In the West Bank, six Palestinians and two Israelis were killed in five incidents during the reporting period, bringing the total number of Palestinians and Israelis killed this year to 16 and three, respectively. On 17 March at the junction leading to Ariel settlement near Salfit, a Palestinian man killed an Israeli soldier and Israeli settler, and injured another Israeli soldier at a nearby junction, before fleeing the scene. Israeli forces conducted extensive search and arrest operations and deployed dozens of flying checkpoints in the aftermath of the incident. Two days later, an Israeli undercover unit raided a house in the village of Abwein (Ramallah), in which the suspect was hiding, killing him after a reported exchange of fire. Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces erupted during the search-and-arrest operations, resulting in injury to eight Palestinians in Abwein and 14 others in Salfit city. Also, in an earlier incident in Salfit city, on 12 March, another Palestinian was killed by live ammunition from Israeli forces, and 40 other Palestinians were injured, during clashes that erupted during a search and arrest operation. On the same day, a Palestinian, aged 41, was shot and killed by Israeli forces stationed at a checkpoint controlling pedestrian access in the Israeli-controlled H2 area of Hebron city, after he allegedly attempted to stab an Israeli soldier; in 2018, three Palestinians were shot and killed in H2, in stabbing or attempted stabbing attacks that they perpetrated. On 20 March, two other Palestinians were killed by live ammunition in an area where clashes were taking place between Palestinians and Israeli forces, who were accompanying Israeli settlers to Nablus city to visit Joseph’s Tomb; a Palestinian ambulance also sustained damage, preventing it from reaching the injured. In another incident in Bethlehem, on 20 March, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian and injured another while they were travelling near a military tower at an Israeli-controlled checkpoint; the reason for the shooting remains unclear.
Since 30 March 2018, thousands of Palestinians have been participating in the weekly “Great March of Return” (GMR) demonstrations near the perimeter fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel, calling for the Palestinian right of return and the ending of the Israeli blockade. The demonstrations were originally scheduled to last up to 15 May, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians refer to as the 1948 Nakba, but have continued on a weekly basis, and also now include occasional demonstrations on the beach next to the perimeter fence in northern Gaza in addition to night activities near the fence. Protection Cluster partners have repeatedly indicated that under international law, all Palestinians, including children, have the right to freedom of expression and demonstration.
Since 30 March 2018, the Gaza Strip has witnessed a significant increase in Palestinian casualties in the context of mass demonstrations and other activities along Israel’s perimeter fence with Gaza, as part of the “Great March of Return” (GMR). Additional casualties have resulted from hostilities and access related incidents. The large number of casualties among unarmed Palestinian demonstrators, including a high percentage of demonstrators injured by live ammunition, has raised concerns about excessive use of force by Israeli troops. Exposure of children to violence and lack of protection for medical teams are also of concern. Despite significant assistance provided, addressing the resulting multiple needs of the mass influx of casualties remains challenging due to the lack of funds, years of blockade, the internal Palestinian political divide and a chronic energy crisis.
Longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza have undermined the living conditions of about two million Palestinians in that area. Many of the restrictions, originally imposed by Israel in the early 1990s, were intensified after June 2007, following the Hamas takeover of Gaza and the imposition of a blockade. These restrictions continue to reduce access to livelihoods, essential services and housing, disrupt family life, and undermine people’s hopes for a secure and prosperous future
The Gaza Strip faces an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, impacting the livelihoods and access to essential services by its two million residents. This crisis has been driven by over 11 years of an Israeli blockade and an unsolved internal Palestinian divide, exacerbated since March 2018 by the massive increase in Palestinian casualties in the context of demonstrations taking place near Israel’s perimeter fence, as well as limited escalations in hostilities. The following indicators were identified by the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) to monitor the crisis, trigger humanitarian action and prevent further deterioration.
The international Commission of Inquiry into the protests in Gaza releases its initial report. Departure of TIPH mission increases protection concerns for H2 residents of Hebron. Palestinian access to land behind the Barrier increasingly rejected due to bureaucratic reasons. Improvements to Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism expected to improve its effectiveness.
In February, the Israeli government implemented a law enacted in 2018 to withhold USD 140 million in Palestinian tax revenue transfers. According to the Israeli authorities, this is equivalent to the sum paid by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to the families of Palestinians convicted of security-related offenses in Israeli courts. In response, the PA announced that it would refuse to accept any of the customs duties and other taxes collected by Israel on behalf of the PA and transferred to it monthly: these allocations account for approximately 65 per cent of the PA’s budget.
The Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) has left the H2 area of Hebron city following the Israeli government’s decision not to renew its mandate beyond 31 January 2019. Combined with intensified harassment and restrictions against residents and the remaining protective presence actors in the area, this increases the protection risks faced by the population, particularly schoolchildren. In his remarks to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, UN Secretary General António Guterres expressed regret at Israel’s decision not to renew TIPH’s mandate. He expressed the hope that an agreement can be reached to “preserve this long-standing and valuable arrangement”.
Recent findings indicate a significant decline in the number of permits issued by the Israeli authorities for Palestinian farmers and workers to access their land in the West Bank behind the Barrier. According to official data obtained by the Israeli organization HaMoked, the approval rate for permits for landowners fell from 76 per cent of applications in 2014 to 28 per cent in 2018 (up to 25 November). Permits issued to agricultural workers declined from 70 per cent and 50 per cent of applications in the same period