Posted on 2 April 2020

Protection of Civilians Report | 17 - 30 March 2020

Biweekly highlights

  • On the night of 22 March, Israeli forces shot and killed a 32-year-old Palestinian man and injured a relative, while they were travelling on a main road near Ni’lin village (Ramallah). Israeli military sources claimed that the two were involved in stone-throwing at Israeli vehicles. According to family members, the two were on their way to buy supplies. The body of the man killed has been withheld by the Israeli authorities. This brings the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank since the start of the year to nine.
  • Another 40 Palestinians, including nine children, were injured by Israeli forces in various clashes across the West Bank. This represents a sharp decline compared to previous weeks, attributed to the access restrictions imposed in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. Most injuries (26) were recorded in At Tuwani village (Hebron), after Israeli forces intervened during clashes between residents and Israeli settlers, who previously raided the village (more on settler violence below). Six of the other injuries were recorded in the weekly demonstrations against settlement expansion and access restrictions in Kafr Qaddum (Qalqiliya). Of all injuries, 24 were treated for tear gas inhalation, seven were physically assaulted, six were hit by rubber bullets and three by live ammunition.
  • Israeli forces carried out 72 search and arrest operations across the West Bank, and arrested 85 Palestinians, including ten children. Of these operations 21 took place in Hebron, including in the Israeli-controlled part of the city (13), and 20 in East Jerusalem. The overall number of operations declined by nearly 30 per cent, compared to the bi-weekly average since the beginning of the year. 
  • On 27 March, a Palestinian armed group in Gaza fired a rocket towards Israel and the Israeli air force carried out an air strike in Gaza; no casualties were reported. Military facilities in northern Gaza reportedly sustained damage.
  • On at least 22 occasions, Israeli forces opened warning fire in the areas adjacent to Israel’s perimeter fence and off the coast of Gaza while enforcing access restrictions; no injuries or damage was recorded. In two of these incidents, two Palestinians were injured, including a fisherman and a man who reportedly attempted to infiltrate into Israel; some fishing nets were also confiscated. On one occasion, Israeli forces entered Gaza and carried out a land-levelling and excavation operation near the perimeter fence, east of Khuzaa in Khan Younis. 
  • In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, the Israeli authorities further restricted Palestinian access to the Barrier’s “Seam Zone” and to East Jerusalem. All normal permits for Palestinians residing in the closed area between the Barrier and the Green Line, which allow them to reach the rest of the West Bank, were frozen. Residents providing essential services were granted special permits, while access for emergency cases must be requested when needed. Likewise, with a few exceptions, all permits granting farmers access to their land in the closed area behind the Barrier were suspended. Access of patients referred to medical treatment at hospitals in East Jerusalem has been frozen, except for emergency cases and cancer patients. 
  • In the same context, the exit of people from Gaza to Israel (including for passage to the West Bank) and to Egypt, has been largely suspended. Since 12 March, the Israeli-controlled crossing of Erez has been shut down for all permit holders, including over 5,000 daily workers and traders, only allowing passage of medical emergency cases and cancer patients. The exit of passengers via the Egyptian-controlled crossing at Rafah has been halted since 15 March. 
  • For a review of the restrictions imposed by the Palestinian authorities to contain the spread of COVID-19, see OCHA’s weekly Situation Report
  • In Area C of the West Bank, the Israeli authorities demolished or seized 20 Palestinian-owned structures on grounds of lack of building permits, displacing two people and affecting around 170 others. In Ibziq, a Bedouin community in the northern Jordan Valley, the authorities demolished one home and seized eight tents provided as humanitarian aid; four of these tents were intended to be used as temporary shelters during evacuations for Israeli military trainings and the other four for a mosque and a clinic. The other demolitions targeted livelihood-related structures in five communities. One of these incidents occurred in Deir Ballut village (Salfit), where an agricultural room was demolished and a donor-funded water cistern damaged, based on Military Order 1797, which provides for the demolition/seizure of unlicensed structures deemed as “new”. Since the declaration of the COVID-19 State of Emergency in the oPt on 5 March, the Israeli authorities demolished, forced people to self-demolish or seized 40 structures, displacing 26 Palestinians and otherwise affecting over 260 others.
  • At least 16 attacks by Israeli settlers resulted in five Palestinian injuries and extensive property damage. This represents a 78 per cent increase compared to the bi-weekly average of incidents since the start of 2020. In two separate incidents in Umm Safa and Ein Samiya (both in Ramallah), groups of Israeli settlers assaulted two Palestinian men in the outskirts of the villages, in one case with an axe an, in the other with a hammer, seriously injuring them. Another two herders were physically assaulted and injured (in one case by a dog unleashed by settlers), while grazing sheep near in Ein al Hilweh (Tubas) and At Tuwani (Hebron). The latter community also witnessed a settler raid triggering subsequent clashes with Israeli forces (see above). Burqa village (Nablus) witnessed five separate incidents where settlers from Homesh settlement raided the community, physically assaulted and injured a farmer, stoned vehicles, uprooted trees and vandalized structures; Homesh was evacuated in 2005 and repopulated in recent years. Groups of settlers also raided Al Mughayyir (Ramallah) and Khashem ad Daraj (Hebron) villages, where they slashed tires of a number of vehicles and stole water pipes. Also, Israeli settlers uprooted 100 Palestinian-owned olive trees planted next to the Gush Etzion settlement area (Bethlehem). In two incidents in the Israeli-controlled H2 area of Hebron city, Israeli settlers stole or damaged surveillance cameras in a house and a school affected by settler violence. 
  • A driver of an Israeli-plated bus was injured after his vehicle was hit by stones thrown by Palestinians on a road near Kisan village (Bethlehem). Another eight Israeli-plated cars sustained damage when they were hit with stones while travelling on bypass roads near Ramallah and Nablus governorates, according to an Israeli NGO.