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Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
5 March 2015

Note: A new shortened version of the Protection of Civilians weekly report will be introduced starting from the upcoming reporting period 3-9 March, to replace the current version.

Key issues
West Bank
64 Palestinians injured in clashes with Israeli forces.
A mosque and a church set on fire by Israeli settlers; and arson attack against a Jewish cemetery by Palestinians.
Israeli authorities demolish three structures in Area C.
Gaza Strip
Israeli forces open fire on 24 occasions in the Access Restricted Areas (ARA).
One Palestinian dead and another severely injured by explosive remnants of war.
Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt remains closed; no opening since 22 January 2015.

Protest against access restrictions result in dozens of injuries

During the week Israeli forces injured 64 Palestinians, including 11 children, during clashes across the West Bank.

Over 70 per cent of these injuries were recorded during five separate protests against access restrictions imposed by the Israeli military. The largest incident (25 injuries) took place on 26 February in Azzun (Qalqiliya), in a protest against the closure of the village’s eastern entrance since 2001. Another two protests took place also in Qalqiliya governorate, in Izbat Tabib, in commemoration of the death of Minister Abu Ein, following his assault by an Israeli soldier during an olive planting event in December 2014, and Kafr Qaddum villages in a protest against the longstanding closure of the village entrance, triggering clashes with Israeli forces. The remaining two protests resulting in injuries occurred in Bi’lin (Ramallah) against the Barrier, and in Hebron city, against the longstanding closure of Ash Shuhada Street. The latter has been totally forbidden for Palestinian vehicles and partially closed for Palestinian pedestrians, on the grounds of security needs of Israeli settlers in the city.

Two of this week’s injuries were recorded during search and arrest operations by Israeli forces in Al Duheisha Refugee Camp (Bethlehem), on 1 March. During the previous reporting period, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian refugee during a search and arrest operation in the camp. Overall, Israeli forces conducted 103 search and arrest operations during the week, compared to a weekly average of 86, thus far in 2015. The majority were carried out in the Nablus governorate. During the week, a total of 100 Palestinians were arrested, with the highest number of arrests per governorate recorded in Jerusalem.

Israeli settlers set fire to two religious sites and uproot 260 saplings

This week, seven settler attacks on Palestinians resulting in injury or property damage were recorded, bringing the weekly average of such attacks thus far in 2015 to four, compared to a weekly average of six during 2014.

On 25 February, Israeli settlers reportedly set fire to a Greek Orthodox Church in East Jerusalem and to a mosque in Jab’a village (Bethlehem). In both incidents, racist graffiti was sprayed on the buildings’ walls. These were the first arson attacks against religious sites recorded in 2015 compared to three arson attacks attributed to Israeli settlers in 2014. Hate graffiti (including the phrase “Death to Arabs”) was also sprayed this week on the walls of the Urif Secondary School for Boys in Urif village (Nablus). The school has been the target of attacks by settler from the nearby settlement of Yitzhar, with four such attacks recorded in 2014.

In Hebron city, on 25 February, Israeli settlers vandalized a Palestinian souvenir shop near Al Ibrahimi Mosque and physically assaulted and injured three men who were present in the shop. Also in Hebron city, on 19 February (unreported in the previous reporting period), settlers reportedly uprooted around 100 olive-tree saplings that were donated by a Jordanian NGO and planted a week earlier, in the yard of a school in the Israeli controlled part of the city (Tel Rumeida). This week, in the community of Qwawis, also in Hebron governorate, around 260 olive saplings were uprooted reportedly by Israeli settlers. So far in 2015, Israeli settlers have reportedly uprooted or damaged 6840 trees across the West Bank, forming 73 per cent of all trees uprooted or damaged in the whole of 2014.

During the week, there were seven attacks by Palestinians against Israeli settler targets, according to Israeli media. On 24 February an arson attack against a Jewish cemetery located in East Jerusalem, was attributed to Palestinians. The rest of the incidents involved stone or Molotov cocktail throwing at Israeli vehicles in the Jerusalem and Ramallah governorates, all resulting in damage. In four separate incidents (not included in the count), Palestinians threw paint bottles and stones at the light train station in the Shu’fat area of East Jerusalem, causing damage to a windshield. Israeli forces carried out search and arrest operations, arresting one Palestinian.

Three structures demolished in Area C; over 24 structures receive orders

During the reporting period, Israeli authorities demolished three structures in Area C, due to lack of Israeli-issued building permits, affecting 31 Palestinians. This brings the number of structures demolished throughout the West Bank since the beginning of 2015 to 94 compared to 142 in the equivalent period of 2014.

During the week, in Hebron governorate, Israeli authorities demolished a house under construction in Al Uddeisa near Sa’ir and two water cisterns in Hebron city, and near Bani Na’im.

Also this week, Israeli authorities delivered stop work and demolition orders against at least 25 structures in Nablus, Jerusalem and Hebron. The structures include a donor funded school servicing around 20 students in Khirbet al Majaz community in the Masafer Yatta area (Hebron), which has been designated as a “firing zone” for military training; 14 Palestinian communities within this area face risk of forcible transfer. Other orders targeted 16 animal and residential structures in Al Jabal area (Jerusalem), which has been allocated by the Israeli authorities for the “relocation” of Bedouin communities.

In the Sheikh Jarrah area of East Jerusalem, a Palestinian family received a written notification on 26 February, for the family to voluntarily evacuate their home before 1 March, in accordance with an Israeli Supreme Court decision, or otherwise be subject to forced eviction. The family have been residing in the house since 1964 and say that they regularly pay rent to the Israeli Custodian General1, the legal entity that serves as a trustee of property in East Jerusalem which, prior to Israel’s occupation and annexation of the area in 1967, was held by the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property, and which has fused to renew the rent contract. Of note, Israeli settler groups have been at the forefront of advocating for the eviction of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah.

1The Israeli Custodian General, is the legal entity that serves as a trustee of any property in East Jerusalem which, prior to Israel’s occupation and annexation of the area in 1967, was held by the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property.

Israeli forces fire “warning shots” at civilians in the Access Restricted Areas (ARA) on land

Incidents involving Israeli forces fired “warning shots” at Palestinian civilians in the Access Restricted Areas (ARA) on land and at sea continued on a daily basis, with at least 24 such incidents reported during the week, none of which led to injury.

Access restrictions imposed by Israel at land and sea continue to undermine the security of Palestinians as well as the fishery and agricultural sectors in Gaza, which are the primary source of income for thousands of farmers and fishermen and their families.

During the week, Israeli forces arrested three Palestinian men east of Al Maghazi Camp, and southeast of Rafah, reportedly while they were attempting to infiltrate into Israel.

One Palestinian killed and another injured by detonation of explosive remnants of war

On 1 March, a 21-year-old Palestinian was killed and his 17-year-old brother severely injured by Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) which detonated while they were gathering sand from the remnants of a destroyed house in Al Shouka, east of Rafah, for the reconstruction of their home. This brings the number of fatalities due to ERW since the ceasefire of August 2014 to 11, including one child, and the number of injuries to 40, including 16 children.

According to the UN Mine Action Service (UN-MAS), some 7,000 ERW continue to contaminate areas in Gaza, with children, humanitarian workers, rubble-removal workers, scrap collectors, construction workers, internally displaced persons (IDPs) returning to their damaged homes, and farmers working and/ or living in the Access Restricted Areas at highest risk of injury.

Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt remains closed

The Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt remained closed during the entire reporting period. An estimated 30,000 Palestinians are waiting to cross into Egypt, including patients and students. Of this number, 17,000 are registered at the Palestinian Ministry of Interior in Gaza as having priority to travel.

The Rafah Crossing was last opened in both directions between 20 and 22 January, including for a humanitarian convoy of medical and food supplies. During the whole of 2014, the Rafah Crossing was opened on 158 days, allowing 97,690 people to pass in both directions, compared to 262 days and 302,240 people crossing in both directions in 2013.

Multiple demonstrations across the Gaza Strip

The widespread frustration over the deteriorating situation resonated in 17 protests and demonstrations held across the Gaza Strip this week. The main issues raised included the slow pace of reconstruction, the non-payment of salaries to public employees, the ongoing closure of the Rafah crossing, and the longstanding blockade. No violent incidents were reported.

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