Protection of Civilians Report | 24 December - 6 January 2020
The last “Great March of Return” (GMR) demonstration in 2019 was held in Gaza on 27 December and recorded the lowest number of participants and injuries since the GMR started on 30 March 2018. A total of 50 Palestinians, including 26 children, were injured, of whom 39 were hospitalized, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza. Israeli sources reported that on a few occasions protesters approached the fence and threw explosive devices and Molotov cocktails at Israeli forces, resulting in no Israeli injuries. In 2019, 33 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during the GMR protests and 11,523 were injured, bringing the total to 212 fatalities and 36,134 injuries since the demonstrations began.
On 26 December, the organizing committee for the GMR announced that the weekly demonstrations would stop until 30 March 2020, the second anniversary of the protests, and would then continue to take place on a monthly basis and on ad-hoc occasions.
A rocket fired towards Israel from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes in Gaza resulted in no casualties on either side. On 25 December, a rocket launched from Gaza was intercepted in the air, according to Israeli sources. Following the incident, Israel carried out a series of airstrikes targeting military facilities in Gaza, reportedly belonging to Hamas.
On at least 15 occasions, Israeli forces opened warning fire in the areas adjacent to Gaza’s perimeter fence and off the coast of Gaza; no injuries were reported. Israeli forces carried out five incursions and land-levelling operations near the perimeter fence in the Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahiya, Khan Younis and Rafah areas.
In the West Bank, 24 Palestinians, including at least two children, were injured by Israeli forces during several clashes. Thirteen of the injuries occurred during clashes triggered by the entry of groups of Israelis accompanied by soldiers to Nablus city and Halhul village (Hebron) to visit religious sites. Three Palestinians were injured in a protest against settler violence and settlement expansion in Al Mughayyir village (Ramallah). Six of the other injuries were recorded during ad-hoc clashes in the Old City of Jerusalem, Beit Ummar village (Hebron) and near the Beit El/DCO checkpoint (Ramallah). In 2019, Israeli forces killed 15 Palestinians and injured 3162 others, including 104 by live ammunition, during protests and clashes across the West Bank.
Israeli forces shot and injured, and subsequently arrested, a 17-year-old Palestinian boy, reportedly after he brandished a knife, when soldiers approached him; no Israeli injuries were reported. The incident occurred on 2 January, near the Gush Etzion settlement area (Bethlehem).
Israeli forces carried out a total of 117 search and arrest operations across the West Bank and arrested 140 Palestinians, including ten children. The majority of the operations were in the Hebron governorate (35), followed by Jerusalem (29) and Ramallah (14) governorates.
On 28 December, the Israeli army closed the main entrance to Al Fawwar refugee camp (Hebron) for vehicular access for five days. The closure followed clashes with residents in the vicinity of the camp. The access of around 20,000 residents of the camp and nearby villages to services and livelihoods was disrupted as a result.
Citing the lack of Israeli-issued building permits, the Israeli authorities demolished or seized eight structures in Area C and East Jerusalem, displacing twenty-six (26) people and affecting 29 others. Five of these structures, including three previously provided as humanitarian assistance, were demolished or seized in two herding communities located in areas that have been closed by the Israeli authorities for military training, or “firing zone”. The other three structures were located in East Jerusalem. A total of 621 Palestinian structures were demolished or seized in the West Bank during 2019, the majority on grounds of lack of permits, displacing 914 Palestinians; these figures represent a 35 and 95 per cent increase, respectively, compared with 2018.
On 2 January, the Israeli authorities seized a 4X4 vehicle used to transport medical staff and equipment to a mobile health clinic in the Masafer Yatta area of southern Hebron. The vehicle’s crew was detained for a few hours. Without this mobile clinic, residents are forced to travel longer distances to access primary health care services. The grounds for the seizure of the vehicle, which was provided by the Palestinian Ministry of Health, remain unclear. Massafer Yatta is designated as a “firing zone” and its 1,300 residents face risk of forcible transfer.
On 1 January, the Israeli authorities uprooted 147 olive trees, affecting the livelihood of eight Palestinian families from Al Jaba’ village (Bethlehem). According to the Israeli authorities, the trees, which were 25-30 years old, were located in an area designated as ‘state land’. One of the affected families reported that an objection they had filed with the Israeli Civil Administration against the uprooting is still pending.
On 5 January, in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron city (H2), Israeli settlers broke into a Palestinian home, where they physically assaulted and injured a 17-year-old Palestinian boy. The home (an apartment) is located in a building that was taken over by settlers in 2017. The single Palestinian family who remained in the building has reported ongoing harassment.
An Israeli girl and a man were injured, and at least eight Israeli-plated vehicles damaged, following stone, and in one case Molotov-cocktail, throwing by Palestinians on West Bank roads, according to Israeli sources. The incident resulting in the two injuries, reportedly took place on 6 January next to Azzun village (Qalqiliya).