Protection of Civilians Report | 10-23 December 2019
A total of 129 Palestinians, including 44 children, were injured by Israeli forces during the “Great March of Return” (GMR) demonstrations near the perimeter fence between Gaza and Israel. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, 60 people were hospitalized for their injuries while the rest were treated in the field. Israeli sources reported that on several occasions, protesters approached the fence and threw explosive devices, resulting in no Israeli injuries. The protests that took place on 13 and 20 December recorded some of the lowest numbers of injuries since the start of the GMR on March 2018.
On a few occasions, armed factions in Gaza fired rockets towards Israel and Israel carried out airstrikes on Gaza, reportedly targeting military facilities. None of the attacks resulted in casualties. Some 10 residential buildings in Gaza near to the reported targets sustained minor damage. On 19 December, reportedly in response to rocket firing, Israel reduced the permissible fishing zone off the shore of southern Gaza from 15 to 10 nautical miles (NM); the 15 NM limit was reinstated on 23 December. No changes have been declared in fishing restrictions imposed by Israel on the northern shore, where the maximum distance permitted is six NM. On at least seven occasions during the reporting period, Israeli forces opened fire at Palestinian fishers off the coast of Gaza, resulting in no injuries; one boat was sunk.
Also in Gaza, an 18-year-old armed Palestinian was shot and killed by Israeli forces on 17 December east of Khan Younis while approaching the fence, according to the Israeli military. The man has not been claimed by any armed faction and his body was withheld by the Israeli authorities. In another incident, Israeli forces shot and injured, and subsequently arrested, a Palestinian man who crossed the fence into Israel while reportedly carrying a knife.
On at least 15 other occasions, Israeli forces opened fire in areas adjacent to the perimeter fence while enforcing access restrictions; no injuries were reported. Israeli forces carried out one incursion and land-levelling operation near the fence. Four Palestinians, including three children, were arrested near the perimeter fence between Gaza and Israel in two separate incidents.
On 22 December, the Israeli authorities announced that on the occasion of the Christmas holiday they would facilitate the access of Christian residents of Gaza and the West Bank to holy sites in East Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Permits to exit Gaza and enter East Jerusalem (for West Bank ID holders) would be subject only to individual security screening and not to age criteria, according to the announcement. Under Israel’s regular policy towards Gaza, only Palestinians belonging to certain narrowly-defined categories are eligible for exit permits, provided they pass a security check.
In the West Bank, 14 Palestinians, including at least three children, were injured by Israeli forces in several incidents. On three separate occasions in the Tulkarm area, Israeli forces fired live ammunition and injured six Palestinian men, and physically assaulted another two, after they tried to cross the Barrier into Israel without a permit through unauthorized openings, reportedly for work purposes. Another four injuries were reported during clashes in the course of search and arrest operations. A 16-year-old Palestinian was shot and injured with live ammunition, reportedly as he was about to throw a Molotov cocktail at Israeli vehicles on Road 60 near Bethlehem; the boy was subsequently arrested.
Israeli forces carried out a total of 154 search and arrest operations across the West Bank and arrested 146 Palestinians, including at least 17 children. The largest number of operations was in the Jerusalem governorate (41), mainly in Al ‘Isawiya neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, followed by Ramallah (34) and Hebron (27) governorates.
Citing the lack of building permits, the Israeli authorities demolished or forced people to demolish 29 structures in Area C and East Jerusalem, displacing 45 people and affecting over 100 others. Twelve of the structures targeted, including five previously provided as humanitarian assistance, were in three herding communities located in areas designated as firing zones for military training in the Tubas, Nablus and Jericho governorates. So far in 2019, 617 structures have been demolished or seized in the West Bank, displacing 898 Palestinians; these figures represent a 35 and 92 per cent increase, respectively, compared with the equivalent period in 2018. Over 20 per cent of all structures targeted in 2019, and some 40 per cent of all donor-funded aid structures, were located in firing zones, which cover about 30 per cent of Area C.
During one of the demolitions in a firing zone east of Nablus, Israeli forces uprooted or cut approximately 2,500 forest trees and saplings. The trees were part of a recreational area (also described by Palestinians as a ‘nature reserve’) serving some 14,000 residents in the nearby town of Beit Furik and the Khirbet Tana herding community. It was developed with the support of the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture and an international organization. This is the third such recreational area in Area C to be destroyed in 2019.
On 10 December, some 80 Palestinian farmers from three villages in Salfit governorate lost access to their land behind the West Bank Barrier after the Israeli authorities confiscated their entry permits. The incident took place at the Barrier gate leading to the farmers’ land; according to the latter, no reason was given to them. On 5 December, farmers from these three villages petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court against the routine failure of the authorities to open the gate at the scheduled time.
Four Palestinians were injured, and some 330 olive trees and seven vehicles damaged, in eight attacks by Israeli settlers. In the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron city (H2), three Palestinian women were assaulted with pepper spray and injured, while a Palestinian herder was attacked and injured by a dog unleashed by settlers while he was grazing his sheep near the Ibei Hanahal settlement outpost (Bethlehem). Next to Al Khadr (Bethlehem) and Al Mughayyir (Ramallah) villages, assailants believed to be settlers vandalized some 330 olive trees; the latter incident occurred in an area where Palestinians require authorization by the Israeli authorities to access their land. In two other incidents in Far'ata village (Qalqiliya) and in the H2 area of Hebron city, Israeli settlers set fire to two Palestinian vehicles, punctured the tyres of another two, and sprayed “price tag” graffiti. Another three Palestinian vehicles were stoned and damaged while travelling on main roads.
One Israeli was injured and at least eight vehicles were damaged in seven stone-throwing incidents by Palestinians, according to Israeli media reports. The stone-throwing incidents took place on roads near Bethlehem, Hebron, Jerusalem and Ramallah.