Q&A: Increasing violence across the occupied Palestinian territory and MAP’s response

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) remains gravely concerned by the threat to Palestinians’ lives and health resulting from systematic use of excessive force by Israeli military and police in East Jerusalem and across the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), including attacks on paramedics, protesters and worshippers at the Al Aqsa mosque compound.

In this Q&A, we explain recent events, look at the larger context beyond the international media headlines, and explain how MAP is responding to the ongoing crisis.

What is the latest situation across the oPt?

Updated 5 May 2022: Israeli forces have repeatedly raided the Al Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem over the past few weeks and, on 5 May, 16 Palestinians were injured by rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas.

Over a five-day period last week, three Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli forces in separate incidents across the West Bank. On 26 April, 20-year-old Ahmed Ibrahim Oweidat was shot in the head during a raid in Aqabat Jaber refugee camp near Jericho. On 27 April, Israeli forces shot and killed Ahmad Massad, 18, during a raid in Jenin. Then on 29 April, Israeli forces killed 27-year-old Yahya Ali Adwan during a raid in Azzun village near Qalqilya.

Since the start of Ramadan on 2 April, Israeli forces have killed 17 Palestinians across the occupied West Bank, including two women and three children. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that more than 500 Palestinians have been injured.

This violence occurs in a context of Israel’s continued, systematic use of excessive force against Palestinians this year, and policies and practices of systematic discrimination and fragmentation over many years. It also follows a series of armed attacks by Palestinians in Israeli cities in late March that killed 14 people, after which Israel increased the number of troops deployed in the West Bank and launched several raids on Jenin refugee camp.

One major flashpoint occurred when Israeli police raided the Al Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, and attacked Palestinians as they gathered to pray on the morning of Friday 15 April. Israeli police fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets, injuring at least 150 worshippers.  

In response to the events in East Jerusalem, on 18 April a Palestinian armed group fired a rocket from Gaza towards southern Israel, which was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system. Israel then launched airstrikes on the cities of Khan Younis and Rafah in the south of Gaza. The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that there were no casualties or injuries.

On 19 April, Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas at Palestinian protesters, injuring at least 40 people, after thousands of Israeli settlers marched through Palestinian towns – attacking and harassing residents – on their way to the illegal settlement outpost of Homesh, near Nablus in the northern West Bank.

Tensions escalated further on 20 April, when right-wing Israeli nationalists attempted to march through the Muslim Quarter of East Jerusalem’s Old City but were prevented by Israeli police. Police set up large roadblocks outside the Old City walls, closing the main road leading down to Damascus Gate.

In response, overnight on 20 April, a rocket was fired from Gaza and landed in Sderot, in southern Israel, damaging a car and part of a house. According to the Israeli military, four more rockets were also fired from Gaza, but were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome.

Israel then carried out further air strikes in central Gaza, damaging several homes in the al-Bureij refugee camp, according to media reports. There have been no reports of casualties or injuries.

How is MAP responding?

MAP is supporting the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) whose emergency medical teams, field hospital and ambulances in occupied East Jerusalem are treating many of the wounded. We are providing them with essential medical supplies and consumables, including splints, dressings, bandages, burn treatments, sutures, antiseptics and fluids.

We are also supporting Al Makassed Hospital, which has received dozens of the injured, including 22 in intensive care, with a range of first-line antibiotics for the prevention and treatment of wound infections.

“In a short period of time, there was an influx of injured people coming into our emergency room, and we needed more medical supplies quickly. Without MAP’s support we don’t know what we would have done,” said Dr Adnan Farhoud , Director of Al Makassed Hospital.

This support comes in addition to our response to the emergency situation in May 2021, which included equipping the PRCS with a new ambulance in March this year.

We remain in close contact with the Palestinian Ministry of Health, East Jerusalem hospitals and the PRCS, and are thoroughly monitoring emerging humanitarian needs.

Donate to support our response across the occupied Palestinian territory 

Have there been violations against healthcare?

In the context of the current violence, Israeli forces have repeatedly obstructed and delayed emergency medical teams from accessing and treating the wounded.

The PRCS have reported multiple violations against their medical teams in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Six PRCS personnel were injured while responding to injuries at Al Aqsa Mosque, and two ambulances in East Jerusalem and one in the town of Beita were damaged by batons and rubber-coated steel bullets respectively. 

PRCS teams have also been obstructed and delayed from providing first aid to the injured at Al Aqsa and in Beita. On 13 April, the PRCS declared a state of emergency in the occupied West Bank.

“PRCS medical teams in East Jerusalem faced many violations by Israeli forces during the raid on Al Aqsa Mosque on 15 April. Israeli forces prevented our teams from reaching several locations and deliberately delayed us in treating the wounded,” said Mohammad Fityani, spokesperson for the PRCS. “In many instances, Israeli forces threatened our teams with physical assaults, including through the use of metal batons.”

These incidents are part of a marked pattern of violations against Palestinian healthcare occurring over many years and with persistent impunity.

Could these latest events lead to another major escalation?

In May 2021, also during Ramadan, a series of discriminatory practices and repressive measures in East Jerusalem, including attempts to forcibly expel Palestinians from their homes and raids on Al Aqsa Mosque, led to the most severe military offensive on Gaza since 2014. 261 Palestinians were killed, including 67 children, and more than 2,200 were injured during Israel’s 11-day military assault.

Almost a year on, the root causes of the violence – including Israel’s discriminatory and fragmentary policies and practices, from the illegal closure and blockade of Gaza, to impunity for relentless attacks by settlers, to the forcible displacement of Palestinians from their homes – remain in place. Palestinians face an ever-deteriorating humanitarian situation growing threats to their rights to health and dignity.

Until there is international action to address these root causes, pervasive violence against Palestinians will continue, and major escalations unfortunately remain an ever-present fear.

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Photo: Palestine Red Crescent Society responders at Al Aqsa Mosque. (Credit: Palestine Red Crescent Society).

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