OPT: Protection of civilians weekly report 29 Oct - 4 Nov 2008

Situation Report
Originally published

Military activities affecting civilians

IDF operation in the Gaza Strip and rocket firing at Israel: In the night of 4-5 November, six Palestinians were killed and seven others injured, including two civilians, in the first large-scale Israeli military operation in Gaza since the 19 June ceasefire. According to the IDF, during the Israeli military incursion into Gaza, the IDF destroyed a tunnel leading to the border between Gaza and Israel, which could have been utilized for military attacks on Israel.

On the eve of 4 November, an IDF reconnaissance unit entered Deir el-Balah in central Gaza Strip. Armed clashes broke out between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces.. During the first clash, one Palestinian militant was killed and five others injured; four IDF soldiers were also injured. In addition, a Palestinian house was destroyed, and seven of its 23 inhabitants were detained, including several women, one of whom was injured. During the clashes, the IDF demolished green houses, a poultry farm, and water well. Another house was occupied and used as a military post. In retaliation, Palestinian militants fired rockets and mortars towards Israel—some of which landed inside Gaza; no Israeli casualties were reported. Israel fired a missile east of Khan Younis at a group of militants manning a rocket launcher, killing five Palestinians. The clashes continued until the Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza in the early morning hours of 5 November. Qassam fire from Gaza towards Israel continued on 5 November (beyond the reporting period).

IDF operations in the West Bank: Though the total number of IDF searches this week remained close to the 2008 weekly average (109 vs. 105), there was a sharp increase in the northern areas (84 vs. 72). IDF search-and-arrest operations often result in injuries to civilians and property damage. On 29 October, the IDF killed a 67-year-old Palestinian from Yamun village (Jenin governorate) during an overnight search operation; he was allegedly carrying a firearm. Witnesses claim he was investigating voices heard within the vicinity of his livestock. On 2 November, in Far'a Refugee Camp (Tubas governorate), two Palestinian men and one 11-year-old boy were injured with live ammunition during a large IDF operation in the camp. A 19-hour curfew was imposed. According to the IDF, the operation aimed at arresting a senior Al-Quds Brigades leader. In the south, on 30 October, fifteen students from the Palestine Technical College in Al Arrub Refugee Camp (Hebron governorate) were arrested and two employees of the college were physically assaulted during an IDF search operation in the college. The college was closed for the remainder of the day. On 31 October, the IDF searched three houses in the camp and arrested one Palestinian.

PA security search and arrests: During the reporting period Palestinian security forces continued their operations in the villages of Dura and Tarqumiya (Hebron governorate), arresting 19 Palestinians with alleged Hamas affiliations. On 29 October, the Palestinian General Intelligence ordered the closure of a bookshop selling religious books in the area.

After a lull of four months, Israel demolishes homes in Area C - 97 people displaced

On 29 October, Israeli security forces demolished six structures in the Bedouin community of Umm Al Khair, near Karmel settlement south of Yatta (Hebron governorate), displacing 45 Palestinians, including a one-week-old baby. On 30 October, the Israeli authorities demolished 36 Bedouin structures, including 23 dwellings and thirteen animal shelters in Maghayer Al Deir area (Ramallah governorate). In all, 97 people were either displaced or otherwise affected, including 51 children. Four other structures in the area (two dwellings and two animal shelters) have received evacuation orders. The Bedouin residents, having begun disassembling of the four remaining structures, were informed by the Israeli civil administration that if the remaining structures are not taken down voluntarily, they would be forcibly demolished on 3 November. The residents reported that the Israeli military confiscated one of their tractors, and its return is contingent upon their "voluntary" removal of the remaining structures.

Since April 2008, there had been a freeze in the demolition of inhabited houses lacking building permits in Area C of the West Bank. The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Robert Serry, raised concerns on the resumption of house demolitions, citing the humanitarian impact of these actions on vulnerable populations in the West Bank.

Israeli-settler violence in the West Bank

Violence targeting Palestinian olive pickers continues: Despite IDF presence at various friction points at designated time intervals, Israeli-settlers continued to attack or otherwise provoke Palestinian farmers participating in the Olive Harvest. For example, on 3 November, a group of Israeli settlers from the settlement of Kohav Ya'akov in the Ramallah governorate provoked a clash with Palestinians picking olives in Mikhmas village agricultural land. Although IDF arrived at the location, no arrests or injuries were reported.

Settler violence following outpost evacuation: During the reporting period Israeli settlers from the settlement of Kharsina (Hebron governorate), carried out reprisal attacks against Palestinians following the evacuation of the Federmen Farm outpost. Masked settlers attacked two Palestinian homes near the removed outpost. Seven Palestinians were injured including three journalists and a 95-year-old woman. Physical and material damages were sustained by the two homes. The Israeli Police initially removed the newly constructed structures after clashes with the Israeli-settlers resulting in the injury of eight Israeli policemen. Seven settlers, including five females, were arrested. Settlers rebuilt the outpost which was destroyed subsequently by the police.

This week, two Israeli-settlers were injured in clashes with the IDF, and all injuries incurred by Israeli military forces in the West Bank this week (eight) were inflicted by Israeli-settlers.

Court issued evacuation orders to Al Rajabi settlement: On 29 October, the Israeli High Court of Justice ordered to vacate the Al Rajabi (a.k.a. Beit HaShalom) settlement within 24 hours. Barring that, the Court indicated that Israeli Police may use force to evict them pending a final decision by the District Court. The next day, the settlers presented to the Court a tape-recording of the building's owner which they claim proves the legitimacy of the sales transaction. Thus far, the settlers have not been evicted.

Anti-Barrier demonstrations

Bil'in: On 31 October, during the weekly demonstration in Bil'in village (Ramallah governorate), two Palestinian boys (15, 17 years old) were injured with rubber coated metal bullets and a 53-year-old French peace activist was injured with a sound grenade shot by the IDF. Two Palestinian men were beaten by IDF with machine guns. The IDF pushed a 71-year-old French peace activist who was injured as a result. Ni'lin: On 31 October, four Palestinian men were shot with rubber-coated metal bullets by the IDF during the weekly demonstration in Ni'lin village (Ramallah governorate).In a separate demonstration held by Palestinians and international peace activists on 2 November marking the signing of the Balfour declaration, two Palestinians were injured with IDF fired rubber-coated metal bullets; a third Palestinian was injured by gas canister.

Ma'sara: On 31 October, during the weekly anti-Barrier demonstration, a 24-year-old Palestinian man from the village of Al Ma'asara (Bethlehem governorate) was injured when he was beaten by Israeli security forces.

Gaza crossings activity

During the period of 26 October – 1 November, there was a 23% increase in the total number of imported truckloads compared to the previous week (683 vs 557.5). However, the number of truckloads allowed into Gaza this week remained far less (54%) than the weekly average of truckloads of 1179 truckloads of the month (July 08) immediately following the 19 June truce. The crossings were closed following the IDF incursion and the firing of rockets on 4 November.

Tunnel incidents

Three tunnel collapses were reported this week, one of which resulted in the entrapment of three people. As of 4 November, they are still trapped. Over the last few months, the population of Gaza has become increasingly reliant on the Gaza-Egypt tunnels for the import of goods that are otherwise unavailable in the market, including food, fuel and animals such as sheep and calves.

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