This week’s escalation in violence in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel highlighted the fragility of the calm that has prevailed in previous months and the vulnerability of the civilian population on both sides.
Demolitions in Area C in the Jerusalem periphery, resulting in the displacement of around 30 people, increase concerns about the imminent implementation of a plan to transfer 20 Bedouin communities (about 2,500 people) from that area, most of which is planned for the expansion of Ma’ale Adumim settlement.
22 Palestinians injured and
over 100 olive trees damaged
in clashes and settler attacks
In a week, in which the Israeli Government announced plans to construct 2,000 new settlement housing units in the Jerusalem area, Palestinian injuries and property losses continued to occur in the context of protests against access restrictions aimed at protecting existing settlements, as well as in settler attacks.
Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians resulted in 21 Palestinian injuries. All but one occurred in weekly demonstrations. Two of the protests were held against access restrictions to agricultural land near an Israeli settlement (Karmei Tzur, Hebron) and to the main entrance of Kafr Qaddum village (Qalqiliya governorate), which also leads to Qeddumim settlement. Another two demonstrations that evolved into clashes with Israeli forces were organized against the Barrier in the villages of Bil’in (Ramallah governorate) and Al Ma’sara (Bethlehem governorate), which restricts access to agricultural land. The route of the Barrier in both areas seeks to protect the adjacent settlement blocs and to allow for their expansion.
This week also, OCHA documented six settler attacks leading to casualties or property damage, all of which took place in the context of the olive harvest. This is significantly below the weekly average of such incidents in recent weeks (14).
In one incident near the Ma’ale Mikhmas settlement (Jerusalem governorate), settlers threw stones at Palestinians while they were harvesting their olives, injuring an elderly woman (80 years old). In the same area, in two separate incidents, Israeli settlers set fire to 70 olive trees and stoned Palestinian-plated vehicles driving near the area, causing damage to four of them. Israeli settlers also cut down or uprooted dozens of other trees in Beit Safafa neighborhood in East Jerusalem (20) and in Janya village in the Ramallah governorate (around 30).
In three additional incidents, settlers attacked Palestinian farmers, stealing the latter’s olive crop or forcing the farmers to leave. The incidents occurred in the northern West Bank in the vicinity of Israeli settlements, during times allocated by the Israeli authorities for farmers to harvest their olives under IDF protection (“prior coordination regime”). In another incident that occurred at night in Al Baq’a village (Hebron), settlers stoned two houses and nine vehicles, causing damage to them.
30 Palestinians displaced; increasing
concern over imminent population
transfers in Jerusalem periphery
This week, the Israeli authorities demolished 13 structures in Area C due to the lack of building permits displacing 29 people, including 21 children. Seven of the structures, including five uninhabited residences and two animal shelters, were demolished in a herding community near Al Eizariya (Al Jabal). The location is near the site that has been planned by the Israeli authorities for the transfer of 20 Bedouin communities (approx. 2,300 people) located in the Jerusalem periphery, in areas allocated for the expansion of the Ma’ale Adummim settlement. An additional three residential structures and one animal pen were demolished in the nearby herder community of Khan al Ahmar, which is one of the 20 to be transferred. These incidents have increased the level of concern over the imminence of the transfer, which, according to the Israeli authorities, is planned to begin in January 2012.
The remaining two structures demolished this week were animal shelters in Qatanna village in the Jerusalem governorate. The Israeli authorities also delivered demolition orders against three residential structures in Silwan in East Jerusalem where 13 people, including nine children, are residing. Stop work orders were also issued against 35 structures, including residential and animal structures and water cisterns in Dkaika, and against a water cistern funded by an international organization in Halhul, both in the Hebron governorate.
Escalation in Gaza and southern
Israel; 12 Palestinian militants and
one Israeli civilian killed
After more than two months of relative calm, a serious escalation in violence took place in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel, leaving 12 Palestinian militants and one Israeli civilian dead, and another ten Palestinians, including two civilians, and three Israeli civilians injured.
On 29 October, the Israeli Air Force launched air strikes targeting a military training base in the Rafah area, killing five members of the Islamic Jihad armed wing and injuring three others. According to the Israeli army, the air strikes were launched in response to the firing of a number of Grad rockets from Gaza towards southern Israel a few days earlier; no casualties were reported.
In the aftermath of the attack, Palestinian armed factions fired rockets, including Grad rockets, at various towns and cities in southern Israel, killing one Israeli civilian and injuring three others in Ashkelon and Beer Sheva. The Israeli Air Force responded with a series of air strikes over two days, which killed seven additional Palestinians allegedly affiliated with armed factions and injured another five; one 15 year-old Palestinian girl was also injured. Widespread destruction at military training bases in Gaza was also reported.
An Egyptian-brokered cease-fire understanding was reached on 30 October between Israel and the Palestinian armed factions in Gaza, restoring calm to the Gaza Strip.
Israeli restrictions on Palestinian access to areas up to 1,500 meters from the fence separating Israel and the Gaza Strip, and fishing areas beyond three nautical miles from the shore continue to hinder the livelihoods of thousands of people in the Gaza Strip. In one incident in the vicinity of the fence (27 October), Israeli forces fired warning shots towards a Palestinian shepherd, injuring him. In another incident, the Israeli Navy detained two fishermen and confiscated their boats; one of the fishermen was later released.