|Severe escalation in clashes during protests against the Israeli offensive in Gaza
Clashes between Palestinian civilians and Israeli forces in the context of protests against the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip escalated throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Over the past two weeks, Israeli forces killed 13 Palestinians, the largest number of fatalities recorded in such a period in the West Bank since May 2006, and injured at least 1,173 others, including 127 children. Fifteen members of Israeli forces were also injured. This brought the casualty toll among Palestinians in the West Bank since the beginning of the Gaza offensive to 15 fatalities and 1,846 injuries.
The number of demonstrations and people participating in them over the past two weeks, particularly during the last week of Ramadan (21-27 July), was among the highest recorded in recent years. The demonstration held at the Qalandiya checkpoint in Jerusalem on 24 July, for example, was reportedly attended by as many as 10,000 people. In many communities, these were the first protests held in years. Moreover, unlike clashes recorded on a regular basis across the West Bank, which primarily involved children and youth, a large proportion of demonstrators and of those injured were adults.
In many cases, Israeli forces reportedly employed lethal force from the outset of demonstrations, including reports about shooting by snipers. Throwing of Molotov cocktails and fireworks at sraeli forces was reported in some of the clashes, alongside intense stone throwing. Opening of fire at Israeli forces was also reported in two cases.
In one of the most serious incidents that took place on 25 July during a demonstration in Beit Ummar village (Hebron) that evolved into clashes with soldiers, three Palestinian men were killed and another 52, including 29 children, injured.
According to eyewitnesses, the three fatalities were shot by snipers positioned on a rooftop adjacent to a military tower. One of the men killed was a 45 year old father of three children and staff member of Defense Children International, who was not, according to several sources, engaged in stone throwing.
The other ten fatalities, the majority of which took place in the context of clashes in protest against the Israeli military operation in Gaza, were recorded in the following incidents:
1. On 22 July, in Husan village (Bethlehem), Israeli forces shot a 34-year-old man with live ammunition in front of his shop, next to the site of clashes with Israeli forces. He died the following day of his wounds.
2. On 23 July, in Husan village (Bethlehem), a 19-year-old youth died of injuries sustained in the head by a gas canister earlier on the same day, during clashes with Israeli forces, which erupted following the funeral of the previous fatality.
3. On 24 July, at Qalandiya checkpoint (Jerusalem), Israeli forces killed a 25-year-old man with live ammunition during clashes.
4. On 25 July, at the entrance of Al Arrub refugee camp (Hebron), Israeli forces killed a 27-year-old man with live ammunition to the chest and legs following a brawl, after being prevented from reaching his home.
5. On 25 July, at Al Jalama checkpoint (Jenin), Israeli forces killed a 19-year-old youth with live ammunition during clashes.
6. On 25 July, in Huwwara village (Nablus), Israeli forces killed a 22-year-old man with live ammunition during clashes that erupted after a settler killed a 19-year-old Palestinian and injured five others in the village.
7. On 25 July, at the entrance of Beit Fajjar village (Bethlehem), a 14-year-old child was shot in the chest with live ammunition during clashes and later died of his wounds.
8. On 29 July, at the main entrance to Idhna village (Hebron), a 21-year-old man died of injuries sustained the previous day during clashes.
9. On 1 August, in Saffa village (Ramallah), Israeli forces killed a 19-year-old youth with live ammunition during clashes.
10. On 1 August, near the Barrier in Tulkarm, a 22-year-old man was killed with live ammunition, during clashes.
The use of live ammunition by Israeli forces recorded in previous weeks continues to rise, accounting for at least 45 per cent of all injuries during the reporting period (532 out of 1173), with the majority of the remainder injured by rubber and metal-coated rubber bullets, or treated due to tear gas inhalation.
Of note, while most protests in East Jerusalem were of similar intensity as in the rest of the West Bank, crowd control measures used there by the Israeli Police, were limited to firing of rubber bullets, tear gas canisters, and ‘skunk’ water, with no reports of the use of live ammunition. Many of these demonstrations taking place in East Jerusalem were held in protest of the access restrictions to Al Aqsa mosque (see further details below), as well as against the Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip. In one incident a police station near Al Aqsa Mosque was set on fire.
Also in East Jerusalem, on 4 August, an Israeli soldier was shot with live ammunition and severely injured. The perpetrator, whose identity remains unknown, reportedly fled the scene on a motorcycle. Israeli forces conducted multiple search operations in the area; erected many flying checkpoints and intensified checking procedures across all checkpoints leading to East Jerusalem.
An upward trend in clashes and casualties throughout the West Bank has been ongoing since the end of April 2014, following the failed round of peace negotiations.