The Month in Pictures: February 2015



Israeli forces fired on Palestinians in Gaza every day during the month of February, particularly in the so-called Access Restricted Areas along the Gaza-Israel boundary, the United Nations monitoring group OCHA reported.

The Rafah crossing with Egypt — the sole exit and entry point for the vast majority of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents — remained closed throughout the month. According to OCHA, an estimated 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza were waiting to cross into Egypt, including medical patients and students.

The crossing was was opened only 158 days last year and was last opened in both directions between 20 and 22 January, OCHA reported.

Protests were held across Gaza to demonstrate “widespread frustration over the deteriorating situation,” particularly the slow pace of reconstruction after Israel’s destructive assault on Gaza last summer, the non-payment of salaries to public employees, the closure of Rafah crossing and the longstanding siege, OCHA added.

Only ten trucks of exports were allowed to leave Gaza via the Israeli-controlled commercial crossing between 3 February and 2 March. “Since the imposition of the blockade in June 2007, Israel has banned almost completely the exit of goods from Gaza to the West Bank and Israel, which were the main markets for Gaza products,” OCHA stated.

Settler attacks

Meanwhile, in the occupied West Bank, Israeli settlers reportedly set fire to a Greek Orthodox Church in East Jerusalem and to a mosque in Jaba village near Bethlehem on 25 February. “In both incidents, racist graffiti was sprayed on the buildings’ walls,” OCHA reported.

“Death to the Arabs” was among the hateful messages sprayed on the walls of a secondary school in Urif village near Nablus late last month.

Palestinians threw Molotov cocktails and stones at Israeli vehicles near Jerusalem and Ramallah and paint bottles and stones at the light rail station in the Shuafat neighborhood of East Jerusalem. A 24 February arson attack against a Jewish cemetery in East Jerusalem was attributed to Palestinians, according to OCHA.

An Israeli man was lightly wounded after he was stabbed by a Palestinian man near the Old City of Jerusalem on 22 February.

A ten-year-old Palestinian boy was beaten with an iron bar by a group of settlers in Hebron late last month; the following day the child was detained by Israeli forces for allegedly throwing stones at an Israeli soldier, OCHA reported.

Israeli settlers beat a 55-year-old shepherd in the Hebron area while he was grazing his sheep near Susya settlement in late February. A group of settlers physically assaulted a Palestinian man with a metal pipe in Jalud village near Nablus on 17 February.

Earlier in the month, on 5 February, a five-year-old Palestinian boy in Hebron was seriously injured in a hit-and-run incident involving a settler vehicle.

“This is the second such incident so far in 2015,” OCHA stated. “During the whole of 2014, 23 Palestinians, including 17 children, were injured and two others were killed in traffic-related incidents involving Israeli settlers.”

On 4 February, Israeli forces raided a secondary school near Nablus while students were still in class, and fired sound bombs in the school premises, forcing all pupils to leave the school, OCHA reported.

Two days later, in the South Hebron Hills, Israeli forces beat and detained two fifteen-year-old children overnight after the head of Maon settlement complained that they were grazing their sheep on land planned for the expansion of the settlement, according to OCHA.

Palestinians in Syria

In Syria, UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, repeatedly sounded the alarm that it was unable to successfully complete distribution of humanitarian aid in Yarmouk camp due to the deteriorated security situation.

“Over the previous two months, Yarmouk and its surrounding areas have seen a serious escalation in armed conflict, including frequent exchanges of fire and the use of heavy weapons, which have persistently disrupted the distribution of life-saving humanitarian aid to the 18,000 civilians trapped in the area,” spokesperson Chris Gunness stated on 3 March.

“UNRWA remains deeply concerned that no successful distribution has been completed since 6 December 2014,” he added.

The agency also warned that “with only two percent funding in the pipeline for 2015,” cuts to its emergency cash assistance programs for Palestinian refugees from Syria, including rent subsidies for those displaced to Lebanon and Jordan, “seem inevitable.”

Approximately half of the 560,000 Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA in Syria have been displaced within the country, and a further 12 percent to neighboring countries.