Protection of Civilians Report | 12 - 25 February 2019
One Palestinian boy was killed, during the Friday demonstrations and clashes at the perimeter fence in Gaza, and 449 Palestinians were injured; another boy died of wounds sustained previously. According to Israeli sources, on several occasions, protestors threw explosive devices, launched incendiary balloons and tried to breach the fence, resulting in injury to an Israeli Border Police officer. On 22 February, Israeli forces shot a 14-year-old Palestinian boy with live ammunition in the chest and killed him during a protest east of Gaza city. On 12 February, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy died of wounds sustained after being hit by a tear gas canister in the head by Israeli forces during a similar protest on 8 February in the Deir al Balah area. These incidents bring the number of Palestinian children killed in the context of the ‘Great March of Return’ to 40 since late March 2018. Five of these have been killed since the beginning of 2019. Of all the injuries during the reporting period, 228 were hospitalized, including 92 people injured by live ammunition, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Another 165 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were injured in additional protests and activities in the context of the ‘Great March of Return’. These include demonstrations that were held on 12 and 19 February at the beach next to the fence in northern Gaza, alongside a flotilla of boats which tried to break the naval blockade. There has been an increase in night protests near the fence that involve the burning of tyres and the throwing of explosive devices at Israeli forces. Following the injury of an Israeli soldier, IDF forces fired tank shells at two Palestinian military posts in northern Gaza, resulting in no casualties.
On at least 44 occasions, outside of the demonstrations, Israeli forces opened warning fire in the Access Restricted Areas at land and sea in Gaza. In two incidents, three fishermen were injured, four others were arrested, and two boats were confiscated by Israeli naval forces. On two occasions, Israeli forces entered Gaza and carried out land-levelling and excavation operations near the perimeter fence, east of Gaza city and Khan Younis. In two other incidents, five Palestinians were arrested while attempting to infiltrate into Israel.
In the West Bank, 139 Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers were injured in multiple clashes. Two thirds of the injuries occurred in clashes that erupted during six search and arrest operations. Overall, Israeli forces conducted 156 search and arrest operations. On 21 February, Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters inside a school compound in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron city (H2), reportedly following stone-throwing by Palestinian children, resulting in 30 students and three teachers being treated for tear gas inhalation. Another three Palestinians were injured in a weekly protest against settler violence and settlement expansion in Al Mughayyir village (Ramallah) and three others in a protest in Urif village (Nablus). Of the total injuries, nearly 70 per cent were caused by tear gas inhalation requiring medical treatment, seven per cent by rubber bullets and seven per cent by live ammunition.
Tensions in the Al Aqsa Mosque/Temple Mount compound and surrounding areas in the Old City of Jerusalem have been on the rise, following protests, arrest operations and access restrictions. On 17 February the Israeli police placed chains at the entrance to Bab Ar Rahma building in the compound, which has been closed by the Israeli authorities since 2003. On the following days, Palestinians protested this measure and clashed with Israeli forces, resulting in two injuries. On 22 February, Palestinians broke into the building and held prayers there for the first time in 16 years. Between 18 and 25 February, Israeli forces arrested around 100 Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the majority in the Old City, and issued orders banning many Palestinians, including public and religious figures, from entering the compound for various time periods.
Eleven incidents involving Israeli settlers resulted in the injury of five Palestinians and damage to Palestinian property. Three Palestinian were physically assaulted and another stabbed by settlers near Al Farisiya (Jordan Valley), Khirbet al ‘Idd (Hebron) and Kisan (Bethlehem) communities. Also, Israeli settlers stoned Palestinian-plated cars near Huwwara checkpoint (Nablus), vandalized ten cars in Ras Karkar (Ramallah) and 22 other cars, four houses and a mosque in Iskaka (Salfit). Israeli police opened an investigation in the latter incident. In three other incidents, settlers uprooted 600 Palestinian-owned olive trees near Ash Shuyukh (Hebron) and cut down 60 olive trees and damaged nine dunums of land in Beitillu and Al Mughayyir villages (both in Ramallah). In two separate incidents in Farisiya Nabe’ Ghazal (Tubas) and Burqa village (Nablus), Israeli settlers reportedly stole livestock and agricultural produce from Palestinians. These bring the number of settler attacks to 47, since the beginning of 2019, that have resulted in Palestinian casualties or damage to property, compared to 38 and 29 in the equivalent periods of 2018 and 2017, respectively.
The Israeli authorities demolished 26 Palestinian-owned structures, including parts of three water connections, displacing 44 people and affecting thousands of others. All the incidents were on grounds of the lack of Israeli-issued building permits. The three water connections that were destroyed, all in Area C, supplied, or were about to supply, Beit Dajan and Beit Furik villages in Nablus (18,000 people), 13 herding communities in the Masafer Yatta area of Hebron (1,200 people), and the Bedouin community of Wadi Abu Hindi in Jerusalem (320 people), all of which suffer from severe water shortages, especially in the summer. The latter two connections were funded by international donors and provided as humanitarian assistance. Seven structures, including five homes, were demolished in East Jerusalem displacing 38 people. Two of the targeted homes were in the community of Bir Onah in the south of the city, which is separated from the rest of Jerusalem by the Barrier.
Palestinians injured three Israeli settlers and damaged several vehicles in six incidents of stone and Molotov cocktail throwing across the West Bank, according to Israeli media reports. In two incidents on 16 and 19 February, three Israeli settlers were injured by stones thrown by Palestinians while travelling near Hizma and Al ‘Isawiya villages (Jerusalem). Also, six cars sustained damage by stones and Molotov cocktails in the Jerusalem and Ramallah governorates. Israeli forces conducted search and arrest operations following most of the incidents.
Hamas Police forces forcibly dispersed an assembly of Fatah activists on 23 February in Gaza. Human rights organizations reported that around 90 members of the Fatah movement were summoned subsequently by the police, some of whom remain detained.
Hamas authorities assumed control of the Gaza-side of Kerem Shalom Crossing with Israel on 17 February, in the context of a dispute with the Palestinian Authority. Movement of goods to and from the Gaza Strip continued without interruption.
The Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt was open in both directions for ten days during the period. A total of 1,320 people entered Gaza and 2,983 others exited.