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Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
20 May 2013

Key issues

At least 270 Palestinian civilians were injured in the West Bank in clashes with Israeli forces, mostly during demonstrations commemorating what Palestinians refer to as the “An Nakba Day”.

Some 5,000 people, including medical cases, were stranded in Gaza and Egypt following the unofficial closure of the Rafah crossing by Egyptian security officials,
following a kidnapping incident affecting Egyptian forces in the Sinai. The crossing was re-opened on 22 May.

At least 270 injured in protests and clashes

Nearly 200 Palestinian civilians, including almost 80 youths, and nine Israeli soldiers were injured between 14 and 17 May in clashes that erupted during demonstrations commemorating what Palestinians refer to as the “An Nakba Day” (associated with the declaration of independence of the State of Israel on 15 May 1948, which was followed by a large scale displacement of Palestinians). During the clashes, demonstrators threw stones at Israeli forces, who responded in most cases by firing tear gas canisters and rubber-coated metal bullets. The most intense clashes took place around the Old City of East Jerusalem, around the checkpoints of Qalandiya (Jerusalem) and Beituniya (Ramallah), at the outskirts of Al Jalazun (Ramallah) and Al Arrub (Hebron) refugee camps, and in the villages of Al Khader (Bethlehem) and Silwad (Ramallah).

Additional clashes were reported on 17, 18 and 19 May in the town of Abu Dis (Jerusalem governorate), after Palestinian residents created a hole in a section of the Barrier, which separates the town from East Jerusalem, and attempted to gain access to Jerusalem. A total of 37 Palestinians were injured during the clashes, the majority of whom were minors, including five children who sustained serious injuries in the head and abdomen.

Overall, at least 270 Palestinians were injured this week, more than double the weekly average in 2013. More than half (54 per cent) of all the civilian injuries recorded this week were caused by rubber-coated metal bullets, a significant increase compared with the weekly average since the beginning of 2013 and in 2012 (42 and 25 per cent of all injuries, respectively). Approximately 30 per cent of this week’s injuries were the result of tear gas inhalation, 3 per cent by live ammunition, and the remaining were injuries resulting from physical assault by soldiers, or being hit by a tear gas canister.

Injuries and damage to property in settler incidents

A total of nine Israeli settler incidents resulting in Palestinian injuries or damage to property were recorded during the week, the same as the weekly average so far in 2013.

On 15 and 17 May, Israeli settlers raided the villages of Far’ata (Qalqiliya) and ‘Urif (Nablus), respectively, pelting Palestinian houses with stones and attempting to burn trees. Israeli forces intervened in the resulting clashes, were stoned by Palestinians and then responded by firing tear gas canisters; nine Palestinians needed medical attention for tear gas inhalation. Another three Palestinian children were physically assaulted and injured by settlers in the Old City of East Jerusalem (14 May). In another incident in the Old City one Israeli settler was physically assaulted and injured by Palestinians.

Two additional incidents during the week in Nablus and Ramallah areas resulted in damage to Palestinian agricultural property: on 15 May, Israeli settlers cut down or uprooted around 75 olive seedlings belonging to the Yatma village, according to the village council, and set fire to barley crops in the Deir Jarir village (Ramallah). Additionally, Israeli settlers attempted to set fire to land in two villages in Nablus (Beit Furik) and Qalqiliya (Far’ata), before the fire was put out by the Palestinian residents; no damage was reported.

Finally, three stone-throwing incidents by Israeli settlers were reported in which six Palestinian-plated vehicles were damaged.

18 displaced in East Jerusalem demolitions and 650 trees uprooted in Nablus

During the course of the week, the Israeli authorities demolished a house and six livelihood-related structures in East Jerusalem and Area C on the grounds that they lack Israeli-issued building permits; another house was demolished by its owner in East Jerusalem after receiving a demolition order to avoid paying a large fine. Consequently, 18 people, including ten children, were displaced and at least 25 families affected.

The structures demolished by Israeli forces in East Jerusalem included a residential one in Shu’fat refugee camp and a commercial structure in the Sheikh Jarrah. In Area C, the targeted structures included five commercial structures in the Barta’a Ash Sharqiya village (Jenin), which is located in the closed area behind the Barrier, and an agricultural water cistern in ‘Aqraba village (Nablus). In the latter village the Israeli authorities also uprooted around 650 olive seedlings, on the grounds that these were planted in an area designated as “state land”, while the affected family claims its ownership over the land.


Relative calm continues

Although there were a few incidents of opening fire by Israeli forces into the access restricted areas (ARA) and firing of projectiles by Palestinian armed groups towards southern Israel, the relative calm continues and no casualties were reported during the week.

In some incidents near the fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces fired warning shots towards Palestinian civilians, who were reportedly attempting to cross illegally into Israel, and arrested five of them, including one child. There remains a lack of clarity regarding the boundary of the access restricted area along the fence: while the Israeli Ministry of Defense stated that farmers are allowed to access on foot into areas up to 100 meters from the fence, the IDF stated that Palestinians cannot access areas closer than 300 meters.

In the context of Israeli restrictions on access to fishing areas beyond 3 Nautical Miles (NM) from the shore, Israeli naval forces opened warning fire towards Palestinian fishermen in at least three incidents, forcing them ashore. Damage to fishing equipment was reported. In one of the incidents on 19 May, Israeli naval forces detained two fishermen and confiscated their boat, before releasing them the next day, without the vessel.

One killed in a tunnel-related incident

On 18 May, a 20 year-old worker was killed when a tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt border collapsed while he was working inside, bringing the total number of those killed in tunnel-related incidents since the beginning of 2013 to 12. Eleven other workers have been injured so far in 2013. Tunnels, many 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.

Closure of Rafah crossing: thousands stranded

Members of the Egyptian security forces unofficially closed the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt from 17 May, after seven members of Egyptian forces were kidnapped by an armed group in the Sinai Peninsula a few days earlier. The unofficial closure effectively halted all movement of people and goods via the crossing. Palestinian officials in Gaza reported that over 2,000 people, including medical cases, have been prevented from leaving Gaza and around 3,000 others including patients, pilgrims and students have been prevented from crossing back into Gaza. On average, approximately 1,300 Palestinians cross through Rafah each day in both directions. The closure of Rafah is compounded by the existing severe restrictions on Palestinian access via the Erez Crossing with Israel. In addition following the kidnap, the local police in Gaza intensified its presence along the tunnels for security reasons.

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