Protection of Civilians Report | 12 – 25 November 2019
On 12 November, the Israeli Air Forces targeted and killed a senior operative in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s armed wing in Gaza, triggering two days of intense hostilities, which resulted in extensive Palestinian casualties and property damage. A cessation of hostilities entered into force in the morning hours of 14 November and has been largely holding, despite some sporadic rocket and mortar firing from Gaza.
The escalation of hostilities resulted in the killing of 35 Palestinians, of whom 16 are believed to be civilians, including eight children and three women, and the injury of another 106, including 51 children and 11 women, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza. One of the fatalities and some of the injuries (number unconfirmed) were reportedly hit by Palestinian rockets falling short in Gaza, and the rest by Israeli airstrikes. Nine of the fatalities, including five children, were members of the same family killed in an airstrike in Deir El-Balah, which was later acknowledged by the Israeli Army to be a mistake. The army has reportedly opened an investigation into the incident.
During the escalation, Palestinian factions fired hundreds of rockets and mortars at Israel, resulting in 78 Israelis being treated for light injuries or shock, including children and women. The vast majority of rockets and mortars landed in open areas or were intercepted in the air. Twenty-four (24) housing units across the Gaza Strip were either destroyed or severely damaged during the hostilities, displacing some 130 people, according to an initial investigation by the shelter cluster. An additional 480 housing units, along with non-residential properties, sustained moderate to minor damage. Several homes in southern Israel were also damaged.
The ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations, which have been taking place near Israel’s perimeter fence on most Fridays since March 2018, were cancelled during the reporting period. Despite this, a number of ad hoc clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces were recorded near the fence, resulting in the injury of 12 Palestinians.
On at least 28 occasions, Israeli forces opened fire in areas adjacent to the perimeter fence and off the coast of Gaza, while enforcing access restrictions; no injuries were reported. Israeli forces carried out two incursions and land-levelling operations near the fence. In a separate incident, Israeli forces arrested one Palestinian man at Erez crossing.
In the West Bank, a Palestinian journalist was shot with a rubber bullet in the eye by Israeli forces, while covering a demonstration in Surif village (Hebron), losing sight in the eye. The demonstration, which took place on 15 November to protest land confiscation, evolved into clashes with Israeli forces, resulting in the injury by live ammunition of another Palestinian. A demonstration held in Bethlehem city in solidarity with the injured journalist, resulted in 18 journalists and two medical crew being treated for tear gas inhalation, and one journalist hit on the head with a tear gas canister fired by Israeli forces.
Also in the West Bank, 63 Palestinians, including at least four children, were injured by Israeli forces, during protests and clashes. 18 of the injuries occurred on 15 and 16 November, near the Beit El/DCO checkpoint (Ramallah), and near the Palestinian Technical University in Tulkarm city, in clashes that erupted in demonstrations held in solidarity with Gaza. In three separate incidents near the Barrier gates in Nazlat 'Isa (Tulkarm) and Dhaher al ‘Abed (Jenin), Israeli forces shot and injured two Palestinian men with live ammunition and physically assaulted another, after they tried to cross the Barrier without permits. On 17 November, two Palestinian children, aged 12 and 13, were injured by live ammunition during clashes which erupted at the entrance of Al Jalazun camp (Ramallah). They were subsequently transferred to hospital for medical treatment. The remaining 43 injuries were recorded during ad hoc clashes at the entrance of Al ‘Arroub refugee camp, and Bab Az Zawiya in the H1 area of Hebron city and near Rachel’s Tomb (Bethlehem).
Israeli forces carried out a total of 135 search and arrest operations across the West Bank and arrested 157 Palestinians, including 18 children. The majority of the operations were in the Hebron governorate (46), followed by Jerusalem (25) and Ramallah (22) governorates.
Citing the lack of Israeli-issued building permits, the Israeli authorities demolished or seized 39 structures, displacing 63 Palestinians, and otherwise affecting 380 others. Thirty-five (35) of the targeted structures, including two previously provided as humanitarian aid, were located in Area C. The largest incident occurred near Za’tara village (Bethlehem), in an area designated as a firing zone for military training, where the authorities demolished 13 structures, including homes, animal shelters, water tanks and solar panels. The remaining four structures demolished were in East Jerusalem. On 23 November, Israeli forces confiscated the equipment and tiles used for renovating a road and side walk to connect Jabal al Baba community with nearby Al 'Eizariya town (Jerusalem). The infrastructure had been demolished by Israeli forces on 18 November, while the confiscation is the second of its kind since the construction of the road in August 2019. So far this year, nearly 800 Palestinians have been displaced in the West Bank as a result of demolitions, almost double the figure during the equivalent period in 2018.
Israeli settlers carried out twelve (12) attacks that resulted in the injury of 30 Palestinians and damage to at least 100 olive trees and 48 vehicles. Two of these attacks, as well as additional incidents of intimidation and confrontations, took place on 22-23 November in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron city (H2), where thousands of settlers and other Israeli visitors attended a religious celebration. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights raised concern that in many cases, Israeli forces present in the area “appeared to not take action to prevent the attacks or to protect the population”. Since the end of the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron in January 2019, the frequency and intensity of settler attacks in the H2 area of Hebron has significantly increased. In another eight incidents across the West Bank, Israeli settlers entered Urif, Majdal Bani Fadil, Qabalan and Beit Dajan villages (all in Nablus), Sarta and Kafr ad Dik (Salfit) villages and vandalized a total of 48 Palestinian-owned vehicles and wrote slogans on the walls of five houses and one school. In a separate incident, in lands near the settlement of Itamar (Nablus), Palestinians from Awarta village (Nablus) reported that settlers stole the crop of 100 olive trees, in an area that requires prior coordination with the Israeli authorities to access.
According to Israeli media sources, on two occasions, Palestinians stoned Israeli-plated vehicles driving in the Bethlehem and Hebron area, causing in the injury of one settler and damage to one Israeli-owned cars.