Israel kills four Palestinians in Gaza, West Bank

Al-Jazeera  /  September 19, 2023

Raid on Jenin kills two Palestinians, with another Palestinian killed near the fence between Gaza and Israel.

Israeli forces have killed three Palestinians during a raid in the occupied West Bank, and another Palestinian in a separate incident in the blockaded Gaza Strip, as Israel bars entry to thousands of Palestinian labourers from the coastal enclave.

The West Bank raid took place on Tuesday in the Jenin refugee camp, with some 20 others also injured, according to Palestinian health officials. The dead have not yet been named.

In Gaza, the Palestinian man killed was identified as Yousef Salem Radwan, 25. He was shot by Israeli forces east of Khan Yunis in Gaza, reported Palestinian media.

The Israeli military did not confirm the Gaza killing, but said that “rioters” had gathered next to the fence that separates Gaza from Israel, and that “a number of explosive devices were activated by the rioters”. The military also gave few details about the deaths in the Jenin, apart from saying that it had carried out a drone attack.

The violence came after Israel announced late on Sunday that it would keep the Beit Hanoun (called “Erez” by Israel) crossing closed following an eruption of border protests and a “security assessment” by defence officials.

“The reopening of the crossing will be subject to ongoing evaluation based on the evolving situation in the region,” said COGAT, a unit of the Israeli defence ministry responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs.

The closure of Beit Hanoun, the sole pedestrian passageway out of the enclave into Israel, has left roughly 18,000 Palestinians from Gaza who have been issued Israeli work permits unable to access their jobs.

The string of protests came during a holiday season in Israel that began with the Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year last week and continues through the Sukkot festival next week.

During the holidays, large numbers of Jews are expected to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, also known to Jews as the Temple Mount, in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City – in the past this has meant restrictions on Palestinian access to the holy site, which is also a Palestinian national symbol.

Gazan officials said medical cases were still allowed to use the crossing, which Israel had been due to reopen Monday following a shutdown due to Jewish holidays.

The extended closure follows repeated confrontations between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces along the border over the past few days.

The confrontations have seen multiple Palestinians wounded after Israeli forces fired guns and tear gas at the protesters. The Israeli military also launched an air attack late Friday on the Gaza Strip.

‘Collective punishment’

The decision to block the entry to Israel was condemned as “illegal collective punishment” by the Israeli NGO Gisha, which advocates for Palestinians’ freedom of movement.

The move is “harming Gaza workers and their families, as well as other permit holders who need to travel for humanitarian needs”, Gisha said in a statement.

One of the Gazans affected, Kamal, said he and fellow workers “have nothing to do with the security situation in Gaza”.

“Closing Erez costs my family and me our food and living expenses,” said the 41-year-old construction worker, who gave only his first name for fear of reprisal from the Israeli authorities.

Palestinians have far higher earning power in Israel than Gaza, where salaries are low and unemployment is rife.

Ashraf, 36, expressed the same concerns as he described the closure as “collective punishment against workers”.

“We only want to work and live,” said the permit holder.

An employee at a restaurant in Jaffa called on the Israeli authorities to “compensate for the days of work lost” due to the border closure.

Israel has maintained a strict land, air and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip since 2007, when Hamas seized power of the coastal enclave.

There have been multiple wars fought between Gaza-based armed groups and Israel in recent years.

Violence against protesters

Hamas has said the protests in Gaza have been a response to Israeli provocations, citing an increase in the number of far-right nationalist Jewish activists entering the Al-Aqsa compound.

On Monday, Israeli forces attacked Palestinian worshippers at Bab as-Silsila, one of the main entrances to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem. They also denied access to any Palestinian below the age of 50 to clear the way for Israeli settlers on Rosh Hashanah.

“As long as these provocations continue, the protests will continue,” said Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qasem.