Posted on 5 March 2020
Protection of Civilians Report | 18 February - 2 March 2020
- A round of hostilities between Israel and a Palestinian armed group in Gaza took place on 23 and 24 February and resulted in the injury of 12 Palestinian and 16 Israeli civilians. The round started with the killing of a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) armed group by Israeli forces and the injury of another, while they were reportedly planting an explosive device next to the perimeter fence, east of Khan Younis. Also, two civilians were injured with live ammunition fired by Israeli forces while they were trying to recover the two PIJ members. The images, caught on camera, of an Israeli bulldozer retrieving the body of the man killed from inside the perimeter fence, triggered widespread outrage across the Gaza Strip. Over the following 30 hours, PIJ fired over 100 rockets and mortars towards southern Israel, of which a few hit Israeli built-up areas. Sixteen Israelis were lightly injured and few buildings, including a kindergarten in Sderot city, sustained damage. One of the Palestinian-fired rockets fell short in Gaza city, hitting a Palestinian house and injuring ten Palestinian civilians, including two children. The Israel military carried out a series of airstrikes across Gaza, which resulted in the injury of five PIJ members and damage to various PIJ military facilities. The hostilities ceased on 24 February overnight.
- During the escalation, Israel suspended the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza, as well as off Gaza’s coast. The Erez passenger crossing and the Kerem Shalom commercial crossings were closed, except for the exit of urgent medical cases and the entry of fuel for Gaza’s power plant. Access for fishermen to the sea was entirely prohibited. Previous access conditions were restored on 26 February.
- In the context of ongoing access restrictions, on at least 37 occasions, Israeli forces opened warning fire in the areas adjacent to Israel’s perimeter fence and off the coast of Gaza; no injuries were recorded. On one occasion, Israeli forces entered Gaza and carried out a land-levelling and excavation operation near the perimeter fence, east of Khan Younis. Also, Israeli forces arrested a Palestinian man while he was reportedly attempting to infiltrate into Israel, and another was detained at Erez, while on his way out of Gaza.
- In East Jerusalem, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian man, reportedly as he attempted to stab a policeman, and injured a Palestinian woman bystander. The incident occurred on 22 February, at one of the gates leading to the Old City of Jerusalem. Israeli forces carried out a search operation in the Jabal al Mukkabir neighborhood in East Jerusalem, where the suspected perpetrator lived and arrested his father and brothers.
- Over 250 Palestinians, including around 60 children, were injured by Israeli forces in clashes that erupted during two protests against settlement expansion south of Nablus. The protests, which took place on 28 February and 2 March in Beita village (Nablus), were organized by the Village Council with the support of the Palestinian Authority, against past and expected attempts by Israeli settlers to take over a hill near the village located in Area B. During subsequent clashes, Palestinians threw stones at Israeli soldiers, who responded by firing various types of ammunition. Of the Palestinians injured, 152 were hit by rubber bullets, 86 were treated for tear gas inhalation and seven were hit by live ammunition. No Israeli injuries were reported.
- An additional 168 Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces in other clashes across the West Bank. The largest incidents erupted during various protests, against the US plan for the Middle East, which have been ongoing since 28 January; during a protest in ‘Asira al Qibliya village (Nablus) against access restrictions to farming land in Area B; in ad hoc clashes at Al Fawwar refugee camp (Hebron); in the weekly demonstrations against access restrictions and settlement expansion in Kafr Qaddum village (Qalqiliya); and following the entry of a group of Israelis, accompanied by soldiers, to a religious site (Joseph’s Tomb) in Nablus city.
- Overall, Israeli forces carried out 147 search and arrest operations across the West Bank, and arrested 188 Palestinians, including 17 children. The majority of the operations were in the governorates of Ramallah (33); Jerusalem (30), mainly in East Jerusalem; and Hebron (27).
- 15 Palestinian-owned structures were demolished or seized in Area C and East Jerusalem due to lack of building permits, displacing 33 people and affecting around 100 others. Six of these structures were located in five communities in south Hebron. Five of these had been provided as humanitarian aid. One was a caravan used as a storage room at a school in Susiya, a herding community at risk of forcible transfer. Four of these structures were demolished on the basis of Military Order 1797, which allows the demolition/seizure of unlicensed structures deemed as “new”. The nine other structures, including five residences demolished by their owners following the receipt of demolition orders, were located in East Jerusalem. Since the beginning of the year, 89 structures have been demolished or seized, representing a slight decline compared to the equivalent period in 2019 (95).
- Two Palestinians were injured and over 850 trees were vandalized during attacks attributed to Israeli settlers. On 21 February, a group of Israeli settlers, accompanied by dogs, entered the Ras al Auja Bedouin community in the Jericho governorate and physically assaulted and injured two people. In three separate incidents in Al Khader village (Bethlehem), on 27 and 28 February, assailants believed to be Israeli settlers cut down approximately 100 olive trees and 450 grape vines. An additional 200 olive trees were bulldozed by settlers in Al Mughayyir village in Ramallah, and 100 olive trees and grape vines belonging to farmers from Husan village, located within the fenced area of Betar Illit settlement (Bethlehem), were vandalized. Since the beginning of the year, over 1,000 trees belonging to Palestinians have been damaged by people believed to be settlers. In two separate incidents in Yasuf village (Salfit) and at Huwwara junction (Nablus), settlers damaged 18 vehicles and sprayed graffiti on the walls of two houses.
- Two Israeli women were injured and at least five Israeli-plated vehicles were damaged by stones and, in one case, a bottle thrown by Palestinians. The two injuries occurred in two separate incidents, on roads near Abud (Ramallah) and Halhul (Hebron) villages.