During the month of March, Israeli forces shot and killed two Palestinian men in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Twenty-year-old Ali Safi was shot in the back with live ammunition during confrontations with Israeli soldiers in Jalazone refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah on 18 March. He died a week later from his wounds.
In Gaza, 34-year-old Tawfiq Abu Reyalah, a father of four, was struck by a bullet when Israeli forces opened fire on his fishing boat which was sailing within the six nautical mile limit imposed by Israel.
Remnants of war
Meanwhile, explosive remnants of war killed and maimed Palestinians in Gaza during the month.
A 21-year-old man was killed and his 17-year-old brother was severely injured east of Rafah on 1 March when an explosive detonated while they were gathering sand from the remnants of a destroyed house to use as construction material, according to the United Nations monitoring group OCHA.
Eleven Palestinians, including a child, have been killed in such incidents since a 26 August ceasefire ended 51 days of intensive Israeli bombardment on Gaza last year. A further 42 Palestinians in Gaza, including 16 children, have been injured by explosive remnants of war during the same period, OCHA added.
During March there were at least 74 incidents of Israeli forces opening fire on Palestinians in “access restricted” areas near Gaza’s boundary with Israel and off the coast, according to OCHA data.
In the West Bank, a nine-year-old girl coming home from school was shot and injured by rubber bullets fired by Israeli forces during clashes next to Shuafat checkpoint in Jerusalem.
Another child, eight years old, was seriously injured when a soldier hit him in the eye with his rifle while the child was playing in proximity to clashes in al-Khader village near Bethlehem.
Also in the West Bank, Israeli forces uprooted nearly 500 trees and saplings planted by Palestinians in areas near Nablus, Salfit and Hebron. Israeli settlers uprooted dozens of olive trees in al-Tuwani village near Hebron, al-Khader village near Bethlehem and Burin village near Nablus.
Meanwhile, Egypt maintained its closure of Rafah crossing — the sole entry and exit point for the vast majority of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents — opening the crossing in both directions on 9 March only. On that day, 361 Palestinians, mainly medical patients and students, were able to leave and 956 people were allowed to cross into Gaza, OCHA reported. The crossing has been closed since late October last year.
Palestinians in Gaza continued to protest the closure of Rafah and the years-long Israeli blockade, and called for the payment of salaries to more than 40,000 public employees and for the acceleration of reconstruction, OCHA stated.
There has been little visible progress on the reconstruction of tens of thousands of homes destroyed or severely damaged last summer, generating an estimated two million tons of rubble. Approximately 100,000 Palestinians remain internally displaced in Gaza. UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, tweeted that “More than seven months after the ceasefire announcement in Gaza, not a single totally destroyed home has been rebuilt.”
In March, Israel did allow Gaza-produced eggplants and tomatoes into its markets for the first time since the economic blockade was imposed in mid-2007. Restrictions on exports from Gaza were eased during the month, with a weekly average of twenty trucks of exports, mostly headed to the West Bank. This is about six times the weekly average of three trucks of exports per week during 2014, but only a sliver of the weekly average of 240 trucks per week recorded during the first five months of 2007, according to OCHA.
Eighteen thousand civilians remain trapped in Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus, once the largest population center for Palestinian refugees in the country, as well as home to thousands of Syrian nationals.
UNRWA was able to deliver food parcels to the camp for the first time in three months on 5 March, and was able to provide aid throughout the month. However, delivery of assistance was interrupted by violence, including the fatal shooting of a woman who was part of a group preparing to approach an aid distribution area in the camp on 19 March.
However, UNRWA reported that it was not able to distribute aid on 31 March. The next day, on 1 April, the Palestine Liberation Organization announced that the group known as ISIS, or the Islamic State or ISIL, had infiltrated the camp and had come under attack from rebel forces in Yarmouk.
UNRWA stated that the fierce fighting puts the remaining civilians in the camp, which include an estimated 3,500 children, “at extreme risk of death, serious injury, trauma and displacement.”