Situation in Gaza remains extremely volatile
While no casualties were recorded during the reporting period in the Gaza Strip and Israel, the situation remains tense. On 2 and 3 April, outside the reporting period, Palestinian armed groups fired rockets towards southern Israel and, in response, the Israeli military conducted airstrikes in Gaza on 3 April, undermining the ceasefire reached on 21 November 2012. According to the IDF, the airstrikes targeted tunnels east of Gaza City. The Israeli media reported that one rocket fired from Gaza hit a kindergarten in the city of Sderot on 21 March. The building was empty due to the Passover holiday and the damaged was discovered only this week.
Following the incidents on 2 and 3 April, the UN Special Coordinator, Mr. Robert Serry condemned the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Palestinian armed groups into civilian areas and called on Israel to act with restraint. He also stated that the UN will continue to support Egyptian efforts to restore the calm and fully implement the ceasefire understanding as the only viable way to address the unsustainable situation in Gaza.
This week also witnessed several clashes in the access restricted areas (ARA) on land and at sea; no casualties were reported. One incident took place on 30 March during a Land Day demonstration held a in the vicinity of the fence. On 28 March, also near the fence, Israeli bulldozers and tanks entered approximately 300 meters into Gaza, withdrawing after leveling land. On several occasions this week, Israeli naval forces opened warning fire towards Palestinian fishing boats reportedly sailing close to the 3 nautical miles (NM) limit from the Gaza shore and in the vicinity of 1.5 NM limit along the northern maritime boundary with Israel.
The fishing limit had been extended to 6 NM in the context of the November 2012 ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas. This was subsequently reduced by the Israeli authorities to 3 NM on 21 March in response to the firing of rockets by Palestinian armed groups towards Israel on the same day. According to the Fishermen Syndicate in Gaza, this measure will further undermine the livelihoods of approximately 3,500 fishermen and their dependents.
Two killed and one injured in a tunnel related incident
In one incident on 26 March, two workers were killed and another was injured when a cooking gas cylinder exploded in a tunnel under the Gaza- Egypt border while they were working inside. Since the beginning of 2013, ten workers have died and nine others have been injured in tunnel-related incidents. Tunnels, some of which are poorly built, remain the primary source for the transfer of construction materials into Gaza, for which entry via Israel remains restricted, and for fuel, which is cheaper to purchase from Egypt.