Published on December 16, 2000

CLOSURE UPDATE NO. 29

 

A Report by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights on the Closure Imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip

 

  

 “1) All people have the right of self-determination.  By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. 

“2) All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law.  In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.”

Article 1, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1996)

 

“No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.”

Article 17, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

 

“1) Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence.

“2) Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.”

Article 12, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)

 

“No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed.  Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.  Pillage is prohibited.  Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.”

Article 33, The Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949)

 

“Each High Contracting Party shall allow the free passage of all consignments of medical and hospital stores and objects necessary for religious worship intended only for civilians of another High Contracting Party, even if the latter is its adversary.  It shall likewise permit the free passage of all consignments of essential foodstuffs, clothing and tonics intended for children under fifteen, expectant mothers and maternity cases.”

Article 23, The Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949)

 

“1) The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right to work, which includes the right of every one to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right.”

Article 6, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)

 

“1) The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

“2) The steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include: …

d- the creation of conditions which would assure to all medical service and          medical attention in the event of sickness.”

Article 12, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)

 

“1) The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to education.  They agree that education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”     

Article 13, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)

This is the 29th special update in a series published by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights on the total closure imposed by the Israeli occupation forces on the Gaza Strip.  This update documents the impact of closure.  The Israeli occupation authorities have continued to impose a total siege on the occupied Palestinian territories for the 12th consecutive week as part of a collective punishment policy adopted by the Israeli occupation authorities against the Palestinian people in violation of international conventions, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

 

In the beginning of this special update, the recent impact of the external siege imposed on the Gaza Strip and its citizens is examined.  Then, the effects of the internal siege imposed on Palestinian cities and the consequent humanitarian, economic and social suffering of Palestinian civilians will be surveyed.

  

       1.         Impact of the External Siege by the Israeli Occupation Authorities on the Gaza Strip

 

The Israeli occupation authorities have continued to impose a total siege on the Gaza Strip.  As a result, Palestinian suffering and the deterioration of living and daily conditions have continued.  Despite claims from the Israeli occupation authorities that they took new measures to ease the siege, the reality has been quite the opposite.  Although they reopened Al-Mentar (Karni) Outlet on November 19, 2000, they have continued restrictions on free passage of goods from and into the Gaza Strip, allowing the entry of limited amounts of goods under strict procedures.  They have also hindered the export of Palestinian products, allowing the transport of only some of these products.

 

Furthermore, the Israeli occupation authorities have continued to impose tough restrictions on free movement of persons between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and between the Gaza Strip and Israel as well as the outside world.  Consequently, more than 24,000 Palestinian laborers from the Gaza Strip have been denied access to their work places inside the Green Line.  Additionally, hundreds of Gazan students have been deprived of their right of education in Palestinian universities in the West Bank.  Families of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have also been prevented from visiting their sons, and hundreds of patients have been prevented from receiving adequate medical attention outside the Gaza Strip.

 

Following are the latest developing effects of the Israeli siege on the economic and social conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip:

 

       1)         Continued Restrictions on Commercial Transactions

 

The Israeli Occupation Authorities have continued to impose tough restrictions on commercial transactions through Al-Mentar (Karni) Outlet, the only outlet that was reopened by the Israeli occupation authorities on November 19, 2000, under tough restrictions and strict measures. The Israeli occupation authorities have continued to impose restrictions on free passage of goods from and into the Gaza Strip, through the Outlet.  In addition, they have prevented the movement of Palestinian traders and businessmen from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank and Israel.

 

UNRWA accused Israel of hindering the access of its supplies for about 2.5 months into the Gaza Strip.  Israeli security procedures and the imposition of hefty taxes on these supplies proved to be serious burdens.  The UN General Commissioner Peter Johansen stated that UNRWA was facing a serious situation due to a shortage of basic materials, such as foodstuffs, medicines and construction materials to repair houses of Palestinian refugees destroyed by Israeli shelling.

 

       2)         Continued Denial of Palestinian Laborers’ Access to Their Work Places

 

The Israeli occupation authorities have continued to prevent the access of more than 120,000 Palestinian laborers to their work places in Israel, including 24,000 organized laborers from the Gaza Strip and 16,000 from the West Bank who used to work in Israel (through the Bureau of Labor) before the current siege.  Of the 120,000 laborers, 80,000 are unorganized laborers.  They have all been denied access to their work places in Israel.      

 

In addition, thousands of laborers have lost their work places in the local market because of the paralysis that has gripped Palestinian economic sectors under the current siege. This has led to a significant increase in the unemployment percentage. Unemployment has reached 50 percent, and poverty among Palestinians has significantly increased.  The Office of the UN Special Coordinator expected that the level of poverty would increase to 31.8 percent by the end of December if the siege continued.  The poverty percentage in the occupied Palestinian territories was 21.1 percent before the current siege.  In light of this, it is clear that the percentage of poverty among Palestinians could increase 10.7 percent in only three months.  This is a significant increase that proves the serious deterioration of Palestinian economic and living conditions as a result of arbitrary Israeli measures.  It also sets the stage for further deterioration of these conditions if these measures, through which Israel seeks to strangle the Palestinian people by starving them and destroying their economic resources, continue.

 

On December 13, 2000, the Israeli occupation forces handed about 3,000 work permits for Palestinian laborers from the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Ministry of Labor, under new conditions related to the age of laborers.  These conditions required that laborers be over age 37 in order to be able to work in Israel.  They also provided that laborers be clear of security precedents according to claims made by the Israeli occupation authorities.

 

Official sources of the Palestinian Ministry of Labor stated that in the morning of December 14, 2000, 43 Palestinian laborers from the Gaza Strip, bearing new permits, went to their work places in Israel through Beit Hanoun (Erez) Checkpoint.  On the following day, 50 workers went to their work places in Israel.

 

       3)         Further Deterioration of the Agricultural Sector

 

The Palestinian agricultural sector has been one of the most damaged sectors of the Palestinian economy under the current siege imposed on the occupied Palestinian territories.  Losses in this sector have been manifested in an inability to market agricultural products due to the siege imposed by the Israeli occupation authorities, especially as the current siege has coincided with the season for exporting strawberries, olives and flowers.  Furthermore, the Israeli occupation forces swept large areas of agricultural land and destroyed agricultural facilities, equipment and wells owned by Palestinian farmers.

 

In this context, on December 8, 2000, the Israeli occupation authorities prevented the passage of approximately seven trucks loaded with strawberries through Al-Mentar (Karni) Outlet.  These strawberries were ready for export to European markets.  The cargo of these trucks was estimated at dozens of tons with a value of US$50,000.  This measure had no purpose except to cause large losses to Palestinian farmers, especially as the failure to move the strawberries in due time (requiring them to be loaded on trucks for long periods of time) damages the agricultural product and spoils it for export.  As a result, Palestinian farmers are forced to sell this product at low prices. 

 

Strawberries are one of the most important agricultural products in the Gaza Strip.  The area of agricultural land planted with strawberries is estimated at 1,700 donums (1 donum=1,000 square meters or .24 acres), centered in the north of the Gaza Strip.  More than 700 Palestinian farmers work in this field of agriculture.  Palestinian official sources estimate the production of strawberries for this year at about 5,000 tons, including 2,000 tons for export to outside markets, especially Europe, and 3,000 for local consumption.  The same sources warned of the seriousness of continued measures taken by the Israeli occupation forces against the marketing of strawberries.  Palestinian strawberry farmers have already suffered large losses under the current siege, including crossing closings.  The siege and closings have left these farmers unable to export strawberries to Europe, the major consumer of this product at this time of the year.   

 

       4)         Further Deterioration of the Industrial Sector

 

Losses in the industrial sector increase day by day as many Palestinian factories have stopped operating for lack of necessary raw materials on which they depend.  Under the current siege imposed by the Israeli occupation authorities, 75 percent of these raw materials are imported from Israel or from other countries through Israeli harbors.  Thousands of Palestinian laborers have lost their work places in industrial factories as these factories have stopped operating due to the lack of raw materials.  This is yet another factor leading to an increase in the level of Palestinian unemployment.

 

Under the continued blatant aggression launched by the Israeli occupation forces on the Palestinian people, these forces have destroyed a number of Palestinian factories through artillery shelling and heavy machine gunning.  This is a significant part of the illegal Israeli policy of collective punishment against the Palestinian people and their property.

 

Losses to the Palestinian industrial sector can mainly be attributed to the following:

      (a)        Continued prevention of the entry of raw materials.

     (b)        Continued prevention of the export of industrial products to outside markets.

      (c)        The inability of Palestinian laborers to reach their work places due to the siege imposed on Palestinian cities and villages.

     (d)        The complete cessation in the normal movement and transactions of internal trade between Palestinian cities due to the siege.

      (e)        The destruction of a number of Palestinian factories with artillery shells and heavy machine guns.

 

Reports by the Palestinian Ministry of Industry stated that the decline in the Palestinian industrial sector between September 28, 2000 and December 12, 2000 was estimated at 80 percent.

 

       5)         Construction

 

Construction came to a standstill since the siege on the Gaza Strip was imposed about 2.5 months ago.  The closing of Sofa Crossing, the crossing through which cement aggregate enters the Gaza Strip, was the major factor in this construction stoppage.

 

On November 28, 2000, the Israeli occupation authorities allowed the entry of cement used in construction into the Gaza Strip, after its entry into the Gaza Strip had previously been completely prevented.  Since then, however, the Israeli occupation forces have allowed the entry of only 650-700 tons of cement daily; that is 19,500-21,000 tons monthly, through Al-Mentar (Karni) Outlet.  Israeli trucks unload their cargo of cement at the Outlet and then Palestinian trucks transfer it into the Gaza Strip.  Palestinian official sources stated that 75,000 tons of cement used to enter the Gaza Strip monthly before the current siege.  The amount the Israeli occupation forces have allowed to enter the Gaza Strip, 19,500-21,000 tons, is limited and not enough to meet the cement needs of the Gaza Strip.

 

Palestinian official sources stated that more recently – the past two weeks – the daily entry of 750-800 tons of cement was allowed into the Gaza Strip.  On December 12, 2000, the Israeli occupation authorities allowed the entry of 1,000 tons of cement into the Gaza Strip.  Yet they have continued to prevent the entry of cement aggregate.  In a few days, cement will be without value if the Israeli occupation authorities continue to prevent the entry of cement aggregate and other basic construction materials.

 

As a result, infrastructure development projects in the Gaza Strip, mainly financed by donor countries, have stopped due to the lack of necessary construction materials.  Major projects are Gaza Harbor and an electricity generation station.  Projects of municipalities have also stopped, although limited amounts of cement were allowed entry in the past two weeks.  The stoppage is because the Israeli occupation authorities have continued to prevent the entry of other materials, such as “basecourse” and asphalt which used to enter the Gaza Strip through Sofa Crossing.  Consequently, hundreds of Palestinian laborers who used to work in these projects have been unable to work.

 

In addition, the blatant Israeli aggression and shelling of Palestinian residential neighborhoods by missiles and heavy machine guns caused the destruction of hundreds of housing units as well as portions of social services, police stations and infrastructure networks.1

 

       6)         Further Deterioration of the Health Situation

 

The health situation has deteriorated as the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people continued.  Since the outbreak of clashes on September 29, 2000, the number of Palestinians killed by the Israeli occupation forces and settlers has increased to more than 280, with more than 9,000 wounded by live ammunition and rubber-coated metal bullets, many of whom were left with permanent handicaps.  This is a result of excessive use of force by the Israeli occupation forces directed at Palestinians rising up against the Israeli occupation and the aggressive actions of the occupation forces.  In light of daily illegal actions committed by the Israeli occupation forces against defenseless Palestinian civilians, health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories are deteriorating.

 

The Israeli occupation authorities have continued to obstruct the immediate access of medical supplies provided by Arab donors, Arab countries and other countries friendly to the Palestinian people.  In addition, these forces have obstructed the transfer of the wounded to neighboring Arab countries and their return to the occupied Palestinian territories after receiving medical treatment abroad.

  

       7)         Continued Deprivation of the Right of Education

 

Since the Israeli occupation forces imposed the current siege on the occupied Palestinian territories, Gazan students have not been able to attend classes at their universities in the West Bank, in violation of their right of education.  Additionally, Gazan students who have been in the West Bank have not been able to visit their families in the Gaza Strip.

 

       8)         Violation of the Right to Travel

 

Israeli measures aimed at suffocating the Palestinian people have also violated the right of Palestinian civilians to free travel.  Since the outbreak of Al-Aqsa Intifada on September 29, 2000, the Israeli occupation forces have closed Gaza International Airport several times for no clear reasons.  On December 1, 2000, the Israeli occupation authorities partially reopened the Airport, but under new work conditions and time limits, after three consecutive weeks of closure.  The new conditions imposed by the Israeli occupation authorities on the operation of Gaza International Airport are as follows:

       1)         The operation of the Airport shall be limited to six hours, from 9:00 to 15:00 local time.

       2)         Privileges granted to Palestinian VIPs of categories A and B shall be canceled.

       3)         Privileges granted to staff of Palestinian planes shall be canceled.

       4)         Security checking of travelers through the Airport shall be continued at Rafah Border Crossing.  These travelers shall be transported to the Crossing by special vehicles that shall be escorted by tanks of the Israel occupation forces instead of Israeli security personnel.  PCHR’s field officer in Rafah reported that the Israeli occupation forces demolished a part of the Airport fence in order to facilitate the entry and exit of tanks.

 

There is little benefit in reopening Gaza International Airport so long as the Israeli occupation forces continue to close the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip and divide the country into several parts by establishing roadblocks.  Under the internal siege imposed on Palestinian cities and villages, a Palestinian citizen faces difficulties on the way to the Airport. Citizens often need more than three hours to cross all the roadblocks of the Israeli occupation forces.  The airport flight timetable is adapted to the times the main road between the north and the south of the Gaza Strip is opened by the Israeli occupation forces.  This airport flight timetable is set only for the next 24 hours.

 

       9)         Violation of the Right to Worship Freely

 

The total siege imposed by the Israeli occupation authorities on the occupied Palestinian territories has deprived thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from making the minor pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which is usually desired in the month of Ramadan.  Like other Muslims, thousands of Palestinians are eager to make the minor pilgrimage to Mecca, but the strict closure and siege imposed on Palestinian cities, including closing the main and branch roads as well as closing border crossings, have severely hindered many Palestinians in traveling to Saudi Arabia for the minor pilgrimage.

 

In this context, an official of a travel and tourism office in Gaza City stated that the annual number of Palestinians going through the office for the minor pilgrimage was 300-400.  As a result of measures taken by the Israeli occupation authorities, this number has decreased this year to only 50.  The number has decreased this year because of the continued aggression launched by the Israeli occupation forces against the Palestinian people.  This has forced many Palestinians who wanted to make the minor pilgrimage to cancel their bookings.  These Palestinians are now worrying for their families or spending the costs of the trip for the benefit of their families due to the current difficult living conditions.

 

Under the total strict siege on the occupied Palestinian territories, Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, both Muslims and Christians, have been prevented from visiting the holy sites in Jerusalem.  The Israeli occupation authorities have prevented the access of Palestinian Muslims in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to the sacred city for prayers in the month of Ramadan. These authorities have also continued to close the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, preventing Muslims from praying there, in violation of the right to worship freely.

 

       2.         Impact of the Internal Siege on Palestinian Cities

 

In addition to closing border crossings and Gaza International Airport and isolating the occupied Palestinian territories from the outside world, the Israeli occupation authorities have imposed internal closures on Palestinian cities and villages.  On November 14, 2000, the Israeli occupation forces closed Salah El-Din Street (the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip), near the junctions leading to Gush Qatif settlement block and Kfar Darom and Morag settlements.  They also closed the entrance of the road branching from Salah El-Din Street leading to Kissufim Crossing in the east, preventing the movement of Palestinian citizens in both directions.  The Israeli occupation forces have continued to reinforce their presence along Salah El-Din Street at the main junctions and at the entrances to Palestinian cities in the Gaza Strip.

 

Palestinian citizens face difficulties in moving between the southern area of the Gaza Strip (the cities of Rafah and Khan Yunis) and the middle and northern areas.  Palestinian citizens have been forced to resort to a bypass road that passes near the eastern border of Kfar Darom settlement where Israeli occupation forces are positioned in order to obstruct the movement of Palestinian citizens.  Crossing this road can take more than two hours of waiting at the roadblock of the Israeli occupation forces.  Even this bypass road is sometimes closed by the Israeli occupation forces, absolutely halting the movement of Palestinian citizens between the southern and northern areas of the Gaza Strip.  As a result, the Gaza Strip has been transmuted into areas isolated from one another. 

 

On November 19, 2000, the Israeli occupation forces reopened Salah El-Din Street, but these forces continue to put roadblocks on the road, obstructing the movement of Palestinian transportation.  On the morning of November 20, 2000, the Israeli occupation forces re-closed the road less than 24 hours after it was reopened.  These forces also closed the bypass road which Palestinian citizens resort to in case Salah El-Din Street is closed.  With the two roads closed, the south of the Gaza Strip was isolated from the north.  This tight closure lasted for several days during which Palestinian employees and university students from the southern area of the Gaza Strip who went to their work places and universities in Gaza City could not come return home and were trapped in Gaza City.

 

The southern area of the Gaza Strip largely depends on Gaza City, which plays a major role in providing health, educational and commercial services and other daily life assistance.  The strict three-day closure obstructed the movement of Palestinian citizens, and the access of medical and technical staff to work places in the European hospital in the south of the Gaza Strip.  Physicians from the southern area of the Gaza Strip who work in hospitals in Gaza City were not able to reach their work places.

 

On November 23, 2000, the Israeli occupation forces partially reopened the bypass road that crosses the road branching from Salah El-Din Street leading to Kissufim Crossing in the east (Abu El-Ajin road).  These forces started to allow Palestinian citizens to move through this road during the periods of 10:00-12:00 and 16:00-18:00 local time.  PCHR’s field officers reported that the road witnessed traffic jams during the hours when Palestinian citizens were allowed to move under strict and humiliating security procedures.  Salah El-Din Street, the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip was closed until December 5, 2000.     

 

The Siege on Al-Mawasi (Agricultural) Area

 

The Israeli occupation forces have been imposing a strict siege on Al-Mawasi (agricultural) area, which is under the control of these forces, in Rafah and Khan Yunis.  These forces have completely closed Al-Tuffah roadblock.  They have separated the people of the city and refugee camp of Khan Yunis from Al-Mawasi area by putting in place cement blocks.  Palestinian civilians undergo humiliating checking procedures by the Israeli occupation forces at the mentioned roadblock.  These forces prevent the passage of cars, so Palestinian civilians, including children, women and the elderly, are forced to walk more than three kilometers from the roadblock to reach their houses.  PCHR’s field officer in Khan Yunis reported that Jerar Al-Qedwa school, the only school in Al-Mawasi area of Khan Yunis, in which more than 600 elementary and preparatory stage pupils have classes, has been closed by the Israeli occupation forces.  Consequently, these pupils have been deprived of their right of education.  The suffering of residents of this area has been increasing and their living and health conditions increasingly deteriorating.  In addition, settlers have continued to attack Palestinian civilians in order to confiscate their land.  Settlers aim to harass and intimidate Palestinians to such an extent that they feel forced to leave the area, allowing the settlers to take over the area.

 

In another escalatory step, on December 2, 2000, the Israeli occupation authorities closed six branch roads connecting Al-Mawasi area and its farms with the coastal road at the Khan Yunis seashore.  These forces carried out the job with barbwire and cement blocks.  As a result, Palestinian farmers have not been able to reach their farms and lands.

 

Residents of Al-Mawasi area became completely isolated from the cities of Khan Yunis and Rafah due to measures taken by the Israeli occupation forces.  Israeli occupation soldiers positioned at Al-Tuffah roadblock, separating Al-Mawasi area from the city of Khan Yunis, and those positioned at Tal Al-Sultan roadblock, separating Al-Mawasi area from the city of Rafah, willfully provoke residents of Al-Mawasi area and prevent them from carrying on their regular lives.  They prevent the passage of cars, so Palestinian civilians are forced to walk long distances to cross the area of the roadblock and reach their houses.  Students and employees of the area are also usually provoked by the Israeli occupation forces which disturbs regular access to schools and jobs.

 

Furthermore, residents of Al-Mawasi area have been prevented from taking any foodstuffs into the area, a measure that threatens their lives.  Additionally, Palestinian farmers of Al-Mawasi area have been prevented from marketing their agricultural products in local and outside markets.  Most residents of Al-Mawasi area work in agriculture due to the fertility of the land there.

 

In another unjustified escalation, on December 4, 2000, Israeli occupation soldiers positioned at Al-Tuffah roadblock opened fire at teachers of Jerar Al-Qedwa school in Al-Mawasi area of Khan Yunis without advance warning, preventing access to the school.  This was one day after allowing the resumption of study at Jerar Al-Qedwa school, which had been closed for two weeks after the outbreak of clashes, in a blatant violation of the right of Palestinian civilians to an education.

 

On December 8, 2000, Israeli occupation forces prevented the entry and exit of Al-Mawasi area residents into and out of the area for two days.  Even those traveling on foot were prevented from moving under the strict siege imposed on the whole area.  This was another threat to the safety and security of residents of the area.

 

A summary of the most significant aspects of the suffering of residents of Al-Mawasi area under the strict siege imposed on the area for more than two months is provided below.

 

       ¨         The prevention of the entry of foodstuffs into the area.

       ¨         The difficulty faced by patients in getting to hospitals and clinics and the prevention of the entry of ambulances into the area to evacuate patients.

       ¨         The difficulty faced by citizens in getting to their work places because of roadblocks established by the Israeli occupation forces.

       ¨         Difficulties faced by students in attending their classes at schools and universities.

       ¨         Damage to agricultural products due to preventing Al-Mawasi farmers from marketing their agricultural products in local and external markets.

       ¨         Restricting the work of fishermen and preventing them from sailing.

 

The policy of internal closure and siege imposed by the Israeli occupation authorities on Palestinian cities and villages constitutes a blatant violation of the economic, social and cultural rights of Palestinian civilians, whose living conditions are increasingly deteriorating as a result.  Following are the most significant consequences of the internal siege on Palestinian civilians:

 

     (a)        The Violation of the Right to Free Movement

 

Due to the restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation forces on the movement of Palestinian citizens, manifested in closing Salah El-Din Street (the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip), Palestinian citizens who wish to go to Gaza City are forced to travel by taxis at 9:00 in the morning, in order for these taxis to get their turn on the road when it opens at 10:00 in the morning.  When taxis reach the junction, Palestinian citizens get out of taxis at the roadblock of the Israeli occupation forces and walk 2-3 kilometers to reach the other side of the junction.  Then they take other taxis to travel to Gaza City.  The same happens on the way back in the evening.  Under these circumstances, Palestinian citizens cannot fully carry out their objectives in traveling to Gaza City as they spend much of their time in travelling back and forth, Many cannot even reach their work places on time.

 

Furthermore, PCHR’s field officer in the middle area of the Gaza Strip, where the mentioned roadblock of the Israeli occupation forces is located, reported that Palestinian civilians who are forced to travel along this bypass road are required to wait for long periods of time and are humiliated by provocative measures taken by the Israeli occupation forces.  Israeli occupation forces positioned at the mentioned road often use tear gas against Palestinian civilians on the road.  Clearly what was a simple trip now poses dangers to the safety of Palestinian civilians traveling along the road.

 

Moreover, the internal siege that cuts the Gaza Strip into separate parts has resulted in large losses to Palestinian farmers and traders as a result of difficulties they face in transporting and marketing their products.  In addition, taxi drivers also suffer large losses as hundreds of taxis stopped working under the internal siege imposed on Palestinian cities and villages.

 

     (b)        The Violation of the Right to Receive Medical Treatment and Care

 

The internal siege imposed on Palestinian cities and villages restricts the movement of ambulances and physicians between Palestinian cities and villages.  It also obstructs the access of patients and medical staff to hospitals.  These restrictions exceeded all limits when the Israeli occupation forces closed Salah El-Din Street (the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip) on November 20, 2000.  As a result of closure of this road and other branch roads leading to the south, the cities of Rafah and Khan Yunis became completely isolated from Gaza City.  They were consequently deprived of medical supplies.  Additionally, physicians from Gaza City could not reach their work places in the two cities.  Ambulances transferring the wounded from the southern area were prevented from reaching hospitals in Gaza City.  This measure posed threats to the lives and safety of the wounded.  Serious cases are usually transferred to hospitals in Gaza City because of the lack of necessary medical equipment in the hospitals of the southern area of the Gaza Strip.

 

      (c)        The Violation of the Right to Education

 

Isolating the south of the Gaza Strip from its north upset the Palestinian educational process as many teachers at schools in the southern area are from the middle area and Gaza City.  These teachers could not reach their schools in the southern area.  In this context, UNRWA tried to avoid such disturbances through substituting teachers in these areas so that each teacher could teach at schools in his or her area of residence.  This program could partially solve the problem in some subjects, but the problem remained in other subjects.

 

In addition, university students from the southern area could not reach their universities in Gaza City.  These students constitute 50 percent of the student body at these universities.  This resulted in disturbing the academic process in the Gaza Strip.  The number of university students from the southern area who study at universities in Gaza City is estimated at about 14,000 students.  These students study at the Islamic University, Al-Azhar University, the Open University and the College of Education in Gaza City.

 

In this regard, about 400 female students from the southern area of the Gaza Strip were forced to spend a night at the campus of the Islamic University after they could not go back to their houses in the southern area because Salah El-Din Street (the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip) and all branch and bypass roads leading to the southern area were closed on November 20, 2000.  As a result, university students from the southern area who went to their university in Gaza City in the morning of that day could not go back to their houses and were forced to stay at the Islamic University or with relatives.

 

Some study rooms in the Islamic University became temporary shelters in which the 400 female university students from the southern area were forced to spend the night.  That evening, the Israeli occupation forces shelled the Gaza Strip with missiles.  Electricity was cut in Gaza City and sounds of explosions were heard near the Islamic University.  These students felt a great deal of tension, some of them fainted and others were terrified and worried for their classmates.

 

The Islamic University was forced to open branches in the southern area of the Gaza Strip in order to enable its students in the southern area to proceed with their classes.  Other universities organized compensatory programs to enable students of the southern area to recover what they lost in classes.

 

PCHR’s field officers reported that the Islamic University established an emergency committee mandated to open branches for the university in the southern area to conclude the current semester and to maintain the academic process.  This emergency committee, in coordination with some official and local parties, was able to provide 15 centers in Rafah and Khan Yunis for teaching students of the southern area.  Study in these centers started on December 2, 2000, and about 2,500 students – the number of students from the southern area attending the Islamic University – went to classes.  According to sources of the emergency committee, 90 percent of the subjects of the university curricula was covered and teachers and rooms for teaching these subjects were provided.

 

(d)      The Violation of the Right to Work

 

The internal siege imposed on Palestinian cities and villages in the Gaza Strip also obstructed the regular access of more than 50,000 Palestinian employees from the southern area of the Gaza Strip to their work places in institutions of the Palestinian National Authority and non-governmental organizations in Gaza City and the northern area of the Gaza Strip.  This was a consequence of closing Salah El-Din Street and branch and bypass roads (November 20-November 23, 2000).  When the branch road to the east of Kfar Darom settlement was reopened daily for limited hours, 10:00-12:00 and 16:00-18:00 local time, employees from the southern area could not go to their work places in Gaza City at the regular hours due to the limited time period in which the roads were open.  These employees usually start their work at 8:00 in the morning and conclude it at 14:30 or 15:00.  Under such limited periods of time for opening the mentioned road, they could not reach their work places before 12:00, and they were forced to leave work earlier in order to be able to go back home under the queue system on the mentioned road.  This resulted in obstructing many services offered by ministries and non-governmental institutions.

 

Furthermore, the internal siege imposed by the Israeli occupation forces on Palestinian cities and villages obstructed the access of many Palestinian laborers to their work places in the Gaza Strip, causing large financial losses to many factories and companies.

 

Many employees from the southern area working in Gaza City were forced to sleep in their work places in ministries and non-governmental institutions in order to be able to continue their work.  Family relationships and visits were disrupted, especially in the month of Ramadan when Muslim families usually gather around break-fast tables.  Many students and employees from the southern area of the Gaza Strip were forced to sleep in the houses of relatives and friends in Gaza City to avoid the daily humiliations they faced while traveling on roads between the north and south of the Gaza Strip.

 

In another step to suffocate Palestinian citizens, on December 4, 2000, the Israeli occupation forces closed Al-Shuhada (Netzarim) junction on Salah El-Din Street, to the south of Gaza City.  As a result, the Gaza Strip was transformed into three almost isolated areas (the north, the middle and the south).  This deprived Palestinian citizens from their right to free movement.  On that same day, a tank of the Israeli occupation forces was positioned at the entrance of Khadija Bent Khowailed elementary school, to the north of Al-Shuhada (Netzarim) junction, preventing the access of more than 800 pupils to their school.

 

On December 5, 2000, the Israeli occupation forces partially reopened Salah El-Din Street (the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip) between Al-Matahen junction leading to Gush Qatif settlement block and the junction leading to the town of Deir El-Balah known as Al-Heker.  The road is reopened daily from 9:00 until 16:00 local time.  This road has a heavy presence of the Israeli occupation forces reinforced with tanks and armored vehicles.  Transportation on the road is rare because settlers of settlements adjacent to the road go out to the road and throw stones at Palestinian vehicles under the watching eyes and silence of the Israeli occupation forces.  Actions of this sort threaten the lives and safety of Palestinian citizens.  Consequently, Palestinian drivers avoid traveling this road because they fear attacks by settlers.  The eastern branch road between Khan Yunis and the middle area of the Gaza Strip witnesses traffic jams because of roadblocks established by the Israeli occupation forces on the road.  Palestinian citizens on both sides of the road are forced to walk more than 3 kilometers to reach their houses and work places.  Israeli occupation forces positioned at roadblocks allow the passage of Palestinian cars according to their moods.  They often stop Palestinian vehicles for long periods, during which hundreds of these vehicles are forced to stop in queues along the road.  Then, these forces allow the passage of a limited number of cars before very quickly once again stopping movement and again obstructing and disturbing the movement of Palestinian citizens and transportation on the road.

 

While the suffering of Palestinian civilians under internal sieges and tough restrictions on free movement increases, living conditions increasingly deteriorate and economic, social and cultural rights are violated, settlers in their vehicles are able to move freely on the main and branch roads in the Gaza Strip under the escort of the Israeli occupation forces.  Everyone knows exactly the role settlers play in hurting and attacking Palestinian citizens and their property, by blocking roads, and terrifying Palestinian civilians.  This is an additional threat to the lives and safety of Palestinian civilians.  On December 7 and 8, 2000, settlers reached Salah El-Din Street and threw stones at Palestinian vehicles while the Israeli occupation forces looked on passively.  Consequently, Palestinian vehicles were forced to travel on the eastern branch road, on which roadblocks of the Israeli occupation forces are established, obstructing the movement of Palestinian citizens.

 

These measures taken by the Israeli occupation forces practically divided the Gaza Strip into two main parts, the northern part, from Beit Hanoun in the north to Kfar Darom settlement near Deir El-Balah, and the southern part, from Deir El-Balah to the city of Rafah in the south.  This separation is the most serious one since the Israeli occupation forces occupied the Gaza Strip 33 years ago.

 

On December 11, 2000, the Israeli occupation forces closed Salah El-Din Street (the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip) and reopened it on the following day.  On December 13, the Israeli occupation forces closed the main western road between Rafah and Khan Yunis with cement blocks and a tank of these forces was positioned on the road near Morag settlement.  Consequently, the Israeli occupation forces isolated the cities of Rafah and Khan Yunis from each other.  Later, these forces reopened the mentioned road, but they kept cement blocks on it.  

    

Conclusion

 

The Israeli occupation forces have continued to impose a total siege on the occupied Palestinian territories.  In addition, these forces have been imposing an internal siege on Palestinian cities and villages. Under the siege, the suffering of the Palestinian people is continuous.  Living conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories have deteriorated at all levels and economic, social and cultural rights continue to be violated.

 

PCHR disapproves of the silence of the international community before the continued blatant Israeli challenge to international humanitarian law and the continued aggression launched by the Israeli occupation authorities against the Palestinian people.

 

PCHR expresses its disappointment and growing frustration with the silence of the international community towards blatant Israeli violations of international humanitarian law and continued military, economic and political aggression launched by the Israeli occupation forces against the Palestinian people.  PCHR reiterates its call upon the international community to immediately intervene to put an end to the violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories by the Israeli occupation forces and to ensure Israel’s compliance with international conventions through:

 

      (a)        Pressing Israel to lift the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip and to stop its aggression against the Palestinian people and their property.

     (b)        Providing immediate medical and humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people, whose living conditions have been increasingly deteriorating under the siege.

      (c)        Activating mechanisms of immediate intervention by the UN and its agencies, and the ICRC, to ensure the access of medical assistance and food assistance to the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territories under siege.

     (d)        Obligating Israel to respect international conventions and to comply with relevant UN Resolutions, especially 242 and 338, which call for a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967.

      (e)        Taking effective steps by the EU to comply with Article 2 of the Euro-Israel Association Agreement which provides that Israel must respect human rights.

 

“End”

 


 

 

Annex (1)

 

Closures of crossings since Al-Aqsa Intifada began

 

The Crossing

Closure

Partial Reopening

Al-Mentar (Karni)

Closed on September 29, 2000

Re-closed on October 8, 2000

Re-closed on November 14, 2000

On October 2, 2000

On October 10, 2000

On November 19, 2000

 

Sofa

October 8, 2000 – now

 

Erez

October 8, 2000 – now

Partially reopened on November 14, 2000, allowing the entry of a limited number of Palestinian laborers

Rafah Border Crossing

Closed on October 8, 2000

Re-closed on October 12, 2000

Re-closed on October 16, 2000

Re-closed on November 8, 2000

 

 

 

Re-closed on December 11, 2000, from 10:00 to 12:00 local time

On Oct. 10 with reduced staff

On October 15, 2000

On October 19, 2000

On November 20, 2000, and was re-closed on the same day;

partially reopened on November 28, 2000

Gaza International Airport

Closed on October 8, 2000

Re-closed on October 29, 2000

Re-closed on November 8, 2000

On October 15, 2000

On November 6, 2000

Partially reopened on December 1, 2000

 



1 For more details, see PCHR’s press releases.