On 23 May, a 15-year-old Palestinian child died of wounds sustained on 15 May, during a demonstration near Beit El/DCO checkpoint in Al Bireh/Ramallah marking the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians refer to as the 1948 "An Nakba" and protesting against the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
On 14 May, Israeli forces killed 59 Palestinians, including seven children, and injured 2,900 in the Gaza Strip, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH), marking the highest casualty toll in the oPt in a single day since the 2014 hostilities. Palestinian protestors injured one Israeli soldier. Of the Palestinian injuries during the day, 1,322 (45 per cent) were by live ammunition. The casualties occurred in the context of the ‘Great March of Return’, which began on 30 March, and coincided with the official transfer of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. For further details, see OCHA’s Flash Update.
Israeli forces killed another three Palestinians and injured 1,283 others in similar demonstrations during the reporting period, while four died during this period of wounds sustained previously, according to the MoH. The protests are expected to continue up to 5 June, which commemorates Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. For cumulative casualty figures and breakdowns, see OCHA Snapshot.
The large number of casualties and the high percentage of injuries by live ammunition, have raised concerns about excessive use of force. On 18 May, the UN Human Rights Council condemned "the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force” by Israeli forces and called for the establishment of an "independent, international commission of inquiry" to investigate the killing of Palestinians during the protests. In his 23 May briefing to the Security Council, the Special Coordinator for the Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, condemned “the actions that have led to the loss of so many lives in Gaza”, and said that Hamas “must not use the protests as cover to attempt to place bombs at the fence and create provocations”.
During the demonstrations on 11 and 14 May, Palestinian protestors broke into the Palestinian side of Kerem Shalom Crossing, Gaza’s almost exclusive point for the entry of goods, causing extensive damage and leading to a halt in operations. The control room, the main conveyer belt and the fuel and cooking gas pipelines were set on fire and severely damaged. The crossing partially reopened on 16 May for palletized goods and, on 17 May, for the entry of fuel.
On 16 May, Palestinians opened machine gun fire from Gaza towards Israeli forces and the Israeli town of Sderot, according to the Israeli military; subsequently, Israeli forces fired tank shells and conducted multiple airstrikes targeting military sites. Previously, on 12 and 14 May, Israeli forces conducted a series of airstrikes targeting open areas and military training sites in Gaza city and North Gaza. According to official Israeli sources, the latter airstrikes were in response to the violent activities during the demonstrations near the perimeter fence. While none of the attacks resulted in casualties, some military sites in Gaza sustained damage.
On at least 16 occasions,Israeli forces opened fire towards farmers and fishermen while enforcing access restrictions on land and sea. One farmer was injured east of Gaza city. Another two Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli forces, in the course of land-leveling and excavation operations in the vicinity of the perimeter fence in Khan Younis.
In the West Bank, Israeli forces injured 641 Palestinians, including 126 children, during protests and clashes. About 88 per cent of these injuries occurred on 14 and 15 May, during clashes that erupted in demonstrations held in solidarity with Gaza, against the transfer of the U.S. embassy, and commemorating the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians refer to as the 1948 “An Nakba”. Clashes in Nablus city accounted for the highest number of injuries, followed by clashes near the DCO and Huwwara checkpoints (Ramallah and Nablus). Thirteen people were injured during search and arrest operations. More than 60 percent of the injuries during the reporting period were caused by tear gas inhalation requiring medical treatment, including a 58-year-old man suffering from heart problems, who subsequently died at a hospital in Hebron.
In the West Bank, Israeli forces conducted 177 search and arrest operations and arrested 220 Palestinians. The Jerusalem governorate accounted for the single highest portion of operations (41) and arrests (56).
The Israeli authorities announced the easing of access restrictions on the occasion of the Muslim month of Ramadan, which started on 17 May. These include the issuing of some 2,000 family visit permits for East Jerusalem and Israel, while men above the age of 40, children under 12, and females of all ages will be allowed into East Jerusalem for Friday prayers without permits. On Friday, 18 May, around 39,300 Palestinians were allowed into East Jerusalem through three surrounding checkpoints for prayers, according to the Israeli DCL, down from nearly 65,000 in the first Friday of Ramadan in 2017.
Citing the lack of building permits, Israeli authorities demolished three Palestinian structures in Area C and East Jerusalem. Among the targeted structures was part of a donor-funded agriculture road providing access to land to farmers from Haris village (Salfit). Two livelihood structures were also demolished in Al ‘Isawiya neighborhood in East Jerusalem and in Duma village (Nablus).
On one occasion, Israeli forces displaced five families from the herding community of Humsa al Bqai’a, in the northern Jordan Valley, for eight hours, to make way for military training. This community faces regular demolitions and access restrictions, which along to repeated, temporary displacement due to military training, gives rise to concerns over the risk of forcible transfer of residents.
On 11 May, in Duma village (Nablus), unknown perpetrators set a Palestinian house on fire. Although the residents managed to escape, damage to the furniture and house was reported. As a result, five family members, including two children, were displaced. The Palestinian and Israeli authorities opened separate investigations into this incident. Two similar arson attacks were carried out by Israeli settlers in Duma village in July 2015 and March 2016, the first of which killed an infant and both his parents..
At least seven attacks by Israeli settlers resulting in Palestinian injuries or property damage were reported. In three separate incidents, around 450 olive and grape trees were vandalized by Israeli settlers in Turmus’ayya (Ramallah), Halhul (Hebron) and Burqa (Nablus), according to Palestinian local sources. In another three incidents, Israeli settlers punctured the tires of 30 Palestinian vehicles and sprayed “price tag” graffiti on the walls of houses in Shu’fat (East Jerusalem), Wadi Qana (Salfit) and Sarra (Nablus). Three horses belonging to farmers from Nablus city were reportedly stolen by settlers. Settler violence has been on the rise since the beginning of 2018, with a weekly average of five attacks resulting in injuries or property damage, compared with an average of three in 2017 and two in 2016.
At least five incidents of stone-throwing and two incidents of Molotov cocktails by Palestinians against Israeli-plated vehicles were reported, resulting in the injury of five Israelis including one woman and damage to three private vehicles. The incidents occurred on roads near Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron and Jerusalem. In addition, damage was reported to the light rail in the Shu’fat area of East Jerusalem.
Access of some 7,000 Palestinians living in three West Bank communities to services and livelihoods disrupted due to Israeli access restrictions. The Israeli army closed a gate connecting a neighborhood in the Israeli-controlled part of Hebron city (As Salayyme) to the rest of the city for seven days, and the main road between Madama and Burin villages (Nablus) for three days. The measures were reportedly taken in response to stone and Molotov cocktail throwing at Israeli settler vehicles and at a military tower.
The Egyptian authorities announced the continuous opening of the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt for the entire month of Ramadan. Since its opening on 12 May and through the end of the reporting period, 4,865 Palestinians have crossed in both directions. This is the longest, continuous opening of Rafah Crossing since 2014.