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Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
25 February 2013





Key issues

At least 440 Palestinians were injured in the West Bank in violent clashes with Israeli forces during protests held in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention. The clashes escalated following the death of a Palestinian detainee while in custody.

Two children died and another was injured in incidents related to electricity, tunnels and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) in the Gaza Strip.




WEST BANK

Hundreds injured in violent clashes that escalated
following the death of a Palestinian detainee

Violent clashes during protests held in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli detention, escalated during the reporting period; at least 440 Palestinians and three Israeli soldiers were reported injured as a result. The escalation followed the death, on 23 February, of Palestinian detainee, Arafat Jaradat (aged 30), while in Israeli custody in Meggido Prison (in northern Israel). He had been arrested a few days earlier in Sa’ir village (Hebron). The circumstances of his death remain disputed: a Palestinian doctor who participated in the autopsy concluded that his death was a result of torture; the Israeli authorities have not yet issued a conclusion on the autopsy’s findings but have rejected the possibility that Jaradat was tortured.

Widespread protests took place across the West Bank, the largest of which were held in various locations in Hebron, particularly near Beit Haggai settlement; in Al ‘Arrub and Al Fawwar refugee camps; at Beit ’Enun junction; Sa’ir Halhul Bridge; in Beit Ummar; and in the Old City of Hebron (including in Bab Az Zawiya and Ash Shuhada Street). In addition, protests took place in front of the Ofer prison in Ramallah almost on a daily basis during the reporting period; at Qalandiya (north of East Jerusalem); Al Jalama (Jenin) and Huwwara (Nablus) checkpoints; at the entrance of Ayda refugee camp and Al Khader village in Bethlehem; and in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound. Over the course of the protests, Palestinians threw stones at Israeli forces, who responded by firing tear gas canisters, rubber-coated metal bullets and live ammunition. Over half of those injured were treated for tear gas inhalation, and one third for injuries sustained from rubber-coated metal bullets. Sixteen Palestinians sustained injuries from live ammunition and the remaining from other means. In the gravest incident, a 16 year old boy from Ayda refugee camp was seriously injured in the head by live ammunition fired by Israeli forces.

According to the IDF, following the death of the Palestinian prisoner (between 24 and 26 February), there were 87 separate clashes across the West Bank, resulting in the injury of 12 Israeli soldiers. In addition, the IDF reported 27 incidents of stone-throwing and 13 incidents of Molotov-cocktail throwing by Palestinians at Israeli forces.

The Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process restated that the human rights of all Palestinian detainees and prisoners in Israeli custody must be fully respected. He reiterated that those held in administrative detention should be charged and face trial with judicial guarantees in accordance with international standards, or promptly released. He also stated that the United Nations expects the autopsy to be followed by an independent and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Jaradat’s death, the results of which should be made public as soon as possible.

Dozens injured in settler-related violence in Nablus

At least 28 Palestinians and 12 Israeli settlers were injured this week in the context of settler attacks. This is, however, a slight decrease compared to the weekly average of incidents of settler violence resulting in casualties and property damage recorded in 2012. On 23 February, Israeli settlers from Esh Kodesh and Kida settlement outposts raided the Palestinian village of Qusra and opened fire with live ammunition at two houses, injuring two of the residents and causing damage to the windows. The incident triggered clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinian villagers, after which Israeli forces intervened and fired tear gas canisters and rubber-coated metal bullets at the Palestinians. As a result, 25 Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces (the majority of injuries related to tear gas inhalation). According to the Israeli media, ten settlers were injured by stones thrown by Palestinians in this incident. According to the IDF, the circumstances of this incident could not be confirmed and the Israeli Police have opened an investigation. During the incident, settlers also vandalized an unknown number of Palestinian-owned olive trees.

Also in Qusra, in a separate incident on 20 February unknown assailants set fire to four vehicles. Local residents attributed the attack to Israeli settlers. However, it has not yet been possible to confirm this claim. The Israeli Police has opened an investigation into the incident. The agricultural livelihoods of the residents of Qusra and the neighboring community of Jalud have been significantly undermined in recent years, due to the systematic violence perpetrated by settlers from six settlement outposts established in the nearby area. Multiple plots of Palestinian land around these outposts have been forcibly taken over and cultivated by settlers.

In two separate incidents in the Hebron governorate on 19 and 23 February, Israeli settlers physically assaulted and injured a Palestinian herder near Mitzpe Yair settlement outpost and allegedly uprooted 50 olive trees belonging to Beit ‘Awwa village, respectively. Also in two incidents on 24 and 25 February, a female settler and a five-year old Israeli child were injured by stones thrown by Palestinians in the Nablus and Bethlehem areas, respectively. According to the IDF, between 24 and 26 February there were 63 incidents of stone-throwing and three incidents of Molotov cocktail throwing by Palestinians at Israeli vehicles in the West Bank.

Electricity network dismantled in Area C

On 20 February, the Israeli authorities dismantled an electricity network consisting of 33 poles located in Qusra village (Nablus), which is in Area C, on the grounds that no building permit had been issued for this infrastructure. The network had been built by the village council in May 2012 to provide electricity to one house and four agricultural structures. During the demolition, Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces; eight Palestinians were injured as a result. On 19 February, an animal shack was demolished in Beit Iksa village, Jerusalem, also on the grounds that it did not have an Israeli-issued building permit. The livelihood of the owners, a family of nine, including five children, was affected. No demolitions were carried out in East Jerusalem during the reporting period.

Also this week, the Israeli authorities issued five demolition and “Stop-Work” orders against three houses, a water cistern and an electrical network in Beit Dajan village in Nablus. Israeli forces also requisitioned three Palestinian-owned trucks carrying aggregates intended for use in a project to upgrade a road connecting hamlets in southern Hebron. The trucks were requisitioned on the grounds that the project did not have an Israeli-issued permit.




GAZA STRIP

Four civilians injured in the access restricted areas

Friction in the access restricted areas (ARA) – both in the vicinity of the fence separating Israel and the Gaza Strip and off the Gaza coast – continued during the week, resulting in the injury of four Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces. Since the announcement of the cease-fire understandings between Israel and Hamas on 21 November 2012, a total of four Palestinian civilians have been killed and 106 injured in the ARA.

In one incident on 22 February, Israeli forces fired live ammunition towards a group of Palestinian civilians who were reportedly having a picnic approximately 400 meters from the fence; three people were injured as a result. According to the IDF, the soldiers opened warning fire at the people because they were approaching the fence.

A day earlier, Israeli naval forces shot and injured a fisherman who was reportedly sailing at a distance of less than three nautical miles from the Gaza shore. The IDF asserts that the fisherman entered the restricted sea area along the maritime boundary with Israel` after refusing to comply with the call of Israeli naval forces to turn back and throwing stones, the soldiers fired at him a number of rubber-coated metal bullets. According to the IDF, there were 112 incidents where fishermen exceeded the permitted fishing area on 21 February.

In two incidents on 19 February, Israeli forces detained two fishermen who were reportedly at one Nautical Mile (NM) from the shore and a 16 year-old boy who was reportedly attempting to illegally cross the fence into Israel. Also on 20 February near the fence, Palestinian security forces arrested four Palestinian civilians attempting to cross into Israel.

In the context of the cease-fire understanding between Israel and Hamas, the Israeli authorities have formally extended the permissible fishing area from three to six NM from the Gaza Strip coastline, and have allowed civilian access on foot to areas up to 100 meters from the perimeter fence for agricultural purposes only, and vehicular access to a distance of 300 meters.

On 26 February (outside the reporting period), a Palestinian armed group fired a Grad rocket that reportedly landed in an open area in the southern Israeli city of Ashqelon. According to the Israeli media, the rocket was launched in retaliation for the alleged killing of the Palestinian prisoner in Israeli custody. This is the first such incident since the ceasefire understandings between Israel and Hamas on 21 November 2012. Another rocket was reportedly fired towards Israel on 23 February but reportedly exploded prematurely inside Gaza, resulting in no casualties. The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Robert Serry, stated that he is deeply troubled by the resumption of indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza, which is totally unacceptable.

Two children killed and another injured in three incidents

Incidents related to the electricity shortage, tunnel activities and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) reported during the week resulted in the death of two Palestinian children and the injury of another. On 20 February, an infant (aged three days) was killed in an accidental fire at her home in the Beit Lahiya area; the fire was triggered by candles lit during a power outage. Since the beginning of 2013, eight people, including four children, have been killed and approximately seven others injured in incidents related to power outages. Electricity cuts throughout the Gaza Strip continue to last for up to 12 hours per day, forcing many households to rely on electricity generators (often of low quality) or on candles to light their homes.

Due to the ongoing fuel shortage, this week the Gaza Power Plant operated two turbines, down from three in previous weeks, producing around 65 Megawatt (MWs) during daytime and 50 MWs at nighttime (around 50 per cent of its full capacity of 120 MWs).

On 23 February, a 16 year-old boy died after being electrocuted while working inside a tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt border. Anecdotal evidence indicates that many children are employed in tunnel activities after or during the school day. Since the beginning of 2013, eight workers have died and six others have been injured in tunnel-related incidents. In 2012, 12 workers were killed and at least 30 others were injured in tunnel-related incidents. Tunnels remain the primary source for the smuggling of construction materials, which are restricted through the Israeli-controlled crossings, as well as fuel, which is cheaper to purchase from Egypt via the tunnels.

On 21 February, a ten-year old Palestinian child was injured when an ERW exploded while he was playing with it in At-Tuffah area in Gaza City. Since the 21 November 2012, two children have been killed in incidents related to ERWs. Additionally, 11 other Palestinians, including ten children, have been injured.



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