The Month in Pictures: December 2016

Israeli army vehicles drive past a Palestinian herder during a military training exercise in the northern Jordan Valley of the West Bank, 8 December.

Keren Manor ActiveStills

Israeli forces killed four young Palestinians during the month of December, bringing the total number of Palestinians killed by Israelis in 2016 to 105.

Thirteen Israelis were killed by Palestinians during the year, according to United Nations data.

Two of the Palestinians killed in December – Ahmad Nashat Uthman al-Kharroubi, 19, and Ahmad Hazem Atta Zeidani, 17, – were killed during confrontations with raiding Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank.

The two other slain Palestinians – Hamad Khader al-Sheikh, 21, and Muhammad Jihad Hussein Harb, 19 – were shot dead during what Israel claimed were alleged attacks on its military occupation forces.

Another Palestinian, 15-year-old Faris Ziyad Atta al-Bayid, died in December after being in a coma for 69 days as a result of being shot during confrontations with Israeli forces at Jalazone refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah. The Israeli rights group B’Tselem stated that the shooting was “unlawful,” and that the boy did not pose a lethal danger to soldiers when he was killed.

Thirty-five Palestinian children were slain by Israeli forces and private security guards during 2016. Defense for Children International - Palestine called it the “deadliest year of the past decade for West Bank children.”

Israel transferred the remains of at least 18 Palestinians slain by its forces, some of which had been held for several months, so they could be buried by their families. Several more bodies were still being withheld.

Hamas fighters killed

The bodies of four Palestinians from Gaza who went missing when a tunnel was flooded by Egypt were recovered in early December.

Three fighters with the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, were killed in two separate tunnel accidents during the month, a fourth died in a training accident, and a fifth died in a house explosion.

Abu Obeida, the pseudonymous spokesperson of the Qassam Brigades, announced on 8 December that 22 of the group’s fighters had died so far in 2016 undertaking preparations to “confront the enemy.”

Muhammad Zouari, an aviation engineer, was assassinated in Tunisia on 15 December. The Qassam Brigades announced that Zouari had headed the group’s drone development program. Tunisia’s president said that his government suspects Israel of being behind the slaying.

West Bank demolitions

Israel demolished or seized 28 Palestinian structures in East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank – the more than 60 percent of the territory under full Israeli military control – on the grounds that they lacked a building permit, according to United Nations reporting from 29 November to 26 December. According to recent data from its military occupation authorities, Israel has demolished 18 times as many structures as the number of building permits it granted Palestinians in Area C.

Israel destroyed another home belonging to the family of a slain Palestinian who killed two Israelis in October.

Israel demolished or seized more than 1,000 Palestinian structures throughout the West Bank in 2016, displacing more than 1,500 people, according to the UN. Double the rate of demolitions in 2015, it is the highest number recorded since the UN monitoring group OCHA began tracking them in 2009.

Israel temporarily displaced Palestinians in the northern Jordan Valley of the West Bank during military training exercises multiple times during the month, affecting 175 residents of three communities. There were approximately 30 instances of temporary displacement for military exercises during 2016, “forming part of the coercive environment pressuring the residents of affected communities to leave,” according to OCHA.

Israel demolished the village of al-Araqib – a Bedouin community in the south of the country that is not recognized by the state – for the 107th time in December.

Arrests and incursions

OCHA reported 3,370 Palestinian injuries by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during 2016, 67 military incursions into Gaza, and a biweekly average of 95 Israeli search and arrest operations in Palestinian communities in the West Bank.

The Islamic Endowment that manages the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem reported the highest number of incursions by right-wing Israelis on the holy site in recent years. The body stated that a total of 14,806 incursions occurred during the year.

In December, a Palestinian worker from the West Bank said that an Israeli deliberately tried to run him over in Tel Aviv, causing a fracture to his foot; another Palestinian laborer from the West Bank died in a construction accident in Israel and a Palestinian citizen of the state was critically injured in a separate construction incident in the country. A Palestinian from Jerusalem was meanwhile killed in a work accident at a factory in a West Bank settlement.

An Israeli settler guard was accused of attempting to run over and pointing a gun at two Palestinian children who were on their way to school in Beit Ommar near the West Bank city of Hebron. The children reportedly fled to a nearby house.

Crossings and exports

Rafah crossing – the sole point of exit and entry for the vast majority of the 2 million Palestinians in Gaza – was exceptionally opened for six days in December. A biweekly average of 805 Palestinians left the Gaza Strip in 2016, and 514 entered via Rafah crossing, which has been closed by Egypt since October 2014, opening only sporadically. Around 20,000 people were registered to exit Gaza via Rafah at the end of the year.

During December, Egypt allowed Palestinian vehicles to travel into Gaza via Rafah for the first time in several years.

Exports from Gaza, which has been under Israeli blockade for nearly a decade, remained far below the pre-blockade rate during the year. A biweekly average of 40 trucks left Gaza in 2016, as opposed to the 240 weekly average before the blockade.

Jordan imported vegetables from the West Bank without Israeli intervention for the first time, it was reported in late December.

Violence in diaspora

Violence in Ein al-Hilweh, the highest populated Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, left several people dead during the month. UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, suspended its services in the camp multiple times during December to “security incidents.”

The Action Group for Palestinians of Syria reported 15 Palestinian refugee deaths as a result of the ongoing violence in the country in December, most of them fighters in government-allied militias who were killed in battle. Hussein al-Masri, 70, originally from Nazareth in Palestine, died as the result of the ongoing siege of Yarmouk; Maysara Abu Rahma from Neirab refugee camp was reported to have died from torture in Syrian government prison; and Adham Ahmad Salim Darwish, 45, was killed by mortar fire targeting government-controlled Western Aleppo.

Additionally, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, al-Qaida’s franchise in Syria, announced that it had executed Muhammad Aboud, one of its fighters in Yarmouk, on the charge that he was an informant working with Islamic State, with which it vies for control of the camp.

The Action Group reported that more than 300 Palestinian refugees died as a result of the war in Syria in 2016, and a further 15 Palestinian refugees from Syria went missing during the year.

Meanwhile in December, Asad al-Wali, a 70-year-old Syrian national from the occupied Golan Heights, died in Israeli prison, a Palestinian Authority body announced. Al-Wali was reportedly serving an eight-month sentence “over unlicensed construction and failure to pay a fine,” the Ma’an News Agency reported.

Palestinian supporters of the Islamic Jihad party and resistance group hold Friday prayers outside the Red Cross office in Gaza City to show solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, 2 December.

Mohammed Asad APA images

Palestinians watch fireworks marking the lighting of the Christmas tree at Manger Square, near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, on 3 December. The Church of the Nativity is revered as the site of Jesus Christ’s birth.

Wisam Hashlamoun APA images

Palestinians mourn two fighters with the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, after the pair were killed in a tunnel collapse, Gaza City, 8 December.

Yasser Qudih APA images

Hamas supporters in Nuseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip, rally to mark the 29th anniversary of the party’s foundation on 16 December.

Ashraf Amra APA images

Relatives of Ahmad Zeidani, 17, who was shot and killed during confrontations with Israeli forces, mourn during the teen’s funeral in Beit Rima, a village near the West Bank city of Ramallah, 18 December.

Shadi Hatem APA images

Members of the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, hold a poster bearing a portrait of Muhammad Zouari in Gaza City, 18 December. After Zouari was assassinated in Tunisia days earlier, the Qassam Brigades announced that the aviation engineer had joined the group 10 years ago and supervised its drone program.

Mohammed Asad APA images

Palestinians in the West Bank city of Nablus demonstrate in solidarity with Ahmad Abu Fara and Anas Shadid, on hunger strike to protest their imprisonment by Israel without charge or trial, 19 December.

Ahmad Al-Bazz ActiveStills

Supporters of Fatah in Gaza City protest against party leader Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to strip members of their parliamentary immunity, 22 December. Abbas stripped five Fatah lawmakers of their immunity, a move likely to consolidate his rule following his unanimous reelection as party head.

Mohammed Asad APA images

Palestinian cancer patients in Gaza City protest to demand permission to travel to access treatment, 22 December. One-quarter of Gaza patients’ requests for cancer treatment in Israel or the West Bank were denied or ignored, according to World Health Organization reporting from January through October 2016. Many specialized treatments are unavailable in Gaza, and with Egypt’s closure of Rafah crossing, many patients in the Strip are only left with the option of seeking care in the West Bank and Israel, which requires an Israeli permit.

Mohammed Asad APA images

Basel Ghattas, a Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, at an Israeli court near Tel Aviv on 23 December. Israeli police arrested Ghattas one day earlier, after his immunity was lifted upon suspicion of smuggling cellphones to Palestinian prisoners.

Oren Ziv ActiveStills

A Palestinian protester dressed as Santa sits on the ground after inhaling tear gas during a demonstration next to an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, 23 December.

Keren Manor ActiveStills

Palestinians mourn Jihad Khalil, 48, during his funeral in Beit Wazan village, near the West Bank city of Nablus, on 24 December. Khalil’s was one of seven funerals that took place in various areas of the West Bank after Israel transferred the bodies of Palestinians who were slain in alleged attacks, in some cases months earlier. Khalil was shot and killed by Israeli guards at the Qalandiya checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah after he allegedly tried to stab one of them on 22 November. No Israelis were injured during the incident.

Ahmad Al-Bazz APA images

Palestinian Christians attend Christmas mass at the Holy Family Church in Gaza City on 25 December.

Ashraf Amra APA images

Palestinian workers in Gaza City protest Israel’s siege of Gaza on 27 December.

Ashraf Amra APA images

Palestinian security forces march during a Gaza City rally marking the eighth anniversary of Israel’s deadly assault codenamed Operation Cast Lead, 28 December. During the first day of the three-week onslaught on Gaza, Israel killed more than 50 civilian police officers and trainees during heavy bombing in the middle of the day as schools were changing shifts and many children were in the streets. The operation left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead.

Ashraf Amra APA images

Mourners carry the body of Maen Nasser al-Din Abu Qaraa, 23, during his funeral in the West Bank city of Ramallah on 31 December. Abu Qaraa was shot dead by Israeli forces near Ofra settlement in the central West Bank on 3 November. The army claimed he had tried to stab a soldier with a knife; no Israelis were reported injured during the incident. Israel had withheld his body for nearly two months.

Shadi Hatem APA images

A rainbow is seen over the West Bank city of Nablus on 31 December.

Nedal Eshtayah APA images