Protection of Civilians Report | 27 March – 9 April 2018
Thirty-two (32) Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces, and 3,078 have been injured in the Gaza Strip during the reporting period, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH) in Gaza. The majority of the casualties have taken place in the context of the ‘Great March of Return’, a series of protests that started on 30 March and are expected to continue up to 15 May, the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians refer to as the 1948 ‘Nakba’. The demonstrations have taken place on the Gaza side of the perimeter fence with Israel, where the Israeli army imposes a ‘No Go Zone’, citing security concerns. No Israeli casualties have been recorded.
Twenty-six (26) of the fatalities, including three children, and virtually all of the injuries, including 445 children, were in the context of the abovementioned demonstrations. The vast majority of the casualties were recorded on Friday, 30 March and 6 April, at a number of tent camps located about 700 metres from the fence with Israel. A few hundred demonstrators, out of tens of thousands, have approached and attempted to breach the fence, burnt tires, threw rocks and, according to Israeli sources, fire bombs at Israeli forces. The latter responded by firing live ammunition, including by some one hundred snipers deployed along the fence, rubber bullets and tear gas canisters. According to the MoH in Gaza, approximately 40 per cent of all injuries (1,236 people) were hit by live ammunition. The Israeli authorities have stated that some of the fatalities were members of Palestinian armed groups, and accused the MoH of inflating the number of wounded by live ammunition.
The incidents have raised concern about excessive use of force by Israeli forces. The spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that “given the large number of injuries and deaths, the ominous statements made by Israeli authorities in the days leading up to the protest, as well as indications that the individuals killed or wounded were unarmed or did not pose a serious threat to well-protected security forces – and in some cases were actually running away from the fence – there are strong indications that security forces used excessive force”. The UN Secretary-General expressed his deep concern about the clashes and casualties, and called for an independent and transparent investigation into the incident. The Israeli army has announced that it will hold its own internal investigation.
Five Palestinian men were killed by Israeli forces near the perimeter fence in three separate incidents. Two were killed by Israeli tank shelling in northern Gaza on 30 March, reportedly while attempting to evacuate a farmer, who was previously shot and injured while working at around 300 meters from the fence. The same day, another two Palestinians were shot and killed after they breached the fence and entered to Israel, and their bodies are being withheld by the Israeli authorities. On 5 April, Israeli air forces targeted and killed a 22-year-old armed man, reportedly when approaching the fence, east of Gaza City. On 9 April, the Israeli air force fired a number of missiles at military training sites in Gaza, resulting in no casualties; according to Israeli sources, the airstrike was in response to the infiltration into Israel of three Palestinians, who planted an explosive device, and returned to Gaza unharmed. Another five Palestinians were arrested while they were trying to enter Israel through the perimeter fence in northern Gaza.
On 30 March, prior to the start of the demonstrations, a 31-year-old Palestinian farmer was shot and killed by Israeli forces while working his land near the perimeter fence surrounding Gaza, east of Khan Younis. On at least 34 additional occasions, Israeli forces opened warning fire at farmers and fishermen in areas along the fence and at sea, resulting in injury of three fishermen. On five occasions, Israeli forces carried out land-levelling and excavation operations inside Gaza, next to the perimeter fence.
In the West Bank, 715 Palestinians, including 165 children, were injured by Israeli forces during protests and clashes. About 76 per cent of these injuries occurred during clashes that erupted following protests in solidarity with the ‘Great March of Return’ in the Gaza Strip and in commemoration to the ‘Land Day’. Clashes in Qalqiliya city accounted for the highest number of injuries, followed by Kafr Qalil and Lubban ash Sharqiya (both in Nablus), and clashes near the DCO and Huwwara checkpoints (in Ramallah and Nablus). Another 16 per cent injuries were reported during clashes in the course of seven search and arrest operations, with the majority (90 injuries) recorded during an operation in Abu Dis (Jerusalem). Most of the injuries (80 per cent) were caused by tear gas inhalation requiring medical treatment, followed by injuries by rubber bullets (13 per cent), and live ammunition (3 per cent). Injuries due to tear gas inhalation include 25 students in the H2 area of Hebron city, affected by canisters shot by Israeli forces at the yard of two school compounds, on 3 April.
Two Palestinian men died of their wounds, after being shot in two separate incidents, reportedly while carrying out stabbing attacks. On 8 April, an Israeli settler shot and injured a 30-year-old Palestinian man, who reportedly attempted to stab him at the entrance of the Mishor Adumim settlement industrial area (Jerusalem). The man was transferred to an Israeli hospital, where he died the following day. On 2 April, a 46-year-old Palestinian man was shot and injured by Israeli forces at Jubara checkpoint (Tulkarm), after he reportedly attempted to stab an Israeli soldier; he died of his injuries six days later. No Israeli injuries were reported in either of these incidents. This brings the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces and Israeli settlers in attacks and alleged attacks since the beginning of 2018 to four.
Israeli authorities demolished, seized or sealed 15 structures in Area C and East Jerusalem on grounds of lack of building permits, displacing 11 Palestinians, and affecting more than 80 others. Five of the targeted structures, including one demolished by its owners following the receipt of demolition orders, were in East Jerusalem, and the other ten structures were in Area C communities. One of the affected communities was Khirbet Zanuta, in southern Hebron, were two structures serving as an elementary school for 24 students were seized. A recent assessment indicated that 44 primary schools (36 in Area C and eight in East Jerusalem), currently serving about 5,000 children, are at risk of demolition or seizure on grounds of lack of building permits.
On 10 April, the Israeli authorities announced a temporary expansion of the permissible fishing zone along the southern coast of Gaza from 6 to 9 nautical miles (NM), on the occasion of the sardine season. Similar expansions of the fishing area in 2016 and 2017 led to a significant increase in the total fishing catch, however, this remains limited mainly to low-value sardines, minimizing the economic significance; therefore, fishers continue to face difficulty earning a livable income.
At least six attacks by Israeli settlers resulting in Palestinian injuries or property damage were reported. A 20-year-old Palestinian man was injured after a group of Israeli settlers physically assaulted and ran-over him with a motorcycle in At Tuwani village, in southern Hebron. In three separate incidents, in Beit Hanina (East Jerusalem), Far'ata (Qalqiliya) and Beita (Nablus) Israeli settlers set on fire eleven Palestinian vehicles and sprayed racist and price tag graffiti on the walls of two Palestinian houses. Two Palestinian vehicles and a school bus sustained damage in two separate incidents of stone and Molotov-cocktail throwing by Israeli settlers on roads near Dura (Hebron) and at the northern entrance of Hebron city. In another two incidents, 19 Palestinians were injured during clashes with Israeli forces, following the entrance of Israeli settlers to various religious sites in the West Bank, triggering altercations and clashes with Palestinians.
According to Israeli media reports, one Israeli settler was injured, and two vehicles were damaged as a result of stone-throwing by Palestinians on roads near Yabrud (Ramallah), Tuqu’ (Bethlehem) and Al ‘Arrub refugee camp (Hebron).
The Egyptian-controlled Rafah Crossing was closed during the reporting period in both directions. According to the Palestinian authorities in Gaza, more than 23,000 people, including prioritized humanitarian cases, are registered and waiting to cross Rafah.