OCHA Humanitarian Update
Escalation of violence across the oPt continues
12 October (as of 13 hrs)
The escalation in attacks and violent clashes in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, that started on 1 October continued and further expanded to include serious incidents in the Gaza Strip and in Israel. An initial account indicates a total of 26 Palestinians, including six children, and four Israelis have been killed, and some 3,600 Palestinians and approximately 40 Israelis have been injured since 1 October. The number of Palestinian deaths and injuries (15 and nearly 3,400 respectively) in the West Bank and Israel is the highest recorded in such period of time since 2005, when OCHA began documenting casualties.
Security coordination between Israeli and Palestinian authorities in the West Bank reportedly continues, and the de facto authorities in the Gaza Strip are reportedly attempting to contain protests and prevent rocket firing at Israel. However, there is high potential for further deterioration.
Deaths and injuries in West Bank clashes
Violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces during protests and spontaneous gatherings at checkpoints and other friction points all across the West Bank, as well as following search and arrest operations, have further escalated since the issuance of the last Humanitarian Update (5 October). They have resulted in additional deaths and in high numbers of Palestinian injuries. Concerns about excessive use of force by Israeli forces are heightened.
The past weekend alone (9-11 October) ended with the killing by Israeli forces of three Palestinians, including a 13-year-old boy from Al Jalazun camp (Ramallah), a 20-year-old man in Shu'fat Camp (East Jerusalem), and a 28-year-old man in Beit Ummar, and the injury of approximately 1,700 Palestinians. Particularly large and violent clashes during these three days took place in and around the Shu’fat, Al Jalazoun, and Ayda (Bethlehem) refugee camps; at the checkpoints of Qalandiya (Jerusalem) and Beit El/DCO (Ramallah); and at the entrances to many towns and villages, including Beit Ummar, Yatta (Hebron), Azzun (Qalqiliya), Tulkarm, and Huwwara (Nablus), among others.
Initial estimates indicate that between 7 and 10 per cent of the injuries were caused by live ammunition and most of the remainder by rubber bullets and tear gas inhalation (only people receiving medical assistance are counted). Some people may have been injured (and therefore counted) more than once. Additionally, at least ten members of the Israeli police and military forces were injured during clashes.
Attacks against Israelis and killing of perpetrators and alleged perpetrators
The reporting period (since 5 October) also witnessed a sharp increase in stabbing incidents perpetrated by young Palestinians against Israelis. Since the start of the escalation on 1 October, a total of 11 such incidents have been reported (including two attacks perpetrated by Palestinian citizens of Israel), resulting in the killing of two Israelis and the injury of another 15. A number of stone and Molotov cocktail throwing during the reporting period resulted in a number of additional Israeli injuries.
Nine of the perpetrators or alleged perpetrators were killed during these incidents and two were injured and/or detained. Regarding a few of them, Palestinian sources have disputed the fact that they were involved in stabbing. Video footage of some of the latter killings raises concern about excessive arbitrary or abusive use of force, and even extra-judicial executions. Most, if not all of the perpetrators, reportedly did not belong to any faction or armed group and carried out the attacks on their own.
Gaza clashes, rocket firing and airstrikes
On 9 October, demonstrations in the access restricted areas (ARA) near the fence with Israel evolved into violent clashes with Israeli forces, including Palestinian attempts to reach the fence, and resulted in at least nine male civilians killed, including two boys, and approximately 180 other civilians, including 24 children and three women injured, according to human rights organizations. Many of the injuries were sustained in the upper body, raising concern about excessive use of force.
Sporadic rocket fire from Gaza towards Israel has ensued, causing no injuries and damage in Israel, with most rockets falling short inside Gaza. Israeli forces launched retaliatory airstrikes, one of which, on 11 October, resulted in the death of a pregnant woman and her young daughter when their house collapsed as a result of an airstrike on an adjacent military training site. Five other family members, including two children, were injured in the same incident, according to human rights groups.
On 11 October, armed militants fired at the vehicle of an Israeli contractor carrying out repairs to the perimeter fence east of al-Bureij refugee camp. No injuries were reported, but the vehicle was damaged. Slight damage was also caused to Erez crossing, as protestors attempted to breach the Palestinian side of the crossing. They were stopped by both Palestinian and Israeli forces.
While tensions remain high and further escalations are possible, none of the Palestinian armed groups in Gaza have called for a resumption of armed operations and local police is reportedly trying to prevent people from reaching the fence with Israel. Agricultural activities in the ARA are likely to be reduced as a result of the incidents.
The Ministry of Health in Gaza has indicated that due to the chronic drugs and medical disposable shortages, as well as fuel shortages, it will be ill-equipped to deal with increased casualties if the situation further escalates.
Since 6 October the number of settler attacks against Palestinians significantly declined compared to the first five days of the escalation (1-5 October), when some 30 attacks resulting in Palestinian injuries or damage to their property were recorded. While a number of stone throwing and intimidation incidents took place this week, except one in the Nablus area, none resulted in casualties or damage.
However, the situation remains tense in and around Hebron City: there is particular concern about an extended Palestinian family (80 people in one multi story building), residing next to Kiryat Arba’ settlement, which was repeatedly attacked by settlers, with damage to their house.
Israeli forces have maintained intensified presence and checking procedures at West Bank checkpoints. Sixteen out of 25 partial checkpoints (permanent infrastructure, occasionally staffed) became permanently staffed, and ad-hoc (flying) checkpoints were deployed intermittently at some 120 sites. All checkpoints remained open, except for short periods of time during confrontations; however Israeli forces carried out more rigorous checking procedures, leading to longer delays than usual.
On 9 October Palestinian access to the Old City and Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount was restricted to men above the age of 50 years of age, forcing hundreds to pray on the streets surrounding the Old City. While semi-daily entries of Israeli settlers and other Israeli groups to the site continued, the Israeli Prime Minister banned the entry of members of the Knesset until further notice, with the stated goal of reducing tensions.
Despite some damage sustained during a Palestinian demonstration, Erez crossing in the Gaza Strip is functioning normally, although travelling of Palestinians holding Jerusalem IDs and special permits to Gaza have remained suspended. Kerem Shalom goods crossing has remained also open.
PRCS state of emergency
The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) reported that incidents affecting its teams and ambulances involving Israeli forces and settlers continued, reaching 53 since 3 October, the majority in the Jerusalem area. In a serious incident on 10 October in Hebron city, a Ministry of Health doctor was shot by Israeli soldiers with a rubber bullet in the head losing an eye. On 4 October PRCS declared a state of emergency which is still ongoing.
On 6 October, Israeli forces blew up two Palestinian homes and partially sealed off a third one, all in East Jerusalem, belonging to families of Palestinian perpetrators of attacks against Israelis during 2014. The explosions in the first two cases severely damaged another three homes, rendering them uninhabitable, and caused damage to another three apartments. A total of 30 Palestinians, including 20 children, were displaced as a result of the demolitions, excluding the residents of one of the homes (a woman and her children), who were previously deported. The families of three of the suspected perpetrators of the attack that killed a settler couple on 1 October received verbal warnings that their homes will be demolished soon. The Israeli Prime Minister stated that he instructed officials to expedite punitive demolitions to deter future terror attacks.