly committed to taking measures to protect the residents from settler harassment. This is one of 20 Bedouin communities in the Jerusalem periphery at risk of being transferred from the area in the context of an Israeli “relocation” plan. Much of the affected area is planned for the expansion of the Ma’ale Adummim settlement (the so-called E-1 plan). While the recent development appears to have removed the immediate threat of displacement over Khan al Ahmar, so far no outline plan, which would allow for the issuing of building permits, has been issued and the risk of demolitions in the rest of the communities in the area remains high.
In East Jerusalem, the Israeli authorities levelled approximately 20 dunums of land belonging to At Tur neighbourhood, and demolished fences, three caves and a small road, along with water pipelines, all as part of preparations to establish a national park in the area. The demolition of the road impeded vehicular access for five families to their houses in the area.
Also this week, a Palestinian man was forced to demolish a building, including two shops, in Ras al Amoud neighbourhood (East Jerusalem) after receiving a demolition order from the Israeli authorities. In addition, Israeli forces delivered eviction orders against more than 60 dunums of agricultural land planted with olive and almond in the villages of Nahhalin (Bethlehem) and Beit Ula (Hebron), for execution within a week. While, according to the Israeli authorities, the property is “state land”, Palestinians say they have official documents proving their ownership over the land. At least 50 families are affected. Also, an extension of a requisition order was issued against around 20 dunums of land belonging to Palestinians near Immanuel settlement (Qalqiliya) for security purposes, and a demolition order was issued against a fence, surrounding a school in Nabi Samuel village (Jerusalem), the construction of which was funded by international partners.
Israeli air strikes injure five and damage around 20 houses and a school
This week, the Israeli Air Force resumed air strikes against multiple targets in the Gaza Strip, reportedly in response to the firing of rockets by Palestinian armed factions towards southern Israel. These air strikes resulted in five Palestinian civilians being injured, including two children. Damaged structures included approximately 20 houses, a school, a youth club, three commercial stores and several cars in the Beit Lahiya and Jabaliya areas, along with tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border.
Incidents in the context of Israeli restrictions on Palestinian access to areas up to 1,500 meters from the fence and to fishing areas beyond three nautical miles from the shore continued. However no casualty was reported. Three Palestinian men were detained by Israeli forces in the restricted area while reportedly attempting to illegally cross into Israel.
Also this week, two members of armed factions were killed in two separate incidents, one in a tunnel collapse under the Jabaliya area, and one in unclear circumstances. Also, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded in Jabaliya camp, damaging four houses and five commercial stores.
Over 120 fuel gas stations shut down; power cuts up to 10 hours/day
According to the Gas Stations Owner Association (GSOA), approximately 70 per cent of the fuel stations throughout the Gaza Strip (over 120 of 180) have reportedly ceased operations due to the reduced amount of fuel transferred through tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border for the last two weeks. Only half of the amount of fuel that entered in the previous weeks has been coming into Gaza for the past two weeks (400,000 liters (ltr), including 300,000 ltr of diesel and 100,000 ltr of petrol). Unconfirmed reports indicate that the reason for this sharp decline is an increase in fuel prices triggered by movement restrictions imposed by the Egyptian police on fuel cargos travelling to Rafah.
Due to these shortages, the GSOA was forced to reintroduce a rationing system for fuel distribution according to geographical areas. Long queues of vehicles have been reported at those gas stations still operating. While there have been no reports on disruption to public services, the situation remains of concern. Also, the Gaza Power Plant, which is the largest receiver of diesel, is now consuming 70 percent of the total diesel that enters Gaza, following a significant decrease in the reserve fuel level in the last two weeks. If the lack of fuel provided to the plant continues, a further increase in power cuts throughout the Gaza Strip, currently at up to ten hours a day, can be expected.
In the context of the blockade imposed in 2007, Israel began restricting the amounts of fuel allowed into Gaza through the crossings. To cope with the situation, Palestinians gradually developed tunnel infrastructure allowing the transfer of large quantities of fuel into Gaza, at a cheaper price, which resulted in an almost complete halt in the purchase from Israel.
Gaza exports remained limited to certain agricultural produce
Between 29 January and 4 February, seven truckloads of agricultural produce were exported from Gaza. These included: three truckloads of strawberries (7.7 tonnes) and three truckloads of cut flowers (343,000 stems) and one of cherry tomatoes (7.6 tonnes). Additionally, two truckloads of cherry tomatoes were transported to Saudi Arabia on 6 February. Since the beginning of the agricultural season in late November 2011, over 140 truckloads of such products were permitted to exit Gaza, compared to over 5,700 truckloads of exports, ranging from agricultural produce to furniture and textiles, which exited between January and June 2007, before the blockade. These few truckloads are an exception to the general prohibition on Gaza exports, including to traditional main markets in Israel and the West Bank, which remain prohibited.