Related Quarterly Updates

The overall number of Palestinian and Israeli casualties rose slightly this quarter, following a yearlong trend toward falling casualty rates: 32 Palestinians were killed as a result of Israeli actions (up from 23 last quarter), and 2 Israelis were killed as a result of Palestinian actions (down from 6 last quarter). The comprehensive death toll since the beginning of the 2d intifada in 9/2000 reached 10,869 Palestinians (including 56 Palestinian citizens of Israel and 19 unidentified cross-border “infiltrators”), 1,254 Israelis (432 IDF soldiers and security personnel, 246 settlers, and 576 others), and 71 foreign nationals (including 2 British suicide bombers). These numbers include individuals who died in noncombat-related incidents if their death was a direct result of Israel’s occupation or of the ongoing conflict (e.g., ailing Palestinians who died while being denied access to medical care and Palestinians killed in smuggling tunnel accidents). Therefore, a Palestinian prisoner who died of a stroke on 9/25 as a result of complications related to a beating he received at the hands of Israeli prison guards in 2003 is included among the casualties. Excluded from this count is a Jordanian shot and killed by the Israeli police outside the Old City of Jerusalem on 9/16 after he allegedly attempted to stab a policeman.

Overview of the Violence

In keeping with the decreasing number of protests, clashes, and individual-scale attacks, there were relatively fewer Palestinian casualties in the West Bank and East Jerusalem this quarter, as compared to the peak of the habba in late 2015 and early 2016. Twenty-five Palestinians were killed, up from 15 the previous quarter. Of these, 18 were killed as a result of alleged or actual stabbings or ramming attacks, and 7 sustained fatal injuries in clashes with Israeli forces, including 3 from injuries sustained in 1992, 2002, and 2007. At the same time, the overall number of Palestinians injured in the West Bank and East Jerusalem dropped, according to OCHA, from 624 the previous quarter, to 521 this quarter.

Six Palestinians were killed as a result of Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip this quarter, the same total as during the previous 3 mos. Of these, 4 were killed in tunnel collapses or other tunnel-related accidents (9/29, 10/10, 10/22, and 10/24). IDF troops shot and killed 1 child on 10/12 (the IDF denied involvement in this incident after Hamas accused Israeli soldiers of responsibility); and the remaining person sustained (9/9) fatal injuries in clashes with IDF troops along the border fence. At the same time, the number of Palestinians injured in Gaza more than doubled, from 19 in the previous quarter to 61 between 8/16 and 11/14.

Continuing a trend that began with Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014, several intermittent bouts of cross-border violence erupted this quarter, disrupting the relative calm that has characterized the post-assault cease-fire. Seven days witnessed substantial cross-border attacks (8/21, 9/4, 9/6, 9/15, 10/5, 10/6, and 10/24), up from 5 last quarter. On each of those days, Gazan fighters launched rockets into Israel or fired on Israeli soldiers patrolling the border, and the IDF responded with air strikes and artillery fire on alleged Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad military sites. IDF strikes led to substantial damage and at least 10 Palestinian injuries (8/12 [7] and 9/4 [3]), while the Gazan fighters failed to inflict any damage or injuries inside Israel. On 8/20, the IDF shot down a Hamas drone flying off Gaza’s coast, explaining that it would “not permit any violation of its air space,” and that it would “act with determination against any such effort.” One Israeli fighter pilot was killed on 10/5 when his jet crashed on the return trip from a strafing mission in Gaza.

Meanwhile, lingering tensions between Hamas and the small Islamist groups that oppose its rule in Gaza came to the forefront. In the late spring and early summer of 2015, these groups had launched a series of rocket attacks on Israel as a means of directing Israeli firepower at Hamas, which the IDF holds responsible for all attacks emanating from Gaza (see JPS 45 [1]). Reviving this tactic, Islamist groups claimed the rocket attacks on 8/21, 10/5, and 10/6. After the 10/6 attack, a Salafi leader in Gaza, Abu Bakr al-Maqdisi, threatened (10/6) more rocket attacks against Israel unless Hamas released 5 imprisoned mbrs. of his group. It was not clear whether al-Maqdisi spoke for the organization responsible for the rocket attacks on 10/5 and 10/6, but his threat fit these groups’ established pattern since 2015.

The IDF continued its strict enforcement of Israel’s unilaterally defined buffer zone, or Access Restricted Areas (ARA), along the border fence and off of Gaza’s coast this quarter. IDF troops opened fire on Palestinian farmers, shepherds, and bird hunters working in the ARA on at least 16 occasions (down from 20 last quarter), injuring 3 Palestinians and killing 1, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza (as mentioned above, the IDF denied responsibility for this killing). The IDF also arrested 6 Palestinians attempting to cross into Israel (8/16 [4], 9/3, and 10/3), opened fire on Palestinian land or property at least 11 times (9/4, 9/11, 9/21, 10/2, 10/14, 10/15, 10/30, 11/1 [2], 11/11, and 11/13), and violently dispersed Gazan protesters gathering along the border fence at least 11 times (8/19, 8/26, 9/9, 9/16, 9/23, 9/30, 10/7, 10/14, 10/21, 10/28, and 11/11). As in each of the last 2 quarters, Israeli forces conducted 15 limited incursions to level land along the fence (8/24, 8/31, 9/7, 9/14, 9/15, 9/20, 10/6, 10/9, 10/19, 10/26 [2], 10/27, 10/31, 11/1, and 11/9) this quarter.

Finally, Israeli naval forces continued harassing Palestinian fishermen off Gaza’s coast purportedly to enforce the new 9 naut. mi. fishing zone (see “Movement and Access” below). They fired warning shots or otherwise confronted fishermen on 50 occasions (up from 36 last quarter and 22 the quarter before that). These incidents led to 5 Palestinian injuries (8/25, 9/19, 10/29, 11/1, and 11/6) and 23 arrests and detentions (8/21 [2], 8/25, 8/27 [2], 8/29 [2], 9/8 [6], 10/7 [2], 11/1 [6], and 11/15 [2]). Israeli naval forces also confiscated 5 fishing boats (8/27, 10/7, 11/1 [2], and 11/15) and damaged at least 3 (8/25, 9/19, and 9/24).

Movement and Access

The most significant impact on Palestinian movement and access under occupation stemmed from the Egyptian authorities more than doubling Rafah border crossing openings this quarter. Thus, the Egyptian authorities were able to give Gazans waiting for access to healthcare and those stranded in Egypt welcome relief. Egypt opened the crossing for 21 days (8/30, 8/31–9/1, 9/3–7, 9/18, 9/21–23, 10/15–16, 10/19–23, and 11/14–15), up from 9 and 5 respectively, in each of the previous 2 quarters. More than 8,429 Palestinians were able to leave Gaza and more than 8,809 were able to enter, according to OCHA. Conditions at the crossing, however, appeared to be deteriorating. According to Al Jazeera on 9/5, many travelers reported that adults paid around $3,000 in bribes to Egyptian border officers and Palestinian brokers to secure passage, and that some officials asked for bribes of up to $10,000 to get a single person off a “blacklist” of individuals barred, for whatever reason, from using the crossing.

Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement in Gaza did not change this quarter, effectively leaving the blockade in place. Furthermore, there were new indications that Israel’s claims about lifting restrictions in the wake of the 2014 assault were even hollower than they appeared. Amira Hass wrote (10/19) in Haaretz that the Shin Bet had revoked the permanent exit permits of 12 of 14 senior functionaries at the PA’s civil affairs commission in Gaza. All 14 of the senior officials had held their positions since 2007 or earlier, acting as mediators between Palestinian civilians and the Israeli authorities on issues relating to exit permits and the entry of construction materials. A spokesperson for the commission said that he believed the move was part of Israeli DM Lieberman’s new “carrots-and-sticks” policy to communicate directly with Palestinian citizens, rather than through Palestinian institutions (see “The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict” above). Officials at the commission said that COGAT had revoked their permits for “security reasons.” A COGAT spokesperson confirmed that report, saying “there has been no change in the COGAT policy in which we work opposite the Palestinian civil comm. in the Gaza Strip,” but that “it has recently been decided by the security bodies to reexamine entrance permits into Israel for everyone leaving the Gaza Strip, including mbrs. of the comm.” Hass reported that COGAT has been approving fewer Gazan applications for travel permits, by percentage, since 2013. Citing the Israeli NGO Gisha, she noted that 82% of exit permit applications were approved in 2013, while only 77%, 60% and 46% had been approved in each subsequent year (2016’s figures only cover the 1st 9 mos. of the year). Moreover, the monthly number of Palestinians exiting Gaza dropped this quarter to levels not seen since the aftermath of Israel’s summer 2014 assault on Gaza (see figure 1).

After temporarily extending the fishing zone off Gaza’s s. coast from 6 to 9 naut. mi. earlier in 2016 (see JPS 45 [4] and 46 [1]), the Israeli authorities considered a further temporary extension this quarter. According to a Palestinian official on 10/25, they planned to expand the fishing zone from 6 to 9 naut. mi. across the entirety of Gaza’s coast for all of 11/2016. COGAT confirmed this (10/26) and a spokesperson explained that the expansions were meant to “facilitate increased activity in [the] Gaza Strip’s fishing sector, which is an [important] source of income.” However, COGAT postponed the expansion 3 times, and by the end of the quarter, the fishing zone was still 6 naut. mi., denying Gaza’s fishermen access to the more bountiful waters further from the coast. After the 3d postponement, COGAT said (11/6) that the Palestinians had not fulfilled their commitments, specifically that they had yet to provide some kind of monitoring vessel “to ensure that there are no infractions in the enlarged fishing zone and to maintain order between the fishermen.”

Although the IDF continued to mount nr.- daily raids, house searches, and mobile checkpoints across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Israeli crackdown on the habba was most severe in Hebron, especially after the string of random individual attacks in the region in 9/2016 (see Chronology for details). Nevertheless, the Israeli authorities did lift some restrictions for Eid al-Adha (9/11–15): the Defense Ministry permitted 100,000 West Bank Palestinians to visit their families in Israel for the holiday, extended the hours at border crossings in and out of Gaza and the West Bank, and allowed married men aged 45 and over and women aged 30 and older to visit Haram al-Sharif.

In a related development, Israel indefinitely extended a ban on the entry of 2 Palestinian food companies’ products. One of the 2, Hamoda, was 1st banned from Israel in 3/2016 (along with 4 other Palestinian dairy companies) on the grounds that it did not adhere to Israeli labeling specifications. At the time, a Hamoda official said that since around 50% of the company’s goods were sold in Israel, the ban had a serious impact on company revenues. It was unclear when the ban on Pinar, the 2d company, came into force.

Settlement Growth

The right-wing Israeli govt. under PM Netanyahu continued developing and expanding Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem this quarter, drawing increasingly sharp criticism from the Palestinians and the international community.

In and around East Jerusalem, the Israel Land Authority and Ma’ale Adumim Economic Development Company opened (8/20) 4 tenders for leasing land, establishing a new hotel, and constructing a new park in the settlement. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz revealed (11/1) plans for 4 new light rail stops in settlements nr. the city, including at Ma’ale Adumim. The PA’s Foreign Ministry complained (11/1) that Katz’s plan would “undermine territorial continuity of the West Bank and transform it into disconnected cantons, making it impossible for the Palestinians to continue to live there.” On 11/12, the Jerusalem Municipality approved the construction of 181 new residences in the Gilo settlement.

There were even more major announcements of new settlements and settlement growth in the West Bank. The Israeli NGO Peace Now reported (8/21) that renovations were underway at an IDF compound in Hebron to make way for the expansion of an Israeli settlement in the area. Israel’s Housing Ministry planned to build 28 new housing units nr. Hebron, allowing around 100 new settlers to move in, according to a follow-up report on 8/23. The following week, the High Planning Comm. of Israel’s Civil Admin. revealed (8/31) plans for the construction of 463 new settler residences in the West Bank, including approval for 234 homes in the Elkana settlement, 31 in Beit Arye, and 20 in Givat Ze’ev. The comm. also retroactively legalized 178 homes built in Beit Arye in the 1980s. Later in the quarter, Haaretz reported (11/2) that settlers from Ariel had recently erected 16 new buildings on territory that did not belong to the state, meaning that construction there should have been illegal under Israeli law. Meanwhile, a group of settlers began construction on a new illegal settlement outpost in the n. Jordan Valley in late 9/2016. COGAT said (10/20) it delivered a stop-work order to the site, but as of 11/5, the settlers had started construction on another unauthorized outpost in the area.

A change in Israeli policy accompanied the last major settlement announcement of the quarter. Hours after the IDF had dismantled (9/6) an Israeli settlement outpost nr. Hebron, displacing 10 families, the Israeli authorities initiated a new procedure, approved by Lieberman, requiring the DM’s office to oversee the dismantlement of any outpost. Previously, COGAT was able to carry out these operations without oversight. The newly instituted procedure will make it more difficult for the army to demolish and dismantle other illegally constructed outposts in the West Bank.


The Israeli govt. faced criticism and pushback on settlement policy from the right-wing flank of Netanyahu’s ruling coalition this quarter. The bone of contention was the High Court of Justice’s 12/2014 ruling that the Amona outpost nr. Ramallah had to be evacuated and demolished by 12/25/2016 because it was built on private Palestinian land. In the mos. leading up to the court-ordered evacuation date, Amona’s residents and their allies in the Knesset explored numerous avenues to reverse the High Court’s ruling and to preserve their outpost. Netanyahu, meanwhile, struggled to balance between the need to keep his ruling coalition together and the desire to rebuff international criticism. Netanyahu’s balancing act became more urgent in light of U.S. pres. Obama’s rumored end-of-term “peace push” (see “United States” below).

The conflict between Netanyahu’s govt. and the settlers started heating up in late 9/2016. As the govt. explored ways to relocate Amona’s residents to another settlement, the 40-odd families living in the outpost firmly refused to move. Then, 25 of Likud’s 30 MKs signed (9/18) a petition calling for legislation to retroactively authorize Amona. Education Minister Bennett, a staunch supporter of the settlement enterprise, called (9/25) the Likud MKs “weak and lazy” for merely signing a petition. He announced that he was drawing up a bill that would “legitimize in one thrust” all Israeli construction in the West Bank, effectively preempting any courtordered demolitions of outposts like Amona.

While Bennett and other right-wing MKs jockeyed for position as the pro-settlement vanguard, Netanyahu attempted to avert conflict. According to Peace Now on 10/1, Israel’s Civil Admin. had advanced plans to build a new settlement outpost nr. Nablus to relocate Amona’s residents in 98 new housing units. The international backlash to Peace Now’s report was swift. White House press secy. Josh Earnest offered (10/5) an uncharacteristically harsh rebuke, saying “We had public assurances from the Israeli govt. that contradict this new announcement—so when you talk about how friends treat each other— this is also a source of concern.” Netanyahu then called U.S. secy. of state John Kerry on 10/8 to respond, contending that the plan was not for a new settlement, but rather, for alternative housing for the Amona evacuees. He also said that the plan would not go forward unless he failed to find some other resolution to the Amona issue. While Netanyahu was assuaging U.S. fears, he was also telling a group of Likud activists, some of whom were residents of Amona, that any “unwise conduct” on Israel’s part prior to Obama’s departure from office in 1/2017 could “endanger the settlement enterprise,” implying that the Obama admin. might take steps to sanction the settlements (Israel’s Channel 2, 10/19). Netanyahu’s office denied (10/19) the report, but noted that U.S. presidents have in the past used their final mos. in office to make statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Bennett and the other partisans of Amona did not heed Netanyahu’s warnings. Throughout 10/2016, the settlers turned up the pressure as Netanyahu struggled fruitlessly to achieve a resolution. On 10/12, Bennett issued the PM an ultimatum: either stay the evacuation order, or the Jewish Home Party would leave the ruling coalition. Netanyahu then met (10/13) with Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Bennett’s chief lieutenant in Jewish Home, and promised to petition the High Court of Justice to delay the evacuation order by 6 mos., according to sources close to the meeting. By the end of the mo., however, Netanyahu had yet to formally petition the court. An Israeli source said (10/29) that he was delaying because Shaked, who was taking the lead on the issue, had not yet prepared an alternative housing option for Amona’s residents. Meanwhile, Bennett impatiently reiterated his support for a so-called regulations bill to retroactively legalize all 232 Israeli settlement outposts established in the West Bank with state support. He pledged to bring it to a Knesset comm. on 10/30, saying, “We’ve tried solving this crisis in other ways, but there’s been a constant foot-dragging . . . there is no other way to solve the crisis, so we’re going to submit the bill.”

Netanyahu scrambled to avert the so-called regulations bill in late 10/2016 and 11/2016, but was unable to achieve a compromise. Ahead of the Knesset Ministerial Comm. for Legislation’s preliminary hearing on a draft of the bill, Netanyahu pulled Bennett and Shaked aside to discuss it with Dep. Atty. Gen. Avi Licht, who informed them that Atty. Gen. Mandelblit would not defend the bill in front of the High Court if the comm. approved it. As Bennett and Shaked would not relent, Netanyahu postponed the comm.’s meeting by a week, purportedly to give the govt. time to finalize its alternative housing proposal (i.e., the 98 units nr. Nablus). The next day, in a speech marking the 1st day of the Knesset’s winter session, Netanyahu announced that he would “continue to take care of settlement in Judea and Samaria” and that Israel’s state attys. had petitioned the High Court that morning to suspend, for 7 mos., the Amona evacuation order to give the govt. time to secure bureaucratic approval for their alternative housing plan.

After Netanyahu postponed (11/6) the comm.’s consideration of the original regulations bill by an additional week, the comm. had had enough. Over his and Mandelblit’s objections, they unanimously approved a draft of the bill on 11/13 retroactively legalizing all 232 Israeli settlement outposts established with state support in the West Bank, such as Amona, and compensating Palestinian landowners by paying them 125% of what the govt. deemed their land’s worth. The High Court then rejected (11/14) the State’s petition for a postponement on its evacuation order, and both the Palestinians and the international community resumed their chorus of criticism.

As the quarter came to a close, both the Israeli govt. and the settlers were preparing for a potentially violent confrontation in 12/2016. At an emergency meeting on 11/14, Amona’s residents pledged to resist any attempt to demolish their homes and planned to erect a tent city outside their outpost to house others who might flock to their aid. Furthermore, their spokesperson pledged to “stand here like a bulwark,” and called for passage of the regulations bill. Meanwhile, Mandelblit said that the govt. must follow the High Court’s order rather than accept the unconstitutional regulations bill, and Lieberman called on Amona’s residents and protesters to avoid confrontations with the IDF.

Palestinian Prisoners

Two major legislative developments affected the status of Palestinian prisoners this quarter. First, Israel’s High Court of Justice upheld the law, passed 7/30/2015 (see JPS 45 [1]), allowing the Israeli authorities to force-feed hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners if the atty. gen., a district court, and a doctor agreed that the strike in question was causing irreparable damage or threatening the prisoner’s life. Second, the ruling coalition submitted a bill for consideration in late 10/2016 giving the DM expanded powers to detain citizens without charge. This new bill would replace an “emergency” regulation in place since Israel’s founding with a permanent law allowing the DM to indefinitely detain Israeli citizens without charge, ban them from certain professions, confine them to specific locales, and forbid them from contacting certain people. The bill was originally a part of the broad counterterrorism bill that passed in 6/15/2016 (see JPS 46 [1]).

These new developments came at a time of increasing urgency for Palestinians in Israeli prisons. According to the Palestinian prisoners’ rights NGO Addameer, the number of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel remained at 7,000 through the quarter, having 1st reached that threshold in 2/2016 (see JPS 46 [1]). One Palestinian prisoner died of a stroke on 9/25 in connection with injuries he sustained when Israeli guards assaulted him in 2003, drawing accusations of negligence from the Palestinians and the international community. At the same time, other prisoners undertook a series of short-term mass hunger strikes and long-term individual strikes to keep up the pressure on the Israel Prison Service (IPS). Their struggles brought renewed attention to the Israeli carceral system’s abuses and catalyzed Palestinian protests across the oPt.

As the quarter began, Bilal Kayed, 1 of the prison chapter leaders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), had been on hunger strike for 2 mos. and his health had deteriorated dramatically. His struggle against the Israeli policy of administrative detention resonated with the Palestinian public—there were protests in Gaza City, outside Ofer Prison, and in Ramallah on 8/18 and 8/22. Robert Piper, the UN’s resident coordinator and humanitarian coordinator for the oPt, said (8/20) he was “deeply concerned” about the “egregious” treatment Kayed was receiving. In the end, Kayed’s lawyers made a deal with the IPS, announcing (8/19) that he had suspended his strike after 71 days in exchange for being released at the end of his 6-mo. detention in 12/2016.

As Kayed neared the end of his detention, 3 other Palestinian prisoners captured the public’s attention. Brothers Muhammad and Mahmoud al-Balboul, a dentist and a student at Al-Quds University, respectively, were arrested on 6/9 during a late-night raid on their home and sentenced to administrative detention. Protesting their detention without trial, as well as the detention of their sister on charges relating to an alleged stabbing attack in 4/2016, and the killing of their father, a Fatah official, in 2008, they began a hunger strike on 7/4 and 7/7. Malik al-Qadi, a journalism student at Al-Quds University, joined them on 7/16. He had been rearrested and held without trial on 5/23, shortly after being released from a previous 4-mo. detention.

As the quarter began, the health of the 2 brothers and al-Qadi began deteriorating. Muhammad al-Balboul was rushed to Wolfson Medical Center in Tel Aviv on 9/1, joining al-Qadi in emergency care. He then suffered a loss of vision for 5 days in early 9/2016. Mahmoud was moved to intensive care at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center on 9/4. Even after an Israeli court suspended his detention on 9/9, al-Qadi refused to end his strike and fell into a coma on 9/10. Israel’s High Court of Justice then rejected (9/13) an appeal to release al-Qadi, drawing renewed protests from the Palestinian public. More than 100 prisoners launched (9/14) a hunger strike in solidarity and hundreds of Palestinians gathered (9/16) in Jenin to demonstrate their support for the 3 men.

After coming out of his coma on 9/18, al-Qadi released (9/19) a statement addressed to PA pres. Abbas and the Palestinian people: “Don’t leave us alone! I ask Pres. Mahmoud Abbas to intervene as quickly as possible, and I ask every holder of a Palestinian identity document who has conscience to support us in this battle.” Two days later, the Israeli authorities opted not to renew the 3 men’s administrative detentions, and all 3 ended their hunger strikes. Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Comm. chair Issa Qaraqe said (9/21) that they were released “as a result of political efforts by Pres. Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership, and intense efforts on all levels.” Visiting al-Qadi in person on 9/30, Abbas stressed that the plight of Palestinian prisoners was a priority for his govt. Al-Qadi returned home to Bethlehem on 10/2, and the Balboul brothers were set for release on 12/8.

Although those 3 hunger strikes were the most dramatic of the quarter, they were not necessarily the most impactful. On 10/24, Samer al-Issawi, who ended his own 266-day hunger strike in 4/2013 (see JPS 42 [3, 4]), and Munther Snawbar went on hunger strike in solidarity with female Palestinian prisoners, who had been complaining about a lack of access to medical care and cumbersome trips from their prisons to court. Eleven days later, the IPS relented (11/6) and agreed to some of the female prisoners’ demands: said prisoners were transferred to a prison closer to the court where detainees are tried; and a ban on families visiting their incarcerated daughters loosened.

At the very end of the quarter, Shaykh Raed Salah, the head of the now-disbanded Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, which the Israeli govt. outlawed on 11/16/2015 (see JPS 45 [3]), announced (11/13) a hunger strike to protest his solitary confinement. He began serving a 9-mo. sentence in 5/2016 on charges of incitement to violence in connection with a speech he had given in 2007. Because Salah is such a prominent figure, his strike had the potential to significantly increase pressure on the IPS and the Israeli authorities.

Settler-Related Violence

In keeping with the general downward trend in violence across the oPt this quarter, settlerrelated incidents also fell: down from 35 the previous quarter, there were 28 instances of settler attacks on Palestinians or their property between 8/9 and 11/14, according to OCHA’s report. Of these, 24 led to property damage and 4 led to Palestinian injuries (see figure 2 and Chronology for details). The 2 fatal bouts of settler-related violence were otherwise typical incidents. An Israeli settler crashed his car into a Palestinian couple and their horse-drawn cart nr. Qalqilya on 10/25, fatally injuring the man. Another settler crashed his car into a 6-year-old Palestinian girl outside Bethlehem on 9/10, killing her on the spot. While witnesses of the latter incident said it appeared to be an accident, the driver’s intentions were unclear.

Demolitions and Displacement

Although Israel demolished more Palestinian structures this quarter than last, the overall pace of demolitions was much slower than at the height of the habba (between 11/17/2015 and 5/16/2016), when the IDF destroyed 654 structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. According to OCHA, Israeli forces destroyed a total of 267 Palestinian structures in the oPt (223 in the West Bank and 44 in East Jerusalem) between 8/9 and 11/14. These demolitions led to the displacement of 382 Palestinians, almost double the previous quarter’s 185.

While the overall pace of demolition picked up relative to the previous quarter, the percentage of demolitions carried out as collective punishment for individual Palestinians’ alleged crimes against Israelis decreased. There were only 2 reported punitive demolitions (8/30 and 10/11), and 1 partial demolition (9/26) this quarter (see Chronology for details). The IDF punitively demolished 13 homes in their entirety and parts of 4 others over the course of the previous 2 quarters.



Palestinian and Israeli casualty rates decreased slightly this quarter, reflecting a general decline in violence over the course of 2016 (see JPS 46 [1, 2]): 29 Palestinians were killed as a result of Israeli actions (down from 32 last quarter), and 5 Israelis were killed as a result of Palestinian actions (up from 2 last quarter). Therefore, by mid-February 2017, the comprehensive death toll since the beginning of the 2d intifada in 9/2000 had reached 10,898 Palestinians (including 57 Palestinian citizens of Israel [PCI] and 19 unidentified cross-border “infiltrators”); 1,259 Israelis (433 IDF soldiers and security personnel, 246 settlers, and 576 others); and 71 foreign nationals (including 2 British suicide bombers). These numbers include individuals who died in noncombatrelated incidents if their death was a direct result of Israel’s occupation or of the ongoing conflict (e.g., ailing Palestinians who died because they were denied access to medical care and Palestinians killed in smuggling tunnel accidents). They do not include 5 Palestinians who were killed when the Egyptian authorities flooded the smuggling tunnels they were working in (12/3 [4] and 2/13), or the Hamasaffiliated engineer who was killed in Tunisia on 12/15, despite allegations that Israel’s Mossad agency was responsible.

Overview of the Violence

The number of protests, clashes, and random attacks that had characterized the habba (surge or revolt) since its eruption in the wake of the Jewish High Holidays in 9/2015 continued falling this quarter (see JPS 45 [2]–46 [2]). Therefore, the number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem decreased from 25 last quarter to 14 this quarter. Six Palestinians died of injuries sustained in clashes with the IDF (12/18, 12/22, 12/23, 1/10, 1/16, and 1/29), and 8 died after carrying out alleged ramming or stabbing attacks on Israeli settlers and troops (11/22, 11/25, 12/8, 12/14, 1/8, 1/17, 1/25, and 2/10; see Chronology for details). Another Palestinian was killed in the West Bank (2/8) when an Israeli settler drove into him. Meanwhile, the number of Palestinians injured in the West Bank decreased significantly: at 219 between 11/15 and 2/6, down from 521 over the preceding 12 weeks, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). All 4 Israelis killed by Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem this quarter were victims of alleged ramming attacks by Palestinian drivers outside the Old City on 1/8.

An Israeli military court in Tel Aviv found (1/4) IDF soldier Elor Azaria guilty of manslaughter for the killing of a prone, defenseless, and injured Palestinian at the height of the habba on 3/24/2016 in c. Hebron. The ruling made Azaria eligible for up to 20 years in prison, although many analysts guessed that the sentence would be much lighter (see JPS 46 [4]). Israeli PM Netanyahu and a slew of other right-wing officials, as well as Zionist Union MK Shelly Yacimovich, said they supported pardoning Azaria. Outside the court, hundreds of Jewish Israelis demonstrated in solidarity with him, sparking minor clashes with the police. Meanwhile, outraged that Azaria was tried on manslaughter chargers, rather than for murder, the family of the victim pledged to take the case to the ICC. The PA’s Foreign Ministry called the case a “show trial.”

In Gaza, 13 Palestinians died as a result of Israeli actions or in connection with complications cause by Israel’s blockade: 1 in clashes with IDF troops along the border fence (11/18); 1 who succumbed to injuries sustained in clashes with the IDF in 2005 (2/15); 1 who succumbed to heart problems after the Israeli authorities denied his exit from Gaza for medical treatment (1/14); 1 fisherman who went missing after a confrontation with Israeli naval forces (1/4); 5 who died in tunnel collapses (12/4, 12/7 [2], 1/20, and 2/13), including 2 Hamas fighters; 2 other Hamas fighters who died during undisclosed military activities (12/15 and 2/4); and 2 who died on 2/8 in an air strike that Palestinian witnesses claimed was carried out by Israeli aircraft, although the IDF denied involvement. Meanwhile, Israelis caused substantially fewer Palestinian injuries in Gaza this quarter: 23 between 11/15 and 2/6, according to OCHA, down from 61 over the preceding 12 weeks.

Sporadic bouts of cross-border violence continued to punctuate the relative calm in Gaza since the cease-fire ending Israel’s 2014 assault on the territory. Down from 7 last quarter, there were 6 such incidents (12/19, 1/15, 1/24, 2/6, 2/8, and 2/12; see Chronology), leading to 2 Palestinian deaths (2/8) and 9 Palestinian injuries (2/6, 2/8, and 2/12).

As in previous quarters, the IDF strictly enforced the unilaterally defined buffer zone along Israel’s boundary with Gaza, aka Access Restricted Areas (ARA). IDF troops violently dispersed Palestinian protesters gathering along the border fence 5 times (11/18, 12/2, 12/23, 12/25, and 2/3), down from 11 last quarter; fired on Palestinian land or property 17 times (12/13, 12/15, 12/17, 1/2, 1/3, 1/7, 1/8 [2], 1/10, 1/17, 1/18, 1/20, 1/21, 2/1, 2/7[2], and 2/15), up from 11 last quarter; fired on Palestinian shepherds, bird-hunters, and other people 15 times (11/18, 12/20, 12/21, 12/24, 12/26, 12/30, 1/5, 1/14, 1/18, 1/24 [2], 1/29, 1/31, 2/4, and 2/5), down from 16 the previous quarter. Israeli forces conducted 9 limited incursions to level land along the border fence (11/29, 12/13, 12/27, 1/12, 1/15, 1/25, 1/26, 2/6, and 2/8), down from 15 in each of the previous 3 quarters. Israeli aircraft also sprayed weed killer on Palestinian agricultural fields along the border fence on 1/23. (The IDF said that the operation was designed to clear sightlines for troops in the area.) IDF troops arrested almost twice as many Palestinians attempting to cross into Israel, a total of 11 (11/17 [2], 11/26 [2], 11/27, 12/9, 1/29 [2], and 1/30 [3]) compared to 6 last quarter. The Israeli authorities claimed that the Palestinian arrested on 11/27 was a Hamas operative attempting to sneak into Israel on a military mission. His family, however, denied (12/29) the accusation, saying that he had no affiliation with Hamas and suffered from mental disabilities.

In a related development, the Israeli press reported (1/9) that DM Lieberman approved a NIS 3.34 b. (approximately $868 m.) project to construct a “smart fence” along Israel’s border with Gaza, including an underground concrete barrier and sensors to detect tunneling activities.

At a rate approaching 1 incident per day, Israeli naval forces continued to harass Palestinian fishermen working off Gaza’s coast and did not carry out the promised extension of the fishing zone from 6 to 9 naut. mi. off the coast, after postponing the measure 3 times last quarter (see JPS 46 [2]); they also opened fire on or otherwise confronted fishermen on 58 occasions (see Chronology for details), up from 50 last quarter. Over the course of these incidents, they capsized 1 fishing boat (1/4), injured 5 fishermen (1/14, 1/17, 1/20, and 1/23 [2]), arrested 9 others (12/6 [4] and 1/16 [5]), and confiscated at least 3 fishing boats (12/6 and 1/17). In the incident on 1/4, 1 fisherman went missing. His family later declared (1/6) him dead and the fishermen’s union in Gaza went on a 2-day strike (1/5–6) to protest the nr.-constant targeting by the Israeli navy.

Movement and Access

In the absence of any breakthrough in the Palestinian national reconciliation process or any prospective deal between Hamas and the Israeli govt., Palestinians’ freedom of movement and access in the Gaza Strip changed little this quarter; there were only marginal developments. On 12/5, Israeli officials announced the resumption of public postal service to Gaza, 5 mos. after suspending the service in 7/2016 (see JPS 46 [1]). They also revoked (12/6) permission for elderly Gazans to visit Haram al-Sharif on Fridays. According to a Palestinian official, the Israelis cited reports of some worshippers not returning directly to Gaza after their visits. Overall, the number of Palestinians permitted to leave Gaza for the West Bank and Israel remained relatively low this quarter, after plummeting in 10/2016 to levels not seen since the immediate aftermath of the Israeli assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014 (see figure 1).

Evidencing the Egyptian govt.’s attempts to improve relations with Hamas and to ameliorate humanitarian conditions in Gaza (see “Egypt” below), Cairo opened the Rafah border crossing on 17 days this quarter. Although this represented a decrease from 21 days last quarter, it marked a significant uptick over the previous 2 quarters of 2016, when the crossing was open for only 14 days in total. Overall, 9,743 individuals were able to leave Gaza via the Rafah crossing, and 7,391 were able to enter, compared with 8,429 and 8,809 last quarter, respectively.

The Israeli crackdown in response to the habba subsided this quarter. Despite fewer village closures and punitive restrictions, the IDF nevertheless maintained nr.-daily raids, house searches, and mobile checkpoints, hampering Palestinian movement and access in the West Bank and East Jerusalem (see Chronology for details). On 12/7, the IDF’s Coordinator of Govt. Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced a temporary easement of restrictions on Christmas Day (12/25). As a result, an unlimited number of Christian Palestinians in the West Bank were permitted to visit their relatives in Israel; some 400 were permitted to fly abroad from Ben Gurion International Airport; 100 were allowed to visit families in Gaza; and 700 Gazan Christians were permitted to visit the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Separately, the Israeli cabinet discussed (12/18) a possible 40% increase in the number of work permits granted to West Bank Palestinians, a move that would increase the current number of permits from 56,000 to 78,000. The plan, designed in part to relieve the labor shortage in Israel’s construction industry, did not move forward, however. Meanwhile, the Islamic Waqf, which administers Haram al-Sharif, announced (12/31) that 2016 set a new ceiling in terms of the number of right-wing Jewish activists’ entry to the sanctuary, with a total of 14,806 infractions; there were 2,856 such “visits” in 10/2016, alone, the highest monthly figure for all of 2016.

Maintaining Stability

Amid persistent rumors about the weakness of the PA, and ahead of Pres. Abbas’s projected retirement (see “Intra-Palestinian Dynamics” below), the Israeli authorities took 2 major steps this quarter to shore up PA institutions and preserve the status quo established by the Oslo Accords.

First, the IDF’s COGAT Yoav Mordechai signed (1/15) an agreement with PA Min. of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh to restart the Joint Water Comm., which the Oslo Accords established to oversee water and sanitation issues in the oPt. The Palestinians have refused to take part since 2010, arguing that Israel was using the comm. to secure Palestinian approval for projects serving the West Bank’s settler population without approving sufficient projects for Palestinian communities. With the comm. dormant for several years, water scarcity and allocation issues have contributed to increasingly dire humanitarian conditions in the oPt as well as periodic crises (see “Hydro-Apartheid” in JPS 46 [1]’s Update). Under the latest 1/15 agreement, the comm. is to consider allocating additional water resources to the West Bank and Gaza and expanding the water supply with new drilling projects, as well as dealing with environmental issues, agricultural water use, and other matters. The agreement also gave the PA limited autonomy to deal with certain projects.

Second, the security cabinet granted (1/15) Israeli banks working with Palestinian banks immunity from terrorist-related lawsuits domestically and indemnity from suits filed abroad. With 2 Israeli banks reportedly threatening to end partnerships with Palestinian banks, fearing the prospect of litigation in the U.S., the cabinet offered them protection, purportedly strengthening the Palestinian commercial banking sector and averting shocks to the Palestinian economy.

Palestinian Prisoners

High-profile hunger strikes continued to galvanize the Palestinian public this quarter, but they did not result in Israeli policy changes. As brothers Muhammad and Mahmoud al-Balboul were being released from prison after high-profile strikes last quarter (see JPS 46 [2]), 2 other prisoners’ efforts caught the Palestinian public’s attention. Ahmad Abu Fara and Anas Shadid went on hunger strike on 9/25. By 12/11, they were refusing medical treatment at Assaf Harofeh Hospital nr. Tel Aviv. When Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected (12/12) an appeal for their release, Shadid and Abu Fara were “facing death,” according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, and Abu Fara had lost sight in his right eye. “I appeal to human rights organizations in Israel and abroad, to the countries of the free world, to anyone who has a conscience, to help me so I may live,” Abu Fara said, in a statement recorded and transmitted to the media by MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List), adding, “I’m dying and I don’t want to die.” The 2 prisoners began (12/13) refusing water in response to the court’s decision but reached an agreement with the Israel Prison Service 8 days later (12/21). They would end their strikes immediately (12/22) and go free following the renewal of their respective administrative detentions for 4 mos. A few weeks later, Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq was rearrested (1/15). Al-Qiq had ended a 94-day hunger strike against his administrative detention on 2/26/ 2016 (see JPS 45 [3, 4]), and after the Israeli authorities placed him under 6-mo. administrative detention, he began (2/6) a new hunger strike, setting the stage for another public campaign against Israeli targeting of Palestinian journalists.

Meanwhile, the total number of Palestinians in Israeli prisons decreased this quarter for the 1st time in a year. From 7,000 between 2/2016 through 12/2016, it dropped to 6,500 in 1/2017, according to the Palestinian prisoners’ rights NGO, Addameer. Likewise, the number of Palestinian administrative detainees dropped below 700 for the 1st time since 2/2016, to 536.

Settler-Related Violence

The incidence of settler-related violence decreased again this quarter, with 20 instances of Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians or their property between 11/15 and 2/6, down from 28 last quarter, according to OCHA. Of these, 9 led to Palestinian injuries and 11 resulted in damage to Palestinian property (see figure 2 and Chronology for details). Included in these figures are the 5 reported attacks on Palestinian olive groves (12/11, 1/12, 1/18, 1/20, and 2/6), which led to the uprooting or destruction of hundreds of trees.

Gaza’s Electricity Crisis

On 1/6, the administrators of Gaza’s sole power plant shut down 1 of its 2 operating generators because of a severe fuel shortage. This left most of Gaza’s 2 m. inhabitants with only 3 hours of electricity per day, exacerbating Gaza’s longstanding shortages and precipitating a crisis. According to the Gaza Electricity Distribution Corp. (GDEC), recent problems with power lines in the n. Sinai Peninsula were to blame for fluctuations in the number of megawatts Gaza received. But even prior to this, Israel and Egypt were providing only some 140 of the 600 megawatts needed to fully power Gaza. GDEC also indicated that because some of its customers were unable to keep up with their bills, the utility company was experiencing difficulties in securing sufficient fuel for the power plant. Unofficial sources were more candid about the true reasons for the crisis. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights charged (1/10) the “parties administrating [sic] the Gaza electricity sector” with lacking in any “real solutions.” Others blamed Hamas officials for allegedly funneling fuel to their cronies, and some blamed the PA for imposing high taxes. Observers on all sides agreed that the power plant had not been able to operate at full capacity for years because of the difficulty involved in acquiring sufficient resources under the Israeli blockade.

As the blackouts continued, the crisis took on an increasingly political turn. Thousands of Palestinians gathered (1/12) in protest across Gaza, blaming the blackouts on Hamas. Local police fired into the air to stop protesters in Jabaliya refugee camp (r.c.) from reaching GDEC offices, allegedly assaulted a number of journalists attempting to cover the event, and carried out violent raids in which they arrested at least 30 people reportedly responsible for organizing the demonstrations. The next day, Hamas released a statement blaming Abbas and the PA for “conspiring to cut electricity” in Gaza and organized a counterprotest in Jabaliya r.c. A Fatah spokesperson denied the accusation (1/13), saying that Hamas could not “escape the crisis it had caused.”

Before the crisis could spiral further out of control, Turkey and Qatar stepped in. On 1/14, a GDEC spokesperson announced (1/14) that Turkish pres. Erdoğan had offered to ship fuel directly to Gaza, and senior Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh confirmed (1/14) that the amount would be sufficient to run the power plant for 3 mos. The next day, PA PM Rami Hamdallah announced that Qatar had pledged $12 m. to cover fuel costs at the plant for an additional 3 mos. The 1st $4 m. tranche from Qatar arrived on 1/16, allowing the plant to turn on 3 of its 4 generators. Gaza then returned to its pre-crisis schedule of on/off power at 8-hour intervals.

But tensions over the precarious electricity situation lingered. On 2/12, the head of Qatar’s Comm. to Rebuild Gaza, Mohammed al-Amadi, outlined a 3-stage plan for resolving the problem. He called for: 1) settling the PA-Hamas dispute over payment of taxes on fuel for the plant; 2) reaching an agreement with Israel for the construction of a power line from Israel to Gaza; and 3) securing a long-term supply of gas for the plant. He also alluded to efforts to resolve the underlying issues, saying, “We proposed the establishment of a technical comm., free of politicians, that would be responsible for handling Gaza’s energy problem,” and blamed the PA for holding up such efforts. Fatah, for its part, rejected (2/12) al-Amadi’s accusations.

Demolitions and Displacement

For the 2d quarter in a row, Israeli forces demolished fewer Palestinian structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem than they had in the preceding quarter. According to OCHA, between 11/15 and 2/6, the IDF destroyed 155 residences and other buildings—108 of them in Area C of the West Bank, 3 in Areas B and C, and 44 in East Jerusalem—down from a total of 267 the previous quarter. These demolitions displaced 161 Palestinians, a significant drop from the 382 displaced in the earlier period.

Israeli forces carried out only 1 punitive demolition of a Palestinian home this quarter. On 12/22, Israeli forces entered Kafr ‘Aqab, East Jerusalem, and destroyed the family home of the Palestinian man summarily executed on 10/9 for his alleged killing of an Israeli civilian and a police officer in East Jerusalem (see Chronology for details). The demolition sparked clashes in the village; 1 Palestinian youth was killed and several were injured.

While demolitions of Palestinian property may have been on the wane in the oPt, several high-profile demolitions of Palestinian property within Israel’s borders garnered significant attention. Home demolitions in the bedouin community of Umm al-Hiran and the Jerusalem-area village of Qalanswa elicited an international outcry that the Israeli govt. was discriminating against and targeting its Palestinian minority.

The demolitions exposed a festering source of tension between Israel’s Palestinian and Jewish communities stemming from the govt.’s infrequent approval of new zoning codes or permits for new housing to accommodate population growth in Palestinian communities. After Israeli forces demolished 11 homes built without the proper permits in Qalanswa on 1/10, the mayor of the town resigned in protest, explaining that he didn’t “have the power to change anything” and that people in the village had been trying for years to get the proper permits, to no avail. “People are forced to build illegally,” he said, and “now they are left without money, without life.” Adding insult to injury, the Qalanswa home demolitions reportedly stemmed from Netanyahu’s order to demolish unlicensed Palestinian structures in the context of his battle with right-wing coalition mbrs. over the illegal Amona settlement outpost (see “The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict” above). In response, the Higher Follow-Up Comm. for Arab Citizens of Israel (a representative body for PCI) called a general strike for 1/11.

In 2016, the High Court of Justice had rejected (1/17/2016) Umm al-Hiran’s appeal to avert Israeli govt. plans to demolish the village, pay the residents to move to a nearby municipality, and build a new Jewish settlement, dubbed Hiran, at the site. When the Israel Land Authority announced (11/21) that 2 homes and 8 other structures in the 60-year-old village were to be demolished within 24 hours, protesters descended on Umm al-Hiran from across the country, including Joint List MKs Ayman Odeh and Ghattas. An Israeli court postponed, but did not annul, the demolition (11/22), and Israeli demolition crews arrived 2 mos. later, early on 1/18, sparking clashes with protesters and residents. One bedouin and 1 Israeli police officer were killed and Odeh was injured (see Chronology and Photos from the Quarter for more). The Higher Follow-Up Comm. called (1/19) another general strike and Palestinian civil society groups donated (1/28) mobile residences to the families whose homes had been destroyed.

The demolitions gained international attention when Odeh published an op-ed in the New York Times on 2/11 highlighting Israel’s discriminatory policies, and pointing out the similarities between the “race-baiting tactics” of PM Netanyahu and U.S. pres. Trump. He argued that by enforcing “unjust land use and housing policies,” the Israeli govt., like Trump, was “bulldozing” democracy.

Ostensibly in response to the blowback, Israel’s cabinet approved (2/12) a NIS 3-b. (approximately $800 m.) plan increasing services to bedouin communities in the Negev, including the creation of 10 new industrial zones; strengthening enforcement of existing zoning regulations; and calling for the construction of 25,000 new housing units over 5 years. Sana Ibn Bari, a lawyer with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, argued (2/12) that the plan was just an extension of Israel’s discriminatory policies. Rather than involving the community in future plans, she argued, the govt. “are trying to force a strategy of concentrating the population in the existing townships.” Ibn Bari elaborated further, saying, “It’s clear the intention is to invest in the recognized settlements . . . to prepare infrastructure that . . . will absorb [bedouin] from the unrecognized villages. The 25,000 units . . . are almost certainly intended for the residents of the unrecognized villages [and] this means massive destruction [of homes] to force residents to relocate against their will to the townships.” (See Ahmad Amara’s article, “The Negev Land Question: Between Denial and Recognition” in JPS 42 [4] for more on the issue of so-called unrecognized villages in the Negev.)

Reflecting a yearlong trend of declining violence, the number of Palestinian and Israeli casualties decreased slightly this quarter (see JPS 46 [1–3]): 21 Palestinians were killed as a result of Israeli actions (down from 29 last quarter), and 1 Israeli was killed as a result of Palestinian actions (down from 5 last quarter). Therefore, the comprehensive death toll since the beginning of the 2d Intifada in 9/2000 reached 10,919 Palestinians (including 59 Palestinian citizens of Israel and 19 unidentified cross-border “infiltrators”); 1,260 Israelis (including at least 246 settlers and 434 Israel Defense Forces [IDF] soldiers and security personnel); and 73 foreign nationals (including 2 British suicide bombers). These numbers include individuals who died in noncombat-related incidents if their death was a direct result of Israel’s occupation or the ongoing conflict (e.g., ailing Palestinians who died while being denied access to medical care and Palestinians killed in smuggling tunnel accidents). They do include the 2 Palestinian citizens of Israel who died on 4/25 after triggering a piece of unexploded Israeli ordnance nr. Beersheba, but do not include the 3/24 killing of senior Hamas military commander Mazen Fuqaha. Despite Hamas officials’ allegations that Israeli forces were responsible, this had not been confirmed by the end of the quarter (see “Overview of the Violence” below).

Overview of the Violence

Apart from the outcry surrounding the Palestinian prisoners’ mass hunger strike at the end of the quarter (see “Palestinian Prisoners” below), there were fewer protests, clashes, and individual random attacks in the oPt this quarter. Therefore, the number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem continued to decrease. Twelve Palestinians were killed as a result of Israeli actions in this context: 10 as a result of confrontations with Israeli forces, 1 by an Israeli settler after the Palestinian allegedly committed a stabbing attack, and 1 of kidney failure resulting from medical complications developed in Israeli prison. The number of Palestinian injuries, however, rose considerably this quarter: 724 Palestinians were injured as a result of Israeli actions between 2/21 and 5/15, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), up from 219 last quarter. Meanwhile, a mentally unstable Palestinian stabbed and killed a UK woman in East Jerusalem on 4/14 (he was arrested after the incident); Israeli forces shot and killed a Jordanian after he allegedly stabbed and injured an Israeli soldier outside Jerusalem’s Old City on 5/13; and a Palestinian driver killed an Israeli in an alleged ramming attack nr. Ramallah on 4/6.

Also of note: a special IDF court at Kirya military base, Tel Aviv, sentenced (2/21) Elor Azariya, the IDF sgt. who killed a Palestinian execution-style in c. Hebron on 3/24/2016, to 18 mos. in prison, the minimum sentence allowed under his 1/4 conviction on charges of manslaughter, and demoted him to the rank of private. His sentencewas substantially milder than the minimum sentence Israeli courts hand down to Palestinians convicted of throwing stones and firebombs, and even Ilan Katz, Azariya’s lawyer, admitted that the sentence was lenient. However, Israel’s ultranationalist and right-wing leaders, including PM Netanyahu (2/23), called on Israeli pres. Reuven Rivlin to pardon Azariya.

The number of Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip as a result of Israeli actions fell by about half this quarter, down to 7 (from 13): 3 died while attempting to repair a smuggling tunnel in s. Gaza on 2/24; 1 was killed by IDF artillery fire on 3/22; 1 fighter affiliated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) succumbed to injuries sustained in an accident at a “resistance post” along the border on 4/26, according to the Gaza-based Health Ministry; 1 Hamas fighter died in a tunnel collapse on 4/17; and 1 fisherman succumbed to injuries sustained in a confrontation with Israeli naval forces on 5/15. The number of Gazans injured as a result of Israeli actions continued to fall this quarter; there were 13 reported injuries between 2/21 and 5/15, according to OCHA, down from 23 and 61 in each of the previous 2 quarters.

There was a slight increase in cross-border violence this quarter, placing in doubt the continuation of the cease-fire that has largely held since Israel’s assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014 (see JPS 44 [1, 2]). Nine days witnessed significant exchanges between armed fighters in Gaza and the IDF, leading to 1 Palestinian death (3/22), 8 injuries (2/27 [5], 3/7 [1], and 3/22 [2]), substantial damage to various Hamas and PIJ sites across Gaza, and minor damage to 1 Israeli military vehicle (3/2). After exchanges of rockets and air strikes on 2/27, 3/1, and 3/2, Asharq Al-Awsat reported (3/2) that Hamas had arrested hundreds of mbrs. of local Salafist groups since 12/2016, and that this could possibly explain the recent uptick in cross-border violence. Although no group took credit for the rocket fire on 2/27 or 3/1, Salafist groups were widely suspected of returning to a tactic they had used in response to a similar Hamas crackdown in 2015, i.e., launching rockets into Israel to draw Israeli retaliatory strikes on Hamas military sites (see JPS 45 [1]).

The IDF maintained its strict enforcement of Israel’s unilaterally defined buffer zone, or Access Restricted Areas, along Gaza’s border this quarter. IDF troops violently dispersed Palestinian protesters approaching the border on 3 occasions (2/24, 3/3, and 3/10); fired on Palestinian land or other property 11 times (2/19, 2/25, 3/19, 3/26, 3/28, 4/1, 4/3, 4/4, 4/18, 4/21, and 4/30); and fired on Palestinian shepherds, bird-hunters, and others 10 times (2/24, 3/3 [2], 3/6, 4/7, 4/14 [2], 4/21, 4/26, and 5/2), causing 3 injuries (2/24 [1] and 3/3 [2]). Israeli forces also arrested 10 Palestinians attempting to cross into Israel (3/3 [3], 3/13 [3], 3/17, 4/11 [2], and 4/13); conducted 22 limited incursions to level land along the border fence (2/23 [2], 3/1 [2], 3/5, 3/6, 3/15, 3/22, 4/5, 4/6 [2], 4/13, 4/16, 4/19, 4/20, 4/30, 5/2, 5/7 [2], 5/9, and 5/14 [2]); and sprayed herbicide on Palestinian lands along the border nr. Khan Yunis (4/4 and 4/5) and nr. Rafah (5/9).

After wavering on their promise to extend the fishing zone off Gaza’s coast during the previous 2 quarters, the Israeli authorities expanded the zone from 6 to 9 naut. mi. along Gaza’s s. coast on 5/3. However, before and after the extension, Israeli naval forces continued harassing Palestinian fishermen. They opened fire on or otherwise confronted Palestinian fishing boats on 52 occasions, down from 58 last quarter. Over the course of these incidents, they killed 1 fisherman (5/15); injured 2 (2/21 and 5/8), arrested 14 (2/21 [4], 3/23 [2], 4/30 [2], and 5/15 [6]); and confiscated at least 3 of the fishermen’s boats (3/23 and 5/15 [2]).

In addition to the usual violence across the border and along the coast, there was 1 major incident in Gaza this quarter. On 3/24, unidentified assailants shot and killed senior Hamas military official and former Israeli prisoner Fuqaha in s. Gaza City. Throughout the quarter, Hamas officials insisted that Israel was responsible and threatened to retaliate, but Israeli leaders denied these allegations, and no major escalation of violence ensued.

Within hours of the killing, Hamas released a statement implying that Israel was responsible. Thousands of Hamas mbrs. and supporters called for revenge at Fuqaha’s funeral on 3/25, and Hamas’s military wing, the Izzeddin al-Qassam Brigades (IQB), threatened to “respond in a matter that befits [Fuqaha’s] position.” As Hamas’s investigation into the killing progressed, the Gaza-based Interior Ministry shut down (3/26) the Erez border crossing with Israel, only allowing humanitarian cases, and barred (3/26) all Gazan fishermen from the sea indefinitely. A little over a mo. after the ministry lifted (4/6) the restrictions, Hamas announced (5/11) that it had arrested the person responsible for killing Fuqaha. The organization’s new leader, Ismail Haniyeh, described the arrested man as having “pulled the trigger following the instructions of his Israeli commanders,” doubling down on the allegation that Israel was responsible. Hamas then held (5/16) a press conference to announce that 3 Palestinians had confessed to their involvement in the killing and admitted to having received instructions from Israeli intelligence officers. The head of Hamas’s internal security forces, Tawfiq Abu Naim, said that the confession marked a “new stage” in Hamas’s dealings with Israel, but the Israelis didn’t respond to the evidence Hamas made public, nor were there any signs of Hamas retaliation.

Movement and Access

Apart from the extension of the fishing zone off Gaza’s s. coast (see “Overview of the Violence” above), there was only 1 significant change affecting Palestinian movement and access in the Gaza Strip this quarter. Humanitarian conditions continued to deteriorate, prompting numerous and increasingly urgent calls for a change in the status quo. In particular, the number of Palestinians permitted to exit Gaza continued to drop, from 26,317 in 11/2016–1/2017 to 18,056 in 2–4/2017, according to the Israeli NGO Gisha (see fig. 1). The greatest decrease registered was among merchants, highlighting the weakness of the Gazan economy according to a report in Haaretz (3/18). Many local industries were suffering from a lack of materials, such as wooden planks and boards, which Israel banned for security reasons, and fewer merchants had reasons to apply for exit permits as a result. As of 3/18, “only 1,363 traders have valid entry permits, a bit more than a third of the 3,600 permits Israel had approved in late 2015, and about a quarter of the quota set by Israel, which was never filled,” according to the Haaretz report. Citing the sputtering local economy, Gaza’s Ministry of National Economy announced (4/6) an increase in tariffs on 7 types of goods imported from Israel, including tahini and diapers. A ministry spokesperson explained (4/6) that the hope was that local producers would raise to 40% their market share on these products, up from approximately 15%, creating 500 new jobs.

Despite Pres. al-Sisi’s stated goal of opening the Rafah border crossing more frequently (see JPS 46 [3]), the Egyptian authorities kept it closed for all but 8 days this quarter, down from 17 and 21 days in each of the previous 2 quarters. According to OCHA, 5,004 Palestinians were able to return to Gaza and 2,054 were able to leave.

The IDF’s nr.-daily raids, house searches, and mobile checkpoints continued to obstruct Palestinian movement and access in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, although the Israeli crackdown on the habba (the surge of Palestinian resistance, random attacks, and protests that began in Jerusalem in 9/2015) included fewer village closures and other punitive restrictions this quarter. In the wake of a West Bank Palestinian’s stabbing and injuring of at least 4 people in Tel Aviv, the IDF’s Coordinator of Govt. Activities in the Territories (COGAT) suspended (3/23) single-day work permits granted to various enterprises bringing Palestinians into Israel. The alleged attacker in the Tel Aviv incident had obtained such a permit via Natural Peace Tours, a group that organizes personal interactions between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Israeli authorities maintained their practice of closing border crossings into the West Bank and Gaza around holidays (Purim [3/9–12], Passover [4/9–17], and Israel’s Independence Day [4/29–5/2]), with exceptions for humanitarian cases. In a related development, the Israeli authorities attempted to block the Palestinian “March of Return,” an annual protest held in parallel with Israel’s Independence Day celebrations, for the 1st time since the event’s founding 20 years earlier. Specifically, the Israeli police denied the marchers a permit, saying that there were not enough available officers to secure the event (Haaretz, 3/23). For their part, organizers said they toured the planned site of the march 2 weeks prior with Israeli police officers, and that they had agreed on the necessary requirements. “We’re sure there’s a political motive [to the reversal],” said the organizer’s atty. Wessam Areed. The Israeli police later reversed their ban provided that the route of the proposed demonstration be altered, allowing thousands of Palestinians to march at the site of al-Kabri village on 5/2. The Israeli authorities did ease 2 major restrictions on movement and access in the West Bank this quarter. First, a Palestinian source said (4/10) that COGAT had recently granted permits to 270 Palestinian businessmen, allowing them to drive their cars inside Israel for the 1st time since 2000. The source also said that more permits may be issued after 3 mos. if the program goes well. Second, the Israeli govt. and the PA signed (4/5) an agreement to allow Palestinian telecom companies to offer 3G services to their Palestinian customers in the oPt, ending a long-standing Israeli ban on the technology. The reversal was meant to stimulate the Palestinian economy, according to COGAT. The agreement came more than a year after the PA and COGAT had reached a similar deal, on 11/19/2015, that was never implemented. Palestinian commentators at that time had lamented the fact that Jawwal and Wataniya Mobile, the 2 major Palestinian telecom companies, were unlikely to invest in 3G when 4G, a more advanced technology, was already standard across most of the Middle East (see JPS 45 [3]). However, less than a week later, Wataniya CEO Durgham Maraee announced that the company had already started work on bringing 3G to the West Bank, and that Wataniya was planning to begin operations in Gaza soon, ending Jawwal’s 18-year monopoly in the region.

Access at Haram al-Sharif remained contentious this quarter, with both Palestinians and Israelis chafing against restrictions at the sanctuary. On 2/28, the Palestinian News and Information Agency (WAFA) reported that a magistrate’s court in Jerusalem had ruled that Jews should be permitted to pray at Haram al-Sharif, a move that would violate a key component of the status quo arrangement forged in the wake of Israel’s capture of Jerusalem in 1967 (see Doc. R6 in JPS 45 [1] for background on the status quo). Israel’s Ministry of Justice did not comment on the ruling, and the Jordanian govt., which administers the sanctuary, registered a formal protest with the Israeli govt. on 3/1. The Israeli govt. did not move to implement the ruling by the end of the quarter. At the end of 3/2017, Netanyahu decided to reassess his ban on Israeli MKs and ministers visiting Haram al-Sharif (Jerusalem Post, 3/27), a measure he had put in place in 10/2015 as the habba (surge) began (see JPS 45 [2]). Any change in the policy, however, would be delayed for 3 mos. to avoid provocations at the sanctuary during Passover and Ramadan. Meanwhile, Israeli forces banned more than 40 Palestinians from the sanctuary for periods of as long as 6 mos., to “keep the peace” in Jerusalem during the Jewish High Holidays. As a result, approximately 1,600 Jews visited during Passover, a significant increase over the 1,015 that visited during Passover in 2016, according to the Israeli pro-settler group Yirah.

The Israeli authorities plotted new restrictions on Palestinian tourism this quarter. On 4/23, the Border Control Dept. of Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority notified Israeli travel agencies that, as of 5/15, they would have to “attach, with each request to bring a group of tourists into the country, a special form pledging that they will not send tourists to [the West Bank].” It was unclear why the Israeli authorities thought such a move was necessary, but it was widely expected to deter foreign tourism to the oPt, thereby weakening the Palestinian economy. An Israeli tourism worker predicted that “if this takes effect, then groups of tourists looking for a down-to-earth vacation in Israel and visiting religious sites will have trouble paying the prices, and will stop coming.” Under pressure from tour group operators, Israel’s Ministry of Interior then froze (4/26) the order, explaining that “the draft of the letter that was sent out included some errors. . . . In the next few days, after the interior minister revisits the issue, we will be sending out a corrected version” (Haaretz, 5/3). By the end of the quarter, the ministry had issued no corrected version.

On 3/15, Israel’s High Court of Justice ordered the Interior Ministry to restore the residency status of a Palestinian, Akram Abd al-Haqq, who was born in East Jerusalem, but who had lived outside the city for 12 years. The ruling effectively challenged the govt.’s policy on awarding East Jerusalem Palestinians residency status. Previously, any Palestinians born in East Jerusalem who had been away from the city for at least 7 years lost their residency. Setting a new precedent, the justices decided that Palestinians born in East Jerusalem have a “strong affinity” with the city that must be taken into account in decisions on residency rights. Between 1967 and 2017, the Interior Ministry revoked the residency status of approximately 14,500 East Jerusalem Palestinians like Abd al-Haqq. Denials peaked at 4,577 in 2008, prompting a growing number of East Jerusalem Palestinians to seek Israeli citizenship, despite the stigma against it.

Palestinian Prisoners

On 4/17, Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and approximately 1,500 of his fellow Palestinian prisoners embarked on a mass hunger strike, calling for “an end to [Israel’s] practice of arbitrary administrative detention, torture, ill-treatment, unfair trials, detention of children, medical negligence, solitary confinement, inhuman/degrading treatment, deprivation of basic rights such as family visits, and the right to education,” according to a statement released the same day. Various prisoners had conducted similar hunger strikes randomly in recent years, each one drawing the world’s attention to Israel’s carceral policies and galvanizing the Palestinian public (e.g., 2-time hunger striker Muhammad al-Qiq suspended his most recent action on 3/10; see JPS 46 [3]). The Dignity Strike, as Barghouti and his supporters dubbed their collective action (see Palestine Unbound), built on these efforts and won the backing of all the major Palestinian political parties, including Fatah’s traditional rivals, Hamas and PIJ.

The inevitable Israeli crackdown began even before the strike started. On 4/16, Barghouti published an op-ed in the New York Times in which he linked the poor conditions in Israel’s prisons with the Israeli occupation overall. Numerous pro-Israel readers and Israeli politicians, including Netanyahu, complained, and the Times later amended the online version of the op-ed to include a summary of the crimes for which Israel had sentenced Barghouti. Also, the Israel Prison Service (IPS) warned (4/16) that participating in the strike would result in “serious consequences”for those involved. The nature of those consequences became clear soon after the hunger strike started. First, the IPS suspended all family and lawyer visits, according to a source with the International Comm. of the Red Cross (ICRC) on 4/18. Second, it moved Barghouti to solitary confinement and denied (4/18) his lawyers’ requests to visit him.

Meanwhile, Palestinians across the oPt organized nr.-daily rallies and other solidarity actions. Public and private institutions throughout the West Bank went on strike on 4/27. Employees of Jawwal and Paltel, another Palestinian telecom company, organized a sit-in in Ramallah on 4/30. The armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said (4/30) that it had launched “intensive cyberattacks” on sites and accounts “affiliated [with] the Zionist govt.” IQB published (5/3) a video threatening to make Israel “pay” unless the prisoners’ demands were addressed within 24 hours.

Although the strike did not capture the attention of the mainstream U.S. press, there were expressions of support elsewhere in the world. The Non-Aligned Movement denounced (4/22) Israel’s “illegal and oppressive” detention campaign. The ICRC announced (4/23) that it would consider the prisoners’ demand for increased family visits. The ICRC had coordinated 2 family visits per prisoner per mo. prior to 5/2016, but had decreased this to 1 per mo. due to an increase in family “no-shows” (see JPS 46 [1]). On 5/4, the Arab League called on the UN to send a commission of inquiry to “view the violations being committed against the prisoners of war.”

After the IPS responded to a legal challenge from the Israeli NGO Adalah and agreed (5/3) to let the prisoners meet with their lawyers, the Israeli authorities ramped up efforts to undermine the strikers. According to Israeli media reports (5/4), the IPS was allegedly attempting to bring in foreign doctors to replace the Israeli doctors refusing to forcefeed the prisoners (the Knesset passed a law authorizing force-feedings on 7/30/2015, but it was never implemented; see JPS 45 [1]). Despite rumors that the IPS was interested in negotiating with the strike’s leaders, the Israeli authorities focused their efforts on smearing Barghouti.

On 5/7, the IPS released footage allegedly showing the Palestinian leader eating cookies and candy bars in his cell at the Kishon detention center. The IPS did not say how Barghouti obtained the treats, but some IPS sources said (5/7) that the organization provided them to see if they could get him to break his strike. Various Palestinian groups and leaders, as well as Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa, denied that he had broken the strike and accused the IPS of fabricating the footage. “This was expected as part of the psychological and media war the IPS is conducting against the prisoners,” Barghouti’s lawyer said. “We can’t address the content of the clip so long as they don’t let us meet with Marwan. Let us visit him and then we will check the claims with him.” The IPS ultimately allowed an ICRC delegation to visit Barghouti on 5/11, but his lawyers were denied access until 5/14, despite the 5/3 agreement. Throughout its duration, the Israelis accused Barghouti of organizing the strike for personal reasons. “As we’ve said all along, the terrorists’ hunger strike isn’t about their prison conditions, but only about Barghouti’s desire to bolster his status in preparation for the day after [Abbas],” Erdan said (5/8), referring to the PA pres.’s stated desire to leave office. Erdan also published (5/15) a list of Barghouti’s alleged demands, including access to 20 television channels, air conditioning, and unlimited books and magazines. “The document shows how over the top the demands are,” he said. “No country in the world would enter into negotiations with prisoners for such demands, and certainly Israel, which is in a campaign against terror organizations, will not . . . surrender to extortion and damage its deterrent against terrorists.”

The head of the PA’s General Intelligence Service, Majid Faraj, and a delegation of senior intelligence officials met with their counterparts in the Shin Bet in an effort to negotiate a resolution, according to PA sources on 5/15. The same sources, however, said that Erdan was holding out, and by the end of the quarter, the IPS had not officially entered into talks with the prisoners.

Settler-Related Violence

Instances of settler-related violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem increased this quarter, with 34 incidents recorded in which Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians or their property, up from 20 the previous quarter, according to OCHA. Fifteen of these incidents resulted in Palestinian injuries, and 19 resulted in damage to Palestinian homes or other property. (See fig. 2 and Chronology for details.) These figures do not, however, include the settler killing of a Palestinian on 3/1 who broke into the settler’s home at a settlement outpost nr. Hebron (see Chronology for details).

Gaza’s Electricity Crisis

Three mos. after Qatar and Turkey stepped in to avert a major electricity crisis in Gaza in 1/2017 (see JPS 46 [3]), the fuel they had paid for ran out. Gaza’s sole power plant was forced to shut down on 4/16, plunging the region into darkness once again. The Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO) said (4/17) that it would only be able to distribute 133 MW of power per day, far less than the 450–500 MW needed. As a result, Gazans endured 12-hour blackouts, with 6-hour periods of power in between.

As in 1/2017, intra-Palestinian politics were partly to blame for the crisis. The PA in Ramallah held Hamas accountable, with a spokesperson accusing (4/17) GEDCO of collecting electricity fees from Gaza’s residents amounting to more than $27 m. without contributing anything to the monthly purchases of electricity from Israel and Egypt. The PA paid approximately $11 m. to Israel and $2 m. to Egypt for the 120 MW and 13 MW, respectively, which they imported to Gaza each mo. Hamas, for its part, accused (4/16) the PA of causing the crisis. The Hamas-run Energy Authority’s dep. chair, Fathi Khalil, argued (4/16) that they would have been able to purchase sufficient fuel to power the plant using tax revenues collected in Gaza, “but this [became] unaffordable after the [PA] suddenly decided to impose full taxes on the fuel.” Before the imposition of new taxes, the energy authority in Gaza could buy enough diesel fuel from Israel to run 2 of the plant’s generators.

With intra-Palestinian tensions ratcheting up (see “Intra-Palestinian Politics” below), the electricity crisis deepened throughout the quarter. Gaza’s hospitals prepared for rolling blackouts to increase, according to the Palestinian media on 4/19. Israeli and Palestinian officials estimated (4/19) that their energy reserves would only be able to power backup generators for 48–72 hours. Various power lines feeding the Gaza grid from Egypt were disconnected (4/17) or damaged (4/20 and 4/24), according to GEDCO, forcing further cuts on Gaza’s residents. Then, in a drastic move, the PA informed (4/27) the Israeli govt. that it would no longer be paying for the electricity Israel supplied to Gaza. Sources said (4/24) that PA pres. Abbas was looking to step up the pressure on Hamas to give up control of Gaza, and this move appeared to be the 1st implementation of his new approach.

The intractability of internal Palestinian politics dampened the international community’s willingness to deliver more emergency aid. UN coordinator for humanitarian aid and development activities Robert Piper approved (4/27) the release of $500,000 to buy fuel for Gaza’s hospitals, but Qatar, Turkey, and all of the Palestinians’ other major patrons were silent.

Demolitions and Displacement

For the 3d quarter in a row, Israeli forces demolished fewer Palestinian structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem than they had in the preceding quarter. Between 2/21 and 5/15, they demolished 73 structures, including 30 in Area C of the West Bank and 43 in East Jerusalem, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). This marked a substantial decrease from the 155 structures that the IDF demolished last quarter (see JPS 46 [3]). The number of Palestinians displaced by these demolitions, however, went up to 205, from 161 the previous quarter.

There was only 1 reported instance of Israeli forces punitively demolishing Palestinian property during this quarter. On 3/22, the IDF sealed with concrete the Jabal Mukabir home of the Palestinian killed in a confrontation with Israeli soldiers on 1/7; 1 woman and 4 children were displaced (see Chronology).

In a related development, TheMarker reported (5/7) that Netanyahu and Finance Min. Moshe Kahlon agreed to a 2-year freeze on demolition orders for homes built without permits in Israel, primarily affecting Palestinian communities (see JPS 46 [3]). Several highprofile home demolitions in these communities sparked a wave of protests last quarter, and suspending the policy could have been seen as a victory in the Palestinians’ campaign for equal rights. However, Israel’s Dep. Atty. Gen. Erez Kaminitz denied (5/10) TheMarker’s report. “There was not, and there is not, any agreement by enforcement bodies to an all-encompassing freeze on enforcement against illegal construction,” he wrote. Notably, there were no high-profile demolitions of Palestinian property in Israel during the quarter, lending credence to TheMarker’s report.

The flare-up of violence in response to the new Israeli security measures at Haram al-Sharif in 7/2017 led to the first significant quarterly increase in the number of Palestinian and Israeli casualties in over a year. Overall, 38 Palestinians were killed as a result of Israeli actions (up from 21 last quarter), and 6 Israelis were killed as a result of Palestinian actions (up from 1 last quarter). Therefore, the comprehensive death toll since the beginning of the 2d Intifada in 9/2000 reached 10,957 Palestinians (including 64 Palestinian citizens of Israel and 19 cross-border “infiltrators”); 1,266 Israelis (including at least 249 settlers and 437 IDF soldiers and other security personnel); and 73 foreign nationals (including 2 British suicide bombers). These numbers include individuals who died in noncombat-related incidents if their death was a direct result of Israel’s occupation or the ongoing conflict (e.g., ailing Palestinians who died because they were denied access to medical care, and Palestinians killed in smuggling tunnel accidents). These figures do not include the 3 Palestinians killed this quarter in clashes with Egyptian forces in the n. Sinai Peninsula (5/18 and 6/2 [2]), ailing Gazans who succumbed to medical complications as a result of the PA’s refusal to fund their medical transfers (see “IntraPalestinian Dynamics” below), or the 2 Jordanians killed by an Israeli security guard outside the Israeli embassy in Amman on 7/23 (see “Jordan” below).

Overview of the Violence

The number of Palestinians killed as a result of Israeli actions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem increased this quarter. With the Palestinian prisoners’ mass hunger strike (see Palestine Unbound and Update on Conflict and Diplomacy, JPS 46 [4], for more on the “Dignity Strike”) concluding in 5/2017 and unrest erupting in Jerusalem in 7/2017, widespread protests, clashes, and individual, random attacks spread across the oPt. Twenty-nine Palestinians were killed (up from 12 last quarter), including 19 in 7/2017 alone; 14 died of wounds sustained in clashes with Israeli forces, 14 were killed after committing or allegedly committing stabbing, shooting, or ramming attacks on Israelis, and 1 was killed after accidentally detonating a piece of unexploded Israeli ordnance. The number of Palestinian injuries also spiked. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 1,794 Palestinians were injured between 5/16 and 8/14 (up from 724 last quarter), of whom 1,516 were injured at the height of the Haram al-Sharif access crisis between 7/18 and 7/31 alone.

Although the West Bank and East Jerusalem remained the epicenter of tension and violence this quarter, there were intermittent border clashes and protests in the Gaza Strip over the new Israeli security measures at Haram al-Sharif. However, fewer Palestinians were killed as a result of Israeli actions in Gaza this quarter (6, down from 7 last quarter): 3 died in clashes with the IDF along the border (6/6, 6/9, and 7/28); a senior Hamas military officer was fatally injured in an explosion at a “resistance site” on 6/7; 1 woman died (8/8) of cancer after the Israeli authorities denied her a permit to travel to Jerusalem for treatment; and a child died (7/29) of Ekiri syndrome, a complication of shigellosis infection, which he contracted while swimming in the polluted waters off Gaza’s coast (see “Gaza Electricity Crisis” below). On the other hand, the number of Palestinians injured in Gaza as a result of Israeli actions increased considerably this quarter: there were 162 reported injuries between 5/16 and 8/14, according to OCHA, up from 13 last quarter.

Meanwhile, Gaza saw fewer incidents of cross-border violence this quarter. Gazan fighters and the IDF exchanged fire on only 3 days this quarter (6/26, 7/23, and 8/8), down from 9 last quarter. These exchanges followed a familiar pattern: after 1 or 2 rockets were fired into s. Israel, causing minimal damage, if any, the IDF launched air strikes or fired artillery at Hamas military sites across the territory. On 6/26 and 7/23, IDF strikes damaged Hamas sites. IDF air strikes in n. Gaza on 8/8 caused 4 Palestinian injuries (see Chronology for details).

As in previous quarters, the IDF strictly enforced the unilaterally defined buffer zone, so-called Access Restricted Areas, along Israel’s border with Gaza. Israeli soldiers violently dispersed Gazan protesters gathering along the border fence on 16 different occasions, up from 3 last quarter; they fired on shepherds, farmers, and bird-hunters 6 times (5/22, 5/29, 6/11, 6/17, 7/10, and 7/13); and fired on Palestinian land or other property 6 times (5/22, 5/24, 6/4, 6/14, 6/28, and 7/26). Israeli forces also conducted 16 limited incursions to level land in Gaza (6/1, 6/4, 6/5 [2], 6/12, 6/19 [2], 6/22, 6/28, 7/3, 7/6, 7/22, 7/25, 7/26, 8/3, and 8/14), and arrested 6 Gazans attempting to cross into Israel for work or for allegedly intending to carry out attacks on Israelis (6/12, 7/1, 7/9 [2], 7/24, and 8/6).

The temporary expansion of the fishing zone off Gaza’s s. coast did nothing to reduce Israel’s violent enforcement of the zone’s boundaries this quarter (see “Movement and Access” below). Matching the total from last quarter, Israeli naval forces opened fire on or otherwise confronted Palestinian fishermen on 52 separate occasions. Over the course of these incidents, 3 fishermen were injured (5/30 and 7/16 [2]), up from 2 last quarter, and 2 were arrested (8/11 [2]), down from 14 in the previous quarter. On 1 noteworthy occasion, IDF troops stationed at a coastal watchtower nr. Jabaliya r.c. opened fire on Palestinian fishermen working along the water line on the far side of the boundary; 1 fisherman was injured.

Movement and Access

A handful of major Israeli policy changes affected Palestinian movement and access in the Gaza Strip this quarter. On 8/1 COGAT imposed a ban on Gazans carrying laptop computers, hard-shell suitcases, shampoo, or toothpaste across the border into Israel, citing security concerns. The following week, COGAT announced (8/7) that “businessmen and [other Palestinians from East Jerusalem] who want to help improve the economy, infrastructure, and humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip” would be allowed to visit Gaza. No more than 150 people at a time would be allowed to enter, and the Israeli authorities would evaluate on a case-by-case basis who met the criteria of “want[ing] to help.” Finally, as mentioned above (see “Overview of the Violence”), COGAT reduced the fishing zone off Gaza’s coast to 6 naut. mi. on 6/27, almost 2 mos. after expanding it to 9 naut. mi. on 5/3. The PA Ministry of Agriculture reported that the expansion had significantly increased both the quality and quantity of the catch in 5–6/2017.

Although the PA slashed its financial support for Gaza in an effort to put pressure on Hamas this quarter (see “Intra-Palestinian Dynamics” below), the Ministry of Transportation announced (6/1) that it planned to open, on 6/20, the application process for commercial trucks from the West Bank to enter Gaza in an effort to strengthen the local economy. According to OCHA, the volume of goods entering Gaza did not change significantly after the new rule went into effect. In 7/2017, 10,889 truckloads of goods entered Gaza, marking a 12% increase over the monthly average so far in 2017 (see figure 1).

Also of note: The Israeli press reported (8/10) that the IDF was planning a $1.1-b., 2-year project to build a new underground wall around Gaza in an effort to further stymie Hamas’s tunneling strategy. Senior IDF officers said the wall was set to include an aboveground section standing approximately 20 ft. tall, and that the underground section would plunge to 130 ft., and include advanced sensors to detect tunnel activity. A Hamas spokesperson downplayed (8/10) the significance of the project: “Judging from experience, the resistance will find a way to overcome these obstacles.”

The Egyptian authorities kept the Rafah border crossing closed for all but 2 days this quarter (8/14–15), down from 8 last quarter (see “Egypt” below). The crossing was open only to Muslims performing Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca) leaving only a few hundred Gazans able to exit.

As in previous quarters, nr.-daily IDF raids, house searches, and mobile checkpoints hampered Palestinian movement and access in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. According to OCHA, the number of raids increased as the quarter went on, with more than 390 reported in 7/2017, the mo. that new Israeli security measures went into effect at Haram al-Sharif (the monthly average in 2016 was 190). In addition to the new security measures at the sanctuary and the increased number of raids, the Israeli authorities added further restrictions to their arsenal. Following the 7/14 attack in the Old City, they instituted a de facto ban on visits to Haram al-Sharif by residents from the attackers’ hometown of Umm al-Fahm. Although the measure was never officially announced, Israeli forces blocked a group of residents from entering on 7/29 and turned 4 busloads of worshippers back to Umm al-Fahm on 8/8.

After the unrest had largely dissipated, the Israeli authorities began a new program to ease restrictions on certain Palestinians. They disseminated (8/14) leaflets in Hebron offering residents who were banned from entering Israel to apply for their bans to be lifted, on the condition that they “behave.” The offer was available for 1 day only, 8/15. When reports of the leaflets hit the press, the IDF disclosed that it had already tested out the program the previous week in Idhna, and that 52 bans had been lifted as a result. As an IDF statement explained (8/14), “these campaigns are part of the security forces’ efforts to help peaceful Palestinian residents who do not partake in terror attacks.” Although the program was a boon for a small number of Palestinians, a PA official in Hebron complained (8/14) that it was “nothing but an Israeli attempt to circumvent [PA pres. Abbas’s] decision to halt security coordination with Israel” (see “The PalestinianIsraeli Conflict” above). The official also noted that the Oslo Accords “ban Palestinians from dealing with Israel directly.”

As in previous years, the Israeli authorities eased restrictions on Palestinian movement during Ramadan (5/26–6/24). COGAT announced (5/21) that it would be: requiring Palestinian males between the ages of 12 and 40 to acquire a permit to pray at Haram al-Sharif; extending hours and expanding facilities at various border crossings to accommodate the crowds; issuing up to 500 permits for West Bank Palestinians to fly abroad to visit family; permitting up to 200,000 West Bank Palestinians to visit family in Israel (these were among the permits revoked on 6/16; see “The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict” above); allowing up to 100 elderly Gazans to visit Haram al-Sharif every Friday during Ramadan; and issuing up to 300 permits for “special groups” of Gazans, including unions and employees of international organizations, to visit the sanctuary throughout the mo.

The only other significant change in access and mobility happened in the context of the U.S.-led peace initiative (see “The PalestinianIsraeli Conflict” above). After the Israeli cabinet announced (5/21) plans to open the Allenby border crossing more frequently, COGAT later confirmed (6/10) that, beginning on 6/20, the crossing would be open 24 hours per day, 5 days a week. The extension was scheduled to end on 9/10 and resume at some point in the summer of 2018. “The decision is intended to be permanent and will serve the residents during the summer mos. during which there is a rise in the number of crossings,” Mordechai added (6/10).

Maintaining Stability

Under pressure from the U.S., and amid renewed rumors of Abbas’s imminent departure from politics (see “Intra-Palestinian Dynamics” below), the Israeli govt. continued its efforts to shore up PA institutions and uphold the status quo established by the Oslo Accords.

The Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) and the PA signed (7/10) an agreement setting new parameters for Israel’s supply of power to the West Bank at the inauguration of a new electricity substation in Jenin. It built on their previous (9/3/16) agreement (see JPS 46 [2]), to administer the repayment of outstanding Palestinian debts and transfer control to the PA of the power lines supplying major West Bank towns.“Israel is interested in improving the Palestinian economy, and here we have a project that is beneficial for both parties,” said Israel’s energy minister Yuval Steinitz. “It will provide Palestinians with greater electricity at a more consistent rate, and it’s good for Israel because it guarantees . . . that the additional electricity to the Palestinians will not fall on the [IEC’s] shoulders.” PA PM Rami Hamdallah, who cut the ribbon with Steinitz, said (7/10) that the new agreement was “pivotal to enhance our independence so we can meet the growing needs of our people in the electricity sector.” According to the IEC, the new substation was capable of transmitting 135 additional MW of electricity purchased from Israel to the n. West Bank. Three more substations are set to open nr. Ramallah, Nablus, and Tarqumiyya by the end of 2017.

Days after the opening ceremony, U.S. special rep. Greenblatt announced (7/13) that the Israeli govt. and the Palestinians had reached an agreement to cooperate on a new water infrastructure project related to the planned Red Sea-Dead Sea pipeline, which they first agreed to in 12/2013 (see JPS 43 [3]). Under the new agreement, Israel would sell up to 33 m. m3 of surplus water per year to the Palestinians at a reduced rate. The Trump admin. was eager to take credit for the deal, given Greenblatt’s role in announcing it, and Greenblatt himself said it was a “harbinger of things to come.”

Finally, Hamdallah and Israeli finance minister Moshe Kahlon agreed (5/30) to expand the PA’s authority in certain Israelicontrolled areas of Area C of the West Bank. According to a PA spokesperson, they agreed on the “cessation of home demolitions under the pretext of not being licensed” and the establishment of an industrial zone nr. Tarqumiyya, and also finalized the details regarding the Allenby Bridge border crossing (see “Movement and Access” above). A COGAT statement later in the day confirmed only that “Israeli enforcement policies in specific defined areas [of Area C]” would be “adjusted,” and that it had been agreed to upgrade facilities and expand hours at certain border crossings in the West Bank.

Gaza’s Electricity Crisis  

The electricity crisis in Gaza, which began in 1/2017 (see JPS 46 [3, 4]), became a fullfledged catastrophe this quarter, with intraPalestinian tensions exacerbating an already dire situation. As the quarter opened, Gaza’s sole power plant had been shut down for 5 weeks due to lack of fuel. Most Palestinians in Gaza were receiving as little as 4 hours of electricity per day, according to OCHA. “These . . . levels of electricity have a grave impact on the supply of safe drinking water, on the treatment and management of sewerage, on the availability of health services, on businesses, on schools, and much more,” OCHA reported (5/20).

COGAT recommended (5/25) that Israel acquiesce to the PA’s 4/27 request to reduce its supply of electricity to Gaza (see JPS 46 [4]). The PA had been paying Israel NIS 40 m. (approximately $11 m.) per mo. in exchange for 120 MW to be transferred to Gaza, and the Palestinian leadership was now requesting a 40% reduction. Despite Mordechai’s recommendation, it was unclear whether the Israeli govt. would agree. Further deterioration of conditions in Gaza had the potential of sparking unrest and violence, and at least 1 senior Israeli official, Steinitz, opposed the move on the grounds that it constituted an intervention in intra-Palestinian politics. The security cabinet ultimately approved the requested reduction on 6/11, and the Israeli authorities began implementing it on 6/19. Between these cuts and the power plant shutdown, Gaza was receiving only a tiny fraction of the 450–500 MW needed in mid-6/2017.

Meanwhile, tensions between Hamas and the Fatah-dominated PA in Ramallah impeded efforts to address the electricity crisis. Days after Mordechai recommended the reduction, the dep. chair of the Hamas-run energy authority in Gaza, Fathi Khalil, insisted (5/28) that all of the PA’s stipulations for ending the impasse had been met, including more rigorous bill collection and the appointment of a nonpartisan comm. to monitor the energy authority’s performance. (These steps were reportedly PA prerequisites for tax exemptions on purchases of fuel for Gaza’s power plant.) The Ramallah-based Energy and Natural Resources Authority denied (5/29) making such stipulations and insisted that the only resolution to the crisis would be the PA’s assumption of control in Gaza, after which the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO) would begin transferring the revenues collected from Gazans’ electricity bills to the PA, allowing “the [Ministry of Finance] to buy the fuel needed to run the only power plant in Gaza and [to restructure] the GEDCO.”

Hamas’s overtures to the Egyptian govt. further complicated the situation (see “Egypt” below). Shortly after a Hamas delegation returned from Cairo, a source close to the movement said (6/20) that the Egyptians had agreed to sell Hamas enough diesel fuel to enable Gaza’s power plant to resume operations for a limited period. Some 1 m. L of fuel were shipped into Gaza from Egypt on 6/21, and another 1 m. on 6/22, providing the plant with enough fuel to run for several days, according to GEDCO. However, clashes that broke out between the Egyptian army and the armed insurrection in the Sinai on 7/7 interrupted the shipments. By that time, the PA had intervened. According to Gaza’s energy authority on 7/8, “[the PA] stopped all the financial transactions through Palestinian banks to Egypt to buy fuel” on 7/6. A PA spokesperson refused (7/8) to comment directly on the allegation, but did say, “The main reason for the worsening situation in Gaza is Hamas” because they “rejected” Abbas’s initiative to end the split between Palestinian factions.

The energy authority in Gaza reportedly found alternative means of paying for the Egyptian fuel transfers, and limited transfers resumed on 7/10 allowing the power plant to resume operations intermittently through the end of the quarter. However, the Egyptian fuel supplies were insufficient to meet the overall shortages.

Sewage, in particular, became a dire problem. According to the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, 73% of Gaza’s beaches were polluted with untreated sewage in 7/2017, partly because the local sewage treatment plants did not have enough power to operate at full capacity. Although Gaza’s seawater pollution problem predates the electricity crisis, the water treatment plants’ shutdown reportedly caused a 23% increase in pollution at the beaches since 4/2017. The massive pollution problem had wide-ranging effects of its own, not the least of which was the death of a 5-year-old child on 7/29. The boy died of Ekiri syndrome, a complication of shigellosis, an infection commonly contracted through a fecal-oral route, 10 days after swimming at one of Gaza’s polluted beaches.* The sewage problem was so severe that Israel’s Health Ministry was forced to shut down (7/5) beaches in s. Israel due to excessive bacterial and fecal pollution levels just n. of the boundary with Gaza.

Despite numerous international efforts to mediate the intra-Palestinian impasse, Gaza’s electricity crisis continued through the end of the quarter.

Palestinian Prisoners

The mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners, which Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti launched on 4/17, drew to a close less than 2 weeks into this quarter after galvanizing the Palestinian public throughout last quarter (see JPS 46 [4]). Following 20 hours of talks, the Israel Prison Service (IPS) reached (5/27) an agreement with the strike leaders, the International Comm. of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the PA to end the strike. No details of the agreement were officially made public, but the press reported that prisoners had secured major concessions, including greater access to telephones, the return of sick prisoners to a newly refurbished prison hospital, improved conditions for imprisoned minors, new sports equipment in prison yards, and more family visits. This last concession, in particular, was a key victory. Family visits had been a point of contention since the ICRC decreased the number of monthly visits it facilitated from 2 to 1 in 5/2016 (see JPS 46 [1]). Barghouti celebrated the victory on 5/30 with a statement calling the strike a “turning point” in the prisoners’ relationship with the Israeli authorities. The IPS denied even negotiating with the prisoners, let alone making any concessions. Israeli authorities only acknowledged that the ICRC was going to facilitate more visits, adding that the change stemmed from a separate agreement between the ICRC and the PA.

In the wake of the strike, Israeli authorities reneged on at least 1 of their reported concessions. According to the Ma‘an News Agency and to WAFA, the PA’s official news agency, Israeli forces turned back (7/2) 8 Palestinian families from Hebron on their way to visit incarcerated relatives. The prisoners concerned had all taken part in the strike at Nafha Prison, and the Israelis revoked (7/3) all 37 of the families’ entry permits. The IPS did not comment, and it was unclear whether the move reflected a new policy, a one-off denial, or if it would affect the families of all prisoners who participated in the strike.

Also of note: Hamas accused (6/29) the Israeli govt. of suspending the family visitation rights of Hamas-affiliated prisoners from Gaza. The IPS didn’t comment on the allegation, but an ICRC spokesperson reported (7/10) that only 14 Palestinians had been allowed to visit imprisoned relatives that day, down from 80 the previous week. It was unclear why the Hamasaffiliated prisoners were being targeted, but suspensions were concurrent with reports of indirect Hamas-Israel negotiations on a possible prisoner swap (see “Prisoner Swap” below), leading to speculation that the two were connected.

Prisoner Swap

Ever since Israel’s 50-day war on Gaza in the summer of 2014 (see JPS 45 [1–3]), there have been periodic reports and rumors of talks between Hamas and Israel about a prisoner swap. As at this writing, Israel seeks the return of the remains of 2 IDF soldiers who died during the fighting and of 2 Israeli civilians who had strayed into Gaza afterwards, while Hamas is intent on the release of the greatest number possible of Palestinians in Israeli custody. In late 6/2017 and early 7/2017, reported talks were apparently inconclusive.

The first reports emerged on 6/26 when Israel’s Channel 1 relayed that an unnamed third party, widely assumed to be Egypt, was mediating a new round of talks, and that these had moved forward since Hamas’s incoming deputy leader, Yahya Sinwar, led a delegation to Cairo on 6/4–12. A couple of weeks later, the Lebanese newspaper Al-akhbar reported (7/8) that the 2 sides were close to a preliminary confidence-building agreement ahead of a broader deal. Prior to the 2011 prisoner swap, when Israel freed 1,027 Palestinians in exchange for the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit (see JPS 41 [2]), Hamas and Israel had followed a similar process, with Hamas providing a video showing that Shalit was alive in exchange for Israel releasing 25 female Palestinian prisoners. A senior Hamas official downplayed (7/8) the latest reports, however: “In recent times there have been several attempts to mediate between Israel and Hamas about the prisoners. However, we made it clear that we do not intend to start negotiations until the 58 prisoners from the Shalit deal who were freed and rearrested are released.” Israel was only willing to discuss the release of 27 of these prisoners, according to 2 Palestinian sources.

The 7/8 report prompted the Israeli govt.’s first official response. DM Lieberman confirmed (7/9) that indirect talks were ongoing and that various parties were involved “such as Egypt and others,” but he reaffirmed that the Israeli govt. had “no intention of ever holding direct negotiations with the murderers in Hamas.”

After delegations from both sides met in Cairo in mid-7/2017, Al-akhbar reported (7/19) that Israel had put forth a new proposal: in exchange for video proof of the condition of Israeli civilians allegedly being held in Gaza, Israel offered to release a number of Palestinian women, children, and parliamentarians. However, Hamas had reportedly already rejected the offer. Various sources close to the talks said that while they had made progress, it was unclear how close they were to an actual agreement by the end of the quarter.

Settler-Related Violence

There were 33 recorded incidents of settlerrelated violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem between 5/16 and 8/14, down slightly from 34 last quarter, according to OCHA. Settlers damaged Palestinian homes or other property in 15 instances while the other 18 led to Palestinian injuries (see figure 2 and Chronology for details). There was 1 major incident of Palestinian violence against Israeli settlers. Omar al-Abed, a Palestinian from Kaubar village northwest of Ramallah, slipped (7/21) into the Halamish settlement late at night, stabbed 3 settlers to death, and seriously injured a 4th before an off-duty IDF soldier shot and injured him. Earlier in the day, al-Abed had stated in a Facebook post: “I’m going to die for al-Aqsa,” referencing the controversial new Israeli security measures at Haram al-Sharif (see “The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict” above).

 Demolitions and Displacement

Israeli forces demolished fewer Palestinian buildings in the West Bank and East Jerusalem this quarter than in the previous period. Continuing a yearlong trend, they destroyed 55 Palestinian structures between 5/16 and 8/14, according to OCHA, down from 73 last quarter (see Chronology for details), including 29 in the West Bank and 26 in East Jerusalem. Four of these demolitions were by way of collective punishment for Palestinian attacks on Israelis (8/10 [3] and 8/15). As a result of the decreased rate of demolitions, the number of Palestinians displaced also fell from 205 last quarter to 56 in the current quarter.

After the flare-up of violence surrounding new Israeli security measures at Haram al-Sharif last quarter, Israeli-Palestinian violence returned to pre-crisis levels. As a result, the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli actions this quarter fell to 21, down from 38. The number of Israelis killed by Palestinian actions was 4, down from 6 last quarter. Therefore, the comprehensive death toll since the beginning of the Second Intifada in 9/2000 reached 10,978 Palestinians (including 64 Palestinian citizens of Israel and 19 cross-border “infiltrators”); 1,270 Israelis (including at least 250 settlers and 440 IDF soldiers and other security personnel); and 73 foreign nationals (including 2 British suicide bombers). These numbers include individuals who died in noncombat-related incidents if their death was a direct result of Israel’s occupation or the ongoing conflict (e.g., ailing Palestinians who died because they were denied access to medical care, and Palestinians killed in smuggling tunnel accidents). They do not include the Palestinian killed in the Swedish town of Limmared on 8/20, despite the accusation made by various Palestinians that Israel’s Mossad agency was responsible. Also excluded is the Palestinian killed in a firefight with PASF troops on 9/13 (see Chronology).

Overview of the Violence

The number of Palestinians killed because of Israeli actions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem decreased significantly this quarter. Although tensions across the oPt over longstanding issues like settlements and demolitions of Palestinian property remained high, there were fewer protests, clashes, and individual or so-called random attacks. Overall, only 5 Palestinians were killed in this context (down from 29 last quarter): 2 died (on 8/26, a car driven by Israeli settlers ran over 8-yearold Aseel Abu Oun, who died from her injuries on 8/27, and on 10/31, Israeli soldiers fired into a car near a checkpoint, killing the driver); 1 succumbed (9/3) to injuries sustained in clashes with the IDF on 8/9; 1 was killed (8/19) after allegedly attempting to stab Israeli border security guards; and 1 was killed (9/26) after shooting and killing 3 Israeli security forces. There were far fewer Palestinian injuries as well. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 275 Palestinians were injured between 8/15 and 11/6 (down from 1,794 last quarter).

Apart from the 1 major incident of crossborder violence, the number of Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip because of Israeli actions was comparable to totals in recent quarters. Overall, 16 Palestinians were killed in this context; 2 Hamas fighters died during a tunnel collapse on 9/15; 1 Hamas fighter died in an unspecified “training accident” on 9/19; 1 Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fighter died in an “accident” during an unspecified mission on 8/28; and the remaining 12 were all Hamas and PIJ fighters killed when Israeli forces detonated a tunnel leading from Khan Yunis into Israeli territory on 10/30 (see “Prisoner Swap” and Chronology). The number of Gazans injured because of Israeli actions this quarter decreased substantially. According to OCHA, 52 Palestinians were injured between 8/15 and 11/6 (down from 162).

The IDF strictly enforced the unilaterally defined buffer zone, or so-called Access Restricted Areas, along Israel’s border with Gaza, as in previous quarters. Israeli troops violently dispersed Palestinian protesters gathering along the border fence on 9 different occasions (down from 16 last quarter); shot at Palestinian shepherds, farmers, and bird hunters on 2 occasions (8/18 and 10/10); and fired on Palestinian land or other property 12 times (9/9, 9/16, 9/17, 10/13, 10/15, 10/22, 10/25, 11/2, 11/6 [2], 11/9, and 11/13). Israeli forces also conducted 11 limited incursions to level land and “clear sightlines” into Gaza (8/21, 8/28, 9/5, 9/11, 9/12, 9/24, 10/10, 10/16, 10/24, 10/27, and 11/5), and arrested 9 Palestinians attempting to cross into Israel (8/16 [2], 8/19, 9/16 [2], 10/10 [2], and 10/14 [2]).

Also of note: Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the IDF’s Coordinator of Govt. Activities in the Territories (COGAT), said (10/11) that Hamas fighters had started using lasers to blind IDF troops operating along the border in recent weeks. “The continuation of the provocative blinding operations . . . could lead to an escalation at a sensitive moment for developments in the Palestinian theater,” he said. “You’ve been warned.”

Although the Israeli authorities again decided to temporarily expand (10/18) the fishing zone off Gaza’s s. coast (see “Movement and Access” below), Israeli naval forces violently harassed Gazan fishermen throughout the quarter. They opened fire on or otherwise confronted the fishermen on at least 62 separate occasions, up from 52 last quarter. Over the course of these incidents, 1 Palestinian was slightly injured (11/8), 8 were arrested (9/18 [2], 10/15 [4], and 11/6 [2]), and 4 boats were confiscated (9/18, 10/15 [2], and 11/6). In a related incident, Israeli naval forces shot and injured a Palestinian sailing off the coast on 10/19.

Movement and Access

The Israeli authorities again changed their procedures for processing applications by Palestinians trying to exit the Gaza Strip this quarter, imposing yet another hurdle for merchants conducting their business, students pursuing education opportunities abroad, and those in need of specialized medical care not available at home, among others (see figure 1). Just 5 mos. after Israel’s Liaison Office informed the authorities in Gaza that they were planning to extend the expected processing time for exit-permit applications from 24 working days, COGAT put the new rules in place in 10/2017. The maximum processing time was set at 23 working days for non-urgent medical care cases; 50 days for applications to visit sick relatives or attend weddings, work meetings, or conferences in the West Bank or Israel; and 70 days for other commercial trips to Israel and higher education abroad. It’s important to note that these new maximums had no impact on the results of individual applications. They went into effect as the Liaison Office was dealing with a massive backlog of permit applications— approximately 16,466, according to COGAT (9/6). “The situation assessment among the relevant security agencies requires adjusting the security check process in accordance with developing threats,” a COGAT spokesperson explained (9/6). “In recent months, we have engaged in staff work together with the relevant security agencies, and as part of this work, we set a timetable for completing the processing of applications to enter Israel in a way that permits a professional examination process.”

Palestinians in Gaza also had infrequent opportunities to leave via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. The Egyptian authorities opened the crossing in both directions on only 3 days (8/16–17 and 8/28), up 1 from last quarter. On 6 other days, they opened the crossing partially to allow Muslim pilgrims returning from Mecca to enter. Overall, 6,535 Palestinians were able to enter Gaza and 5,203 were able to leave.

It’s also worth noting that the 10/12 intraPalestinian reconciliation deal had little effect on Egypt’s administration of the Rafah crossing. The day after Hamas formally relinquished control of the crossing, the PA announced (11/2) that the Egyptian authorities would open it permanently, starting on 11/15, but that did not happen. “We don’t have any information about when the Rafah border [crossing] will reopen again,” said the PA’s dir. of border crossings, Nazmi Muhanna, at the quarter’s close (AFP, 11/15).

As mentioned above (see “Overview of the Violence”), COGAT announced (10/15) that, starting on 10/18, the fishing zone off Gaza’s s. coast would be expanded from 6 naut. mi. to 9 naut. mi. for a period of 6 weeks. A similar, temporary expansion in 5/2017 reportedly allowed Gaza’s fishermen to increase their collective revenues by more than NIS 500,000 (approx. $175,000), and comparable increases were expected by the end of 11/2017.

The IDF’s near-daily raids, house searches, and mobile checkpoints again served as the principal obstructions to Palestinian movement and access in the West Bank and East Jerusalem this quarter. According to OCHA, the IDF conducted 893 search and arrest operations in the West Bank between 8/15 and 11/6, or almost 10 raids per day. There were fewer alleged stabbings, vehicular assaults, and other attacks this quarter, but the IDF cracked down on each one disproportionally, to the degree that was common at the height of the habba, the surge of Palestinian resistance, random attacks, and protests that began in Jerusalem in 9/2015 (see JPS 45 [2, 3]). After a Palestinian shot and killed 3 Israeli security guards outside the Har Adar settlement nr. Jerusalem on 9/26, the IDF imposed (9/26) a lockdown on Bayt Surik, the attacker’s hometown. Over the following 2 days, Israeli soldiers arrested tens of Palestinians, confiscated dozens of cars, and issued stopwork orders to various construction sites in the village. They also imposed a general closure on 8 other Jerusalem-area villages (9/26–10/1).

As in previous quarters, the Israeli authorities imposed additional restrictions on Palestinian movement during Jewish holidays. They suspended border crossings in and out of the West Bank and Gaza for Rosh Hashanah (9/19–23), suspended crossings and barred Palestinian laborers from entering Israeli settlement on Yom Kippur (9/29–30), and suspended crossings again around Sukkot (10/4–11). DM Lieberman pointed (10/1) to the Har Adar incident on 9/26 to justify the exceptionally long closure for Yom Kippur. Later, Lieberman and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot decided (10/5) to downgrade the 11-day closure and allow West Bank Palestinians “employed in required sectors of the economy” to enter Israel.

Gaza Electricity Crisis

The crippling power shortages plaguing Gaza since its sole power plant was forced out of commission in 4/2017 continued throughout the quarter. As a result, Gaza’s approximately 2 m. residents were forced to get by on 4–6 hours of electricity per day and suffered deteriorating basic services, such as access to potable water (see figure 2).

International humanitarian aid helped improve the situation marginally in 9/2017, but relief efforts from Israeli and Palestinian authorities were scant. According to a Times of Israel report on 9/14, COGAT Mordechai sent a letter to PA minister of civil affairs Hussein al-Sheikh informing him that Israeli authorities would begin deducting money from monthly tax revenue transfers to the PA in order to fund increased electricity supply to Gaza. The move was explicitly intended to alleviate the humanitarian crisis and reverse, at least in part, the Israeli authorities’ earlier decision to acquiesce to the PA’s 4/27 request to decrease the amount of electricity supplied to Gaza by 40% (see JPS 46 [4] and 47 [1]). Through the end of the quarter, however, there were no reports of any increases to the supply of electricity to Gaza.

The Palestinian national reconciliation process offered the greatest hope for relief. The day before Hamas and Fatah officials announced that they had signed a national reconciliation deal (see “Intra-Palestinian Dynamics” below), the acting dir. of the Palestinian Energy Authority (PEA), Zafer Milhem, said (10/11) that the PEA had already created a plan to ease the crisis, which would be implemented once the PA took control of Gaza. Specifically, he indicated that Gaza was operating with only 147 of the 400–500 MW of power it needed, and that the PEA’s plan would increase the supply to between 200 and 230 MW quickly. The strategy reportedly included efforts to rehabilitate Gaza’s power grid and reform local bill collection systems. More importantly, it also called for the PA to rescind its 4/27 request, which PA pres. Abbas had used to pressure Hamas into negotiating the reconciliation deal in the first place. Although unresolved issues threatened to undermine that deal as the quarter ended, it was widely assumed that the PA intended to implement the PEA plan and bring relief to Gaza.

Judaization of Jerusalem

Following the Palestinians’ victory on the issue of Haram al-Sharif, resulting from peaceful protests that made the Israeli authorities remove newly installed checkpoints and cameras at the sanctuary, new Israeli efforts to dominate East Jerusalem and the Old City kept tensions high. On 8/29, Israeli authorities temporarily lifted the ban on MKs and ministers visiting Haram al-Sharif. PM Netanyahu had imposed the ban in 10/2015 to de-escalate growing unrest across the oPt. The PM agreed to a 1-day exception following mos. of pressure from leader of the messianic Temple Mount movement, Orthodox rabbi and Likud MK Yehuda Glick, as well as other ultranationalist leaders. On 8/29, Glick and fellow MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Jewish Home) were the only previously banned Israeli officials to visit the sanctuary. A small group of activists protested their tour, but it proceeded without incident.

The constant presence of Israeli forces in Palestinian neighborhoods led to another controversy later in the quarter. In mid10/2017, the parents of approximately 4,300 Palestinian students in Issawiyya kept their children home from school in protest at the Israeli police’s practice of patrolling the neighborhood every afternoon just as children made their way home from school at the end of the day. The parents reported that the police presence provoked disturbances and led to arrests and clashes on 10/16, during which 1 Palestinian youth was seriously injured. As a parents’ comm. was set to meet with the city’s Education Office reps. and the police on 10/18, Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat canceled the meeting at the last minute. “A group of parents from the neighborhood chose to declare a general strike in the schools, and instead of instructing their children to refrain from violence the parents decided to inflame passions,” a statement from Barkat’s office read. “This extreme group, which was never elected to represent the neighborhood parents, decided to impose the strike on the parents and enforce it through intimidation and threats.” Included in the statement was a warning from the Jerusalem police commander saying, “The police won’t speak to the strike leaders until there is quiet in the neighborhood and the repeated stone-throwing stops.” Over the next week, the police cracked down on the neighborhood, arresting at least 50 residents, including 23 youths (see Chronology).

Also of note: Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled (9/13) against the Israeli authorities in a 10-year-old case over their attempt to revoke the residency status of 4 East Jerusalem Palestinians elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) on a Hamas-affiliated slate in 2006. The 4 men were expelled from Jerusalem in 2011, following years of protests and demonstrations against a reported ultimatum from the Israeli authorities: either resign from the PLC or give up residency status. While the court rejected the expulsions, it put a 6-mo. stay on reversing them, allowing Israel’s Ministry of Interior to push for a new law that would retroactively justify the deportations.

Palestinian Prisoners

In the wake of the Dignity Strike, the mass prisoner hunger strike last quarter, the number of Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons remained relatively stable. According to Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, there were 6,200 Palestinians in Israeli prisons in 5/2017, when the hunger strike ended, and 6,198 in 11/2017. The number of Palestinian administrative detainees declined slightly over the same period, from 490 in 5/2017 to 463 in 11/2017.

Meanwhile, fallout from the strike continued. On 9/4, Fadwa Barghouti, wife of imprisoned Fatah leader and strike organizer Marwan Barghouti, said she had been denied entry permits to visit her husband until 2019. A spokesperson for the Israel Prison Service then confirmed (9/4) that she was barred for “security reasons” in connection with the strike. Later, Haaretz reported (9/10) that the PA had suspended its funding for the Palestinian Prisoners Club (PPC), an NGO that advocates on behalf of Palestinians in Israeli prisons. PPC sources said that the decision had resulted from pressure by both Israel and the U.S. over the PA’s support for the prisoners and the PPC’s support for the strike. While the PPC receives small donations and support from other institutions as well as the PA, the loss of PA support led to speculation that the organization would disband. The PPC insisted (9/13) that it had no plans to do so; however, further reports showed that there was a power struggle taking place within the organization, and its future was far from certain.

Prisoner Swap

With the Israeli govt. under increasing pressure from its constituents to secure the return of the 2 Israeli civilians and the remains of the 2 IDF soldiers allegedly being held in Gaza, Israeli and Hamas officials resumed their intermittent indirect talks on a possible prisoner swap this quarter. However, personnel changes on the Israeli side and the ongoing Palestinian reconciliation process complicated the affair, and there was no apparent progress made by the end of the quarter.

The Israeli official tasked with leading the indirect talks, Lior Lotan, resigned after 3 years in the role on 8/24. Sources familiar with Lotan’s work said (8/24) that he quit because his most recent initiative hit a dead end and because Netanyahu gave his office too little leeway (see JPS 47 [1]). His resignation sparked a fresh wave of criticism from the family of Hadar Goldin, 1 of the 2 IDF soldiers killed during the Israeli assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014. “Following Lior’s resignation, we feel we have been abandoned by the govt.,” the family said (8/24), in a statement. In response, Lieberman reaffirmed (8/27) the govt.’s desire to bring Goldin’s remains home. “Nevertheless, we must not repeat the mistake of the Shalit deal,” he said, referring to the 2011 prisoner swap that exchanged 1,027 Palestinian prisoners for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, captured in Gaza in 2006 (see JPS 41 [2]).

An 8/28 report on Israel’s Army Radio illuminated the internal Israeli conflict over a possible prisoner swap. The report featured recordings of Lotan, allegedly made mos. earlier: “I want [to play with] a full hand on the issue of prisoners,” Lotan could be heard saying. “If we have 1 captured [soldier], [the war] needs to end with 200 to 1. If it’s 2 [captured soldiers] then 400 to 2, if 3 then 600.” His comments were widely interpreted as an argument for the IDF to adopt a policy of kidnapping Hamas fighters as bargaining chips, but it was unclear at the time if his superiors found the argument persuasive.

After a few more weeks of rumors, speculation, and some confirmed reports of ongoing talks, al-Quds reported (9/14) that Egyptian mediators had presented a new framework for a possible exchange. It would reportedly see Israel transferring the bodies of 39 deceased Palestinians to their families in exchange for definitive information on the remains of the 2 IDF soldiers and the 2 Israeli civilians. After that initial exchange, designed to be a confidence-building measure, the framework reportedly stipulated that Israel would free 54 Hamas-affiliated prisoners who had been rearrested after being freed in the Shalit deal, and Egyptian intelligence officers would mediate a new round of talks on a more comprehensive swap. Two weeks after the al-Quds report, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, said (9/28) that Hamas agreed to the new Egyptian framework. “The ball is now in Israel’s court,” he was reported as saying.

Deflecting, the Israelis adopted a new strategy. First, Netanyahu appointed (10/21) Yaron Blum to replace Lotan. Blum, who had been on the team that negotiated the Shalit deal, was known for the hard-line stance he had taken on the prisoner swap issue, arguing that Israel should offer fewer Palestinian prisoners for captured Israelis and that the responsibility for negotiating such swaps should be moved from the PM’s office to the Defense Ministry. Second, in a move that was not immediately linked to the prisoner swap issue, the IDF staged (10/30) a “controlled detonation” of an underground tunnel leading from Khan Yunis into Israeli territory, immediately killing 7 Palestinians, all mbrs. of either Hamas or PIJ, and injuring at least 18 more (see Chronology and “Overview of the Violence” above). In the immediate aftermath of the operation, which took place inside Israeli territory, Hamas accused (10/30) Israel of a “desperate attempt to sabotage efforts to restore Palestinian unity,” and the Egyptian govt. mobilized its diplomats to prevent an escalation, according to a senior Hamas official. PIJ mbrs. stated (10/30) they were “weighing their options,” alluding to the possibility of a counterattack.

It took days for the link between the tunnel operation and the prisoner swap talks to materialize. On 11/2, COGAT released a statement, saying, “Israel will not allow search operations in the area of the security barrier in the Gaza Strip without progress on the issue of Israelis kidnapped and MIAs.” Hamas had reportedly appealed to the International Comm. of the Red Cross (ICRC) to pressure Israel into allowing recovery efforts, and Mordechai’s statement was in direct response to an ICRC request. PIJ (11/2) and Hamas (11/3) both rejected Mordechai’s position, stating that they considered the 5 Palestinians missing after the tunnel explosion to be dead. An IDF spokesperson then confirmed (11/5) that the bodies of the 5 PIJ mbrs. had been recovered.

The incident significantly escalated tensions surrounding the prisoner swap and neither side appeared eager to make concessions as the quarter came to a close.

Settler-Related Violence

Settler-related violence increased slightly this quarter. There were 35 instances of settlers attacking Palestinians or their property in the West Bank and East Jerusalem between 8/15 and 11/6, according to OCHA. Settlers also harvested and stole the produce from more than 3,000 olive trees. During the olive harvest season from mid-9/2017 to mid11/2017, settlers damaged 5,582 olive trees, more than triple the 2016 figure of 1,652, the UN agency reported. Between 80,000 and 100,000 Palestinian families rely on olives for income, an activity described as a “key economic, social and cultural event for Palestinians,” OCHA said. In addition, settlers dismantled about 100 m (about 330 ft.) of irrigation water pipes and threw them in the Jordan River, according to OCHA.

Ten of these attacks led to Palestinian injuries, down from 18 last quarter, and the remaining 25 resulted in damage to Palestinian property, up from 15 (see figure 3 and Chronology). A settler also ran over and killed 8-year-old Aseel Abu Oun near Nablus on 10/26 (see “Overview of the Violence” above). Agencies report that vehicular targeting of Palestinian children is quite common but rarely investigated by Israeli authorities. Just before the quarter began, a settler ran his car into and injured a group of four 6-year-old boys. Also of note: a 70-year-old Israeli settler was found dead of apparent stab wounds in an industrial area nr. Kafr Kassim in c. Israel. Israeli security sources said that the man was killed for “nationalistic reasons,” and Israeli forces later arrested 2 Palestinians from Qabatiya village nr. Jenin in connection with the killing.

Demolitions and Displacement

For the first time in a year, Israeli forces demolished more Palestinian buildings in the West Bank and East Jerusalem than they had in the previous quarter. Between 8/15 and 11/6, they demolished 69 structures, according to OCHA, up from 55 last quarter. This included 55 in the West Bank (up from 29) and 14 in East Jerusalem (down from 26). Two of the demolitions were carried out purportedly as collective punishment: on 8/17, Israeli forces demolished the Dayr Abu Mash‘al home of 1 of the Palestinians killed during an alleged attack in Jerusalem on 6/16; and on 11/15, they destroyed the Bayt Surik home (11/15) of the Palestinian killed after shooting 3 Israeli security forces on 9/26. Overall, this quarter’s demolitions resulted in the displacement of 160 Palestinians (up from 56 last quarter).


Quarterly Updates for (1 Jan 1970 — 1 Jan 1970)

The overall number of Palestinian and Israeli casualties rose slightly this quarter, following a yearlong trend toward falling casualty rates: 32 Palestinians were killed as a result of Israeli actions (up from 23 last quarter), and 2 Israelis were killed as a result of Palestinian actions (down from 6 last quarter).