Posted on 16 April 2020

Protection of Civilians Report | 31 March - 13 April 2020

Biweekly highlights

  • On 1 April, a 22-year-old Palestinian man died of wounds he sustained on 11 March, after he was shot by Israeli forces during a demonstration in Beita village, south of Nablus. Demonstrations in the village against repeated attempts by Israeli settlers to take over a nearby hill located in Area B have been ongoing since late February and triggered intense clashes with Israeli forces. These protests resulted in two Palestinian fatalities, one of whom was a child, and over 380 injuries; no Israeli injury was reported.  
  • Twelve Palestinians, including four children, were injured in clashes with Israeli forces across the West Bank. Eight of the injuries were treated due to tear gas inhalation, two were shot with live ammunition, and two were physically assaulted. Five of these injuries (including an infant and three-year-old child affected by tear gas inhalation) were recorded in two incidents in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan during a search and arrest operation and while police forces were enforcing movement restrictions related to COVID-19. Another six Palestinians were injured during clashes with Israeli forces patrolling Burin village (Nablus), and during the weekly demonstrations against settlement expansion and access restrictions in Kafr Qaddum (Qalqiliya). The frequency of clashes and related injuries has sharply declined since early March, following the movement restrictions imposed by the Palestinian authorities to contain spread of COVID-19 and the reduction in the frequency of Israeli search and arrest operations.
  • Israeli forces carried out 53 search and arrest operations across the West Bank and arrested 45 Palestinians. Half of these operations and around 60 per cent of arrests were registered in East Jerusalem, ten in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron city (H2) and nine in the Ramallah governorate. This represents an over 50 per cent decline compared to the bi-weekly average of such operations in the first quarter of the year. 
  • On at least 56 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. As a result, three Palestinian fishermen were injured, and a fishing boat was damaged. On five occasions, Israeli forces entered Gaza and carried out land-levelling and excavation operations near the perimeter fence, in the Khan Younis and northern areas. Demonstrations commemorating the second anniversary of the ‘Great March of Return’ and ‘Land Day’, planned for 31 March, were cancelled in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. 
  • On 6 April, Israeli airplanes sprayed herbicides on agricultural land near the perimeter fence, east of Gaza city, according to Palestinian farmers. This is the third such incident reported this year, resulting in damage to crops. 
  • On 13 April, Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt was reopened in one direction for four days, to allow the return of thousands of Palestinians stranded in Egypt. An online platform was launched by the local authorities to register Palestinians ready to return, so their accommodation in mandatory quarantine centers could be arranged. The crossing has been close in both directions since 15 March to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Access for permit holders via the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing by Israel remains blocked, except for urgent cases and cancer patients; dozens of Palestinians have returned to Gaza every day via this crossing.
  • In Area C of the West Bank, 18 Palestinian-owned structures were demolished, seized or dismantled citing the lack of building permits, and 1,200 trees were uprooted on grounds they were planted on ‘state land’. Following the outbreak of COVID-19, the Israeli authorities have largely halted the demolition of inhabited homes, but continued targeting livelihood and service-related structures. Of particular concern is the ongoing demolition of water and hygiene-related structures, which could undermine efforts to contain the spread of the virus. During the reporting period, the Israeli authorities requisitioned two mobile latrines and damaged two water tanks in the herding community of At Taybe (Hebron), and demolished three water cisterns in Kafr Ni’ma village (Ramallah). During the latter incident, Israeli forces also uprooted about 1,200 trees, on grounds that the land was declared ‘state land’. No demolition was recorded in East Jerusalem since mid-March. 
  • Eight Palestinians were injured and extensive property, including more than 670 trees, was vandalized by assailants believed to be Israeli settlers. The injuries occurred in three incidents: in the Israeli-controlled H2 area of Hebron city, where two men (one of whom is mentally disabled) were pepper-sprayed; near Kobar village (Ramallah), where three farmers were beaten with rifles while working their land; and in the Ramat Eshkol settlement of East Jerusalem, where three Palestinian workers were physically assaulted, including one stabbed and severely injured. Another four incidents entailed the uprooting or vandalizing of over 670 olive saplings and trees in At Tuwani (Hebron), Turmus’ayya (Ramallah) and Al Khader (Bethlehem). In the latter village, since the beginning of the year around 1,450 trees belonging to farmers from Al Khader village have been vandalized. Residents from Umm al Kheir herding community reported that settlers poisoned over 20 almond trees. In Ein Qiniya village (Ramallah), settlers ran with motorbikes over land planted with cucumbers, while in Yanun (Nablus) and Al Jab’a (Bethlehem), they herded sheep on, and damaged, cultivated land. In another two incidents, settlers raided the outskirts of Qusra (Nablus) and Al Mazra’a al Qibliya (Ramallah) villages and vandalized property. Since the beginning of March, the weekly average of settler attacks resulting in Palestinian injuries or damage to their property (nine) increased by 80 per cent compared with an average during January-February (five).  
  • A number of incidents of stone and Molotov throwing by Palestinians towards Israeli-plated vehicles travelling on West Bank roads were reported. No injuries occurred, but damage to three vehicles was reported in Ramallah and the Jordan Valley, according to an Israeli NGO.