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Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
17 March 2014

Key issues

Israeli forces kill four Palestinians and injure 53 others in the West Bank.

Escalation in hostilities in Gaza Strip and southern Israel.

Gaza's power plant shuts down for two days increasing electricity outages to 18 hours per day.


Over 70 Palestinians injured by Israeli forces

A significant increase in Palestinian injuries during clashes with Israeli forces was recorded this week across the West Bank: a total of 70 Palestinians, including 27 children, were injured, more than twice the weekly average this year (1 January - 10 March). Most clashes involved stone-throwing by Palestinians and shooting of tear gas, rubber-coated metal bullets and live ammunition by Israeli forces.

This week, a series of clashes over several days took place in and around the Old City of Jerusalem, following the Israeli authorities' imposition of age restrictions on the entry of Palestinian prayers to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound. Overall, 18 Palestinians were injured in these incidents. Also during the week, tensions were high due to the repeated entry of Israeli groups, escorted by Israeli forces, to the compound. In recent weeks, there have been several clashes in and around the compound in protests against the recent increase in the frequency of entries into the compound by Israeli groups, guarded by Israeli forces, as well as the recurrent imposition of age restrictions on prayers' entry to Al Aqsa. 120 Palestinians were injured in clashes of this context since March 2013.

Another 22 Palestinians, 12 of them children, were injured in multiple clashes across the Ramallah governorate this week, mostly around Israeli checkpoints, including during protests against the killing last week of a 22-year-old university student from Beitin village (Ramallah). Intermittent clashes also took place at the entrance of Beit Ummar village (Hebron), resulting in the injury of another 11 Palestinians, including nine children.`

Regular weekly protests against the Barrier, access restrictions and settlement expansion continued during the period. In Kafr Qaddum village (Qalqiliya), eight Palestinians, including two children, were injured as a result of tear gas inhalation in the demonstration against the closure of one of the village's main entrances. An international female activist was also injured as a result of being directly hit in the back with a teargas canister in the anti-Barrier protest held in the village of Bil'in (Ramallah).

During the week, Israeli forces carried out 80 search-and-arrest operations across the West Bank, slightly below the weekly average since the beginning of 2014. Two of these operations, in Askar Refugee Camp (Nablus) and An Nabi Saleh village (Ramallah), triggered clashes, during which, three Palestinians were injured.

Three Palestinians injured and over 70 alive trees damaged by Israeli settlers

This week, OCHA recorded four settler-related incidents; one resulted in the injury of three Palestinians and three caused damage to over 70 olive trees, with no incidents against Israeli settlers. The number of attacks by Israeli settlers that lead to casualty or damage during this week is two below the weekly average since the beginning of 2014 (until 10 March).

The most serious of this week's incidents took place on 16 March, when a group of Israeli settlers threw a glass bottle at public Palestinian transport near Za'tara checkpoint (Salfit), injuring three of its passengers and causing damage to the vehicle.
In another incident that took place in the Old City of Hebron on 17 March, Israeli settlers threw a tear gas canister inside a Palestinian house on Al Shalaleh Street, resulting in no injuries or damage, as the family was able to evacuate the house immediately. Systematic attacks by Israeli settlers, along with Israeli forces' restrictions on the movement of Palestinian residents in that part of the city, have forced thousands to leave their homes in recent years.

Also this week, Israeli settlers reportedly cut down or otherwise damaged 73 Palestinian-owned olive trees in three separate locations. The largest incident took place in Jalud village (Nablus), where 55 trees were sprayed with a chemical substance and damaged, according to the village council. The trees were planted on a plot of land located in Area B, between the Esh Kodesh and Ahia settlement outposts. In recent years, residents of Jalud, farmers in particular, have suffered from systematic attacks and intimidation by settlers from these two outposts, undermining their agricultural livelihoods and safety. The rest of the trees damaged during the week were located in Susiya (Hebron) and Burin (Nablus) villages, allegedly by Israeli settlers from Susiya and Bracha, respectively. These incidents bring the number of trees vandalized by Israeli settlers since the beginning of 2014 to 3,850, compared to 2,000 trees damaged during the equivalent period in 2013.

The low level in demolitions continue: a Palestinian Bedouin family displaced in Jerusalem

The low level of demolitions witnessed since the beginning of February 2014 continued during the period. During the week, two structures were demolished in Area C (no demolitions were recorded in East Jerusalem), a decline compared with the weekly average for the previous month.

On 12 March, the Israeli authorities demolished a house in the Bedouin community of Jabal al Baba (Jerusalem), due to the lack of an Israeli-issued building permit, displacing a family of 10 people, including five children. The family reported not being given sufficient time to evacuate their belongings prior to the demolition. In late February 2014, another 18 structures in this community, funded by international donors, were issued demolition and stop work orders. Jabal al Baba is one of 18 Bedouin communities in the hills to the east of Jerusalem, which are at risk of forcible transfer due to an official "relocation plan" advanced by the Israeli authorities. This area has been allocated for the expansion of Israeli settlements, including as part of the El plan, which entails the construction of thousands of settlement housing and commercial units, creating a continuous built-up area between the Ma'ale Adummim settlement and Jerusalem.

On the same day, also in Area C within the Jerusalem governorate, the Israeli authorities demolished a car-wash facility owned by a Palestinian family in Al 'Eizariya town, due to a lack of an Israeli-issued permit. The same facility was demolished on 17 February this year and later reconstructed.

During the week, Israeli authorities issued seven demolition and stop-work orders against three houses, one of which is inhabited, in Bani Naim village; against two water cisterns in Al Fakhiet (both in Hebron); and against several animal barracks in Beit Nuba and Beit Liqya villages (Ramallah), affecting at least five families.

Escalation in hostilities in Gaza and southern Israel

This week witnessed the most serious escalation in hostilities in Gaza and southern Israel since the end of the "Pillar of Defense" offensive in November 2012. The escalation began on 11 March, when the Israeli Air Force (IAF) targeted and killed three members of a Palestinian armed group, who were, reportedly about to shoot at Israeli forces conducting an incursion northeast of Rafah. In response, the following day the armed faction fired over 100 projectiles towards Israel. A few projectiles landed in open areas in Israel resulting in limited damage to property, while others were either intercepted in the air or fell short inside Gaza. One of the latter hit a house in Beit Hanoun, killing a 52-year-old woman and injuring another five people, including three children; two houses were severely damaged. Following the Palestinian rocket-firing, the IAF conducted dozens of airstrikes, supplemented by sporadic tank shelling, reportedly targeting military facilities across Gaza; one of the air strikes targeting a tunnel under the border between Gaza and Egypt resulted in the injury of three civilians.

As observed in the past two weeks, the security forces of the local authorities in Gaza prevented demonstrators from approaching the fence separating Israel and the Gaza Strip, thus preventing clashes with Israeli forces. However, on two occasions during the week, Israeli forces opened warning shots at farmers present in the access restricted areas (ARA) along the fence with Israel, forcing them to leave, without causing injuries. Additionally, Israeli forces arrested a 19-year-old man who attempted to cross through the fence into Israel.

On at least seven occasions this week, Israeli naval forces opened warning fire at fishermen approaching the Israeli-imposed six-nautical-mile fishing limit. In one of the incidents, a fisherman was injured, two others were detained and their fishing boat was seized. Also, on two occasions, Egyptian naval forces opened warning shots towards Palestinian fishing boats approaching the Egyptian border; no injuries or damages were reported.

Gaza's power plant shuts down for two days

The Gaza Power Plant (GPP) was forced to shut down between 15 and 16 March after depleting all its fuel reserves, increasing electricity blackouts from 12 to as many as 18 hours per day, all over the Gaza Strip. The gradual depletion of the GPP's fuel reserves occurred in the context of the lack of funding preventing the renewal of the reserves. While emergency funding for fuel was pledged by the Government of Qatar during the week, the fuel could not be delivered until 16 March, due to the closure of Kerem Shalom Crossing on 13 March in the context of the escalation in hostilities.

On 9 and 10 March, 401,000 litres of fuel were transferred to the GPP through the Kerem Shalom crossing, compared with 2.16 million litres that entered during the previous week. This week's fuel amounts are the lowest since mid-December 2013, when the GPP resumed partial operations, with fuel donated by the Government of Qatar. The amount of fuel entered this week represents only 10 per cent of the weekly requirement to operate the GPP at full capacity. Until this week, the GPP has been operating at half of its full capacity, producing around 60 megawatts (MW) of electricity, with scheduled electricity outages of 12-16 hours per day. Power cuts continue to disrupt daily life in Gaza, particularly routine access to basic services including water, sewage and medical services.

Thousands of people are waiting to cross into Egypt

Rafah Crossing with Egypt remained closed for the fifth consecutive day since 13 March. Since the beginning of 2014, around 1,350 people traveled through the Crossing per week in both directions, compared to 9,380 travelers during the equivalent period in 2013. Several thousands of people, including medical cases, students and holders of visas to third countries are waiting to cross into Egypt. Since 6 February the Egyptian authorities have only permitted authorized pilgrims to cross Rafah on their way to Mecca.

Erez Crossing closed

Following the escalation in hostilities, the Israeli authorities closed Erez crossing on 13 March until the end of this reporting period, limiting access of humanitarian cases. Despite the closure, the Israeli authorities facilitated the exit of a limited number of urgent medical cases seeking treatment in the West Bank and Israeli hospitals. At least 53 INGO staff were prevented from crossing Erez in either direction during the period.

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