oPt

Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt): Flash Update #1 - Escalation in East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and Israel (as of 17:00, 11 May 2021)

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• Tension in East Jerusalem has been escalating in recent weeks, centring on the Sheikh Jarrah and the Old City areas. Between 7 and 10 May alone, 1,000 Palestinians were injured by Israeli security forces, 735 of these due to rubber bullets.

• Since the 18:00 on the evening of 10 May, over 250 rockets have been launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel spreading unrest in Gaza and into Israel. Up to 17:00 on 11 May, 28 Palestinians, including 10 children are reported killed in Gaza and 154 injured in Israeli airstrikes. Two women have been killed in Israel as a result of the rockets fired from Gaza, with dozens more reported injured.

• The humanitarian community, including UN agencies and the NGO partners, is continuing to deliver assistance to those in need, with the protection of civilians of paramount importance. The current escalation risks worsening an already poor humanitarian situation, especially in Gaza, where the struggling health sector is further burdened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of immediate concern is the shutdown of Gaza’s sole power plant by the end of this week due to lack of fuel, with negative consequences for the provision of vital services.

SITUATION OVERVIEW

Unrest in East Jerusalem has been on the rise since the beginning of Ramadan on 13 April, after the Israeli authorities installed metal barriers outside the Damascus Gate, blocking access to a public area for Palestinians. Although a relative calm was restored on 25 April, with the removal of the obstacles, tensions were also heightened by the Israeli authorities’ imminent eviction of four extended Palestinian refugee families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. Since 28 April, Palestinians have been holding daily protests in Sheikh Jarrah area in solidarity with the families at risk of eviction, triggering clashes with Israeli settlers and Israeli police forces. Following a request by Israel’s Attorney General, on 9 May, the Israeli Supreme Court postponed by a month a hearing on the evictions and instructed the Israeli authorities to postpone the evictions until further notice.

Between 7 and 10 May, widespread clashes erupted in East Jerusalem, particularly in the Al Aqsa Mosque, and the Damascus Gate area. A heavy Israeli security presence and large numbers of worshippers contributed to the tensions. On 10 May, 657 Palestinians were injured, mostly in the upper bodies, with at least one Palestinian losing his eye. According to Israeli media and Israeli police report, 32 Israeli officers were reportedly injured on 10 May, of which 21 were in the Al Aqsa compound.

In the context of the unrest in East Jerusalem, Israeli sources indicated that an estimated 45 rockets were fired from Gaza between 23 and 25 April, indirectly causing injury to four people, with Israeli air strikes and shelling across Gaza following. Since the evening of 10 May, Palestinian armed groups have launched some 250 rockets towards Israel and Israel has launched multiple airstrikes on Gaza. The casualty toll in Gaza and in Israel continues to rise. In Gaza, the Israel-controlled Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings are closed until further notice and all fishing in the restricted area off the Gaza coast has been prohibited.

INTERNATIONAL LAW

Regarding evictions in East Jerusalem, in his briefing to the Security Council on 10 May, the UN Special Coordinator Tor Wennesland, stated “I have repeatedly called on Israel – including in this Council – to cease all evictions and demolitions, in line with its obligations under international humanitarian law. I underscore that East Jerusalem remains part of the occupied Palestinian territory to which international humanitarian law applies and I note that UN resolutions addressing the situation in East Jerusalem have rejected all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.”

The Office of the High Commissioner for human Rights (OHCHR) has called on Israeli security forces to allow and ensure the exercise of the right to freedoms of expression, association and assembly. No force should be used against those exercising their rights peacefully. When use of force is necessary, it should comply fully with international human rights standards. This includes the prohibition of unnecessary or disproportionate use of force. Israel must also refrain from punitive measures, such as additional closures and restrictions that punish the entire civilian population of Gaza.

In her statement on the recent escalation, the Humanitarian Coordinator, Lynn Hastings, stated that ‘all parties have obligations under international humanitarian law; the principles of distinction, precaution and proportionality in the use of force must be adhered to. Airstrikes in densely populated areas risk violating these principles. Rockets are indiscriminate by nature and as such violate international law. “

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.