Protection of Civilians Report | 22 May – 4 June 2018
On 6 June, Israeli forces killed a 21-year-old Palestinian during clashes that erupted in the course of a search and arrest operation in An Nabi Saleh village (Ramallah).
Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian woman, and injured 170 other Palestinians, during the 25 May and 1 June mass demonstrations along Israel’s perimeter fence with Gaza. Another seven Palestinians died during the reporting period of wounds sustained in previous weeks’ demonstrations. The fatality on 1 June was a 21-year-old female, killed on duty while volunteering with the Palestinian Medical Relief Society. United Nations officials and agencies have expressed outrage at the killing. Another Palestinian died of his wounds on 5 June, after being shot the day before by Israeli forces close to Israel’s perimeter fence in Khan Yunis, and his body is being withheld by the Israeli authorities. The ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations, which started on 30 March, are expected to come to an end on 8 June. For cumulative casualty figures and breakdowns, see here.
The reporting period witnessed the most serious escalation in Gaza and southern Israel since the 2014 hostilities. In two separate incidents, on 27 and 28 May, Israeli forces opened tank fire at Palestinian military posts east of Khan Yunis and northern Beit Lahia, killing four members of armed groups and injuring another one. Over the following days, Palestinian armed groups fired more than 150 rockets and mortars at Israel. One of these fell inside a house in northern Gaza, causing minor damage, and most of the rest fell in open areas or were intercepted in the air, according to Israeli media reports. Three Israeli soldiers were injured, and limited damage resulted inside Israel, including to a kindergarten. Israeli forces carried out dozens of airstrikes across Gaza, targeting military sites and open areas, resulting in one injury and damage to the targeted sites, as well as to seven fishing boats, an industrial facility, agricultural land and a school. The escalation was over by the end of the reporting period.
Throughout the reporting period, including during the demonstrations near the fence, Palestinians flew hundreds of paper kites and gas balloons loaded with flammable materials, damaging agricultural land and crops in southern Israel. According to Israel’s Defence Minister, as cited in the Israeli media, of about 600 such kites, two thirds were intercepted in the air, and a third reached Israel, setting fire to some 9,000 dunums (2,220 acres).
On 5 June, Gaza’s sole power plant (GPP) shut down its only operating turbine due to the lack of fuel. The GPP has not been functioning because of unsolved disputes between the Palestinian authorities in Gaza and the West Bank over funding and taxation of the fuel. Electricity shortages in Gaza result in rolling power cuts of 20-22 hours per day, undermining service delivery, including health, water and sanitation and education.
On at least 28 occasions,Israeli forces opened fire towards farmers and fishermen to enforce access restrictions on land and sea. They also detained four fishermen and confiscated one boat. On 29 May, Israeli naval forces intercepted and seized a ship from Gaza that was attempting to break the sea blockade, and arrested 17 people who were on board. On two occasions, Israeli forces entered Gaza, near Beit Lahiya and Jabalia (Gaza North), and carried out land-levelling and excavation operations near the perimeter fence.
On 2 June, Israeli forces shot and killed a 35-year-old Palestinian, who was working in a construction project in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron city (H2). According to Israeli military sources, the man was shot after he attempted to run over soldiers with a bulldozer. Palestinian witnesses rejected this account and indicated that the man did not stop after being ordered so due to the loud noise at the site where the incident occurred.
One Israeli soldier was killed and 33 Palestinians were injured during clashes that erupted over the course of multiple search and arrest operations across the West Bank. The largest clashes occurred during an operation in Al Amari refugee camp (Ramallah) on 26 May, where a Palestinian dropped a marble slab on a soldier who died of his wounds two days later. Overall, Israeli forces conducted 114 such operations across the West Bank, arresting 207 Palestinians, including seven children. The Hebron governorate recorded the highest number of operations (42), followed by the Jerusalem (17) and Ramallah (15) governorates.
Another 12 Palestinians were injured during demonstrations and clashes, and a 15-year-old Palestinian, who had been shot with live ammunition on 15 May, during a demonstration near Beit El/DCPO, died of his wounds. This is the fourth Palestinian child killed since the beginning of 2018 in the West Bank during demonstrations and stone-throwing incidents. The majority of the injuries occurred during clashes that erupted in the weekly demonstrations in Kafr Qaddum (Qalqiliya) and An Nabi Saleh village (in Ramallah). Another two Palestinians were shot with live ammunition and injured as they were trying to cross the Barrier without a permit in two separate incidents, near Tulkarm and Bethlehem.
On the second and third Fridays of Ramadan, Israeli forces allowed about 87,000 and 122,000 Palestinians, respectively, into East Jerusalem for prayers, according to official Israeli sources. Males above the age of 40 and under 12 and all females were allowed to cross checkpoints without permits, and other males were eligible for permits. Residents of Gaza are not eligible for Ramadan permits.
On 24 May, the Israeli High Court of Justice rejected petitions submitted by the Palestinian Bedouin community of Khan Al Ahmar – Abu al Helu (Jerusalem governorate), paving the way for its demolition on the grounds of a lack of building permits and for the forcible transfer of its 180 residents. The community has rejected the Israeli authorities’ plan to relocate them to a nearby site. Among the structures at risk is a donor-funded school serving Bedouin communities in the area. The targeted community is one of 18 located in or next to an area in part designated for the strategic E1 settlement plan. On 1 June, the Humanitarian Coordinator and UNRWA’s Director of Operations, called on Israel to cease its plans to carry out the mass demolitions and transfer the community.
No demolitions or seizures were recorded during the reporting period. This is consistent with the practice recorded in previous years when demolitions are largely halted during the month of Ramadan.
On one occasion, Israeli forces displaced five families from the herding community of Humsa al Bqai’a, in the northern Jordan Valley, for six hours, to make way for military trainings. This community faces regular demolitions, access restrictions and temporary displacement, all of which raises concern over the risk of forcible transfer.
Three Palestinians were injured and more than 1,200 Palestinian-owned trees were vandalized in incidents involving Israeli settlers across the West Bank. In two separate incidents, Israeli settlers physically assaulted and injured three Palestinian men in the Sur Bahir neighborhood of East Jerusalem and near ‘Urif village (Nablus). In the latter incident, a group of 30 Israeli settlers attacked a 71-year-old man with rocks and sticks while he was herding sheep, triggering clashes with residents in the area. Israeli forces intervened following confrontations, injuring two Palestinians. According to community sources, in six separate incidents, about 1,265 trees and planted crops on lands belonging to Palestinians from Ein Samiya and Kafr Malik (both in Ramallah), ‘Urif (Nablus), in Khallet Sakariya (Bethlehem), Bani Na’im and Halhul villages (all in Hebron) were vandalized by Israeli settlers.
Israeli media reported nine incidents of stone-throwing by Palestinians at Israeli settler vehicles; no casualties were reported but damage was caused to one vehicle.
The Egyptian authorities had announced the opening of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt for the entire month of Ramadan. A total of 8,786 exits and 1,587 entries have been recorded between its opening on 12 May and the end of the reporting period. This is the longest continuous opening of Rafah crossing since 2014.