Situation Assessment of September 2016
The security threat situation during September 2016 has increased in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in comparison to the previous two months. None of this month's security events wasunexpected or surprising, as similar attacks have been occurring since the beginning of the year. Nevertheless it's important to highlight that the majority of events have been concentrated in the southern districts of the West Bank, or conducted by residents of the area, specially Hebron; leading to constant deployment of the ISF in the area, which increases difficulties for PA forces to exude power over Hebron, as well as the difficulty of living conditions. This report will be presenting the locations, nature and density of security incidents while highlighting stress factors that have been affecting the general security situation.
Major incidents brief
- Attacks targeting Israelis and Palestinians escalated during the second week of September where four vehicle attacks were reported in the West Bank. The first attack targeted a Palestinian near Silwad 9.38 km NE of Ramallah, which led to his injury, another was reported in Kedumim 9.99 km W of Nablus, targeting an Israeli and leading to his injury as well, in Al-Khader(3.50 km W of Bethlehem), the attack targeted a Palestinian child leading to her instant death, while in South Hebron an ISF military vehicle ran over and injured two Palestinians.
- On September 15th, ISF raided a local residence in Beit Ula (9.55 km NW Hebron)during a search and arrest operation. ISF and Palestinians scuffled in the house before ISF shot Ahmad Al Saraheen and injured him. Following his arrest and his father’s, Ahmad succumbed to his wounds. Three Palestinians were shot and killed by ISF in Tel Rmedia and Bani Na’im in alleged stabbing attempts and one Palestinian was shot in Kiryat Arba’(1.98 km E of Hebron)for an alleged vehicle ramming attempt. Two stabbing attacks were reported after, one of which took place near Ibrahimi Mosque 1.62 km E of the Old City of Hebron, targeting ISF. The two Palestinians were shot and killed instantly. Since Lone wolf attacks have been increasing, ISF and Israeli Police have been implementing protective countermeasures; they recently distributed vests aimed to protect the neck area. These vests are reportedly distributed among Military dispatched in Jerusalem and the friction points in the West Bank.
- On Sunday Sep. 25th, Palestinian prisoner Yasser Hamdouneh died due to medical neglect after suffering from cardiac and respiratory issues for more than 10 years. The Palestinian prisoners situation is escalating due to poor containment conditions (health conditions, sanitary conditions, human rights and detention without trial or charge). which may lead to future rage in palestinian public reactions. ISF targeted locations for Hamas N of Beit Lahia; it has been reported that around 10 Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. ISF sources reported strikes conducted in Gaza Strip were an act of retaliation to fire opened towards Israeli soldiers during a military training in the area. Reports indicate that ISF continues to open fire on daily basis targeting Palestinians near Gaza borderline.strikes were launched in the district, strikes have also landed on Palestinian houses as well as locations for
- Jordanian casualty: on Sep. 16th, ISF shot and killed a Jordanian visitor near Damascus Gate 0.42 km NW of the Old City/Jerusalem after suspecting a stabbing attack targeting ISF. ISF claimed the visitor had a knife in his hand and was running towards them before they opened fire. The Jordanian Ministry of Foreign affairs denounced the action, and believed the claims to be incorrect, as the Jordanian citizen did not attempt to attack. The incident enraged Al-Karak Jordan residents, and The Jordanian Authorities are reportedly pursuing the case, in order to acquire details and to take the legal and diplomatic measures needed.
Administrative detention is a method carried out by the Israeli Authorities in which Palestinians are detained without a charge and no ability to stand trial; reasons behind detention are withheld from Palestinians and their lawyers preventing any possibility of a proper defense. Administrative detention periods often get extended after the original detention period ends. Periods of detention range from one month to six months and is subject to extension countless times. According to Addameer, administrative detention has been increasingly used since the second intifada; (in the year 2000, there were 12 administrative detainees in Israeli prisons, in late 2002 - early 2003 the number of detainees reached over one thousand). In 2014, 189 detainees were recorded, nine of them were members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and 44 of them were detained for over a year. As of August 2016, 7000 Palestinians are held in Israeli prisons, 700 of them are held under administrative detention. On August 7th 2016, an Israeli military court at Ofer Prison sentenced Mohammad and Mahmoud Balboul for six and five months of administrative detention. The two brothers from Bethlehem who were arrested on June 9th, have started a hunger strike in the beginning of July in protest of the Israeli’s continuous administrative detention. After 80 days and 77 days on hunger strike, a court agreement was reached on September 21st, for the release of prisoners Mohammad and Mahmoud, without the renewal of their detention period. The agreement stated Mohammad and Mahmoud Balboul to be released on December 12th.
Local elections in WB and Gaza were suspended a month before they were supposed to take place. The Palestinian high court in Ramallah suspended the elections after the Central Election Commission in Gaza disqualified a few of Fatah’s electoral lists. In addition, the recent Israeli ban of East Jerusalem’s residents to participate in Palestinian polls, contributed to the disruption of the local Palestinian elections. Fatah Spokesperson Osama Qawasmi proclaimed “Hamas was disrupting the elections intentionally, since the results will not be in Hamas’ favor”. Nathan Thrall, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, argues that the Israeli authorities evidently considered the election to be a risk; and that there is an apparent concern that Hamas may attain success in polls. Evidence to this, the Israeli Authorities arrested Hamas’ representative on the Elections committee (Hussein Abu Quaik) and sentenced him to six months under administrative detention. In addition to Thrall, Hala Turjman, a Brussels-based researcher in Middle Eastern affairs and a member of Al Shabaka Palestinian Policy Network, said that “recent developments will only add to the already crumbling legitimacy of the PA in recent weeks during Nablus events, the six hunger-strikers and the teachers' strikes".
The Palestinian Authorities have recently (October 4th) announced that the elections will be postponed for four months. Whether the elections will commence after four months is still up for debate. According to a poll conducted by AWRAD “Arab World for Research & Development” on the Palestinian public, the majority of Palestinians oppose the ruling of the high court suspending the elections. The poll stated that 76% are in favor of the resumption of elections on its’ predetermined date (8/10/2016). 47% of Palestinians in the West Bank and 16% of Palestinians in Gaza blame the PA for the suspension, while 44% of Gaza residents and 9% of the West Bank residents believed Hamas takes some of the responsibility as well. 56% of the Palestinians who participated in the poll were disgruntled with the decision; 11% expressed satisfaction, and 32% were categorized as indifferent towards the decision. 67% of discontented Palestinians were from the Gaza Strip.
Hebron province is one of the largest cities in the West Bank, 750,000 Palestinians reside in Hebron, 30% of the West Bank’s residents. Hebron comprises 20% of the West Bank’s territory. Hebron’s situation is complicated and controversial, where the heart of the settlement problem lies, while ISF are constantly deployed and in control of 20% of the territory. The settlements in Hebron are located in the heart of the city and not on the countryside as with the case of other Palestinian cities. Hebron was divided into two areas after the Oslo Accords. H1 area (80%) is controlled by Palestinians, and H2 area (20%) is under Israeli control. The two areas are separated by Al-Shuhada Street which was closed in 1994 after the Al Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre, where one settler (Baruch Goldstein) opened fire towards Muslim worshipers in the mosque killing 29 and injuring 125. ISF closed all Palestinian stores in the street, and the central bus stop was turned into an Israeli military post. ISF enforced a separation system in which the Palestinian movement is rigorously restricted.
Hebron has been one of the most important and prominent friction points during the recent uprise, below are a list of the main reasons:
- Constant contact between Palestinians and Israeli settlers in addition to ISF; as stated earlier, settlements in Hebron are distributed inside the City making separation between both sides difficult.
- ISF are deployed heavily in Hebron to provide protection for settlers’ and their movement.
- Restriction of movement; where ISF set roadblocks and checkpoints around and inside the city, and in between Hebron and surrounding villages and towns.
- Excessive use of force towards Palestinians in Hebron; considering the number of attacks perpetrated by Palestinians is higher than in the rest of the Palestinian cities.
- PA forces in Hebron, though deployed heavily, cannot contain or stop any attacks. Taking into consideration Hamas has a considerable support from the residents.
- The impact and influence of clans within the community of Hebron, As was evident in the large number of Palestinians who participated in a protest Hebron’s clans, called for and demanded the handover of Palestinian bodies withheld by ISF.
- Difficulty for PA forces to exude power over Hebron, as well as the difficulty of living conditions enabled many Palestinians to manufacture firearms, plan and carry out attacks on their own, making them hard to trace and to expect.
According to “Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed”, the number of stabbing attacks recorded in 2015 is 70, while the number of car ramming attacks, shooting attacks, and double attacks reached 22 by the end of 2015. The number of attacks carried out by Palestinians from Hebron in 2015 was 28 stabbing attacks and six shooting and ramming attacks. While in September 2016, five attacks were reported in Hebron - four stabbing attacks and one ramming attack - and seven casualties. Record show that almost 40% of recorded attacks were conducted in Hebron or by Palestinians from