Published on November 12, 2000

 

CLOSURE UPDATE NO. 26

 

Report by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

on the Closure Imposed by Israel

on the Gaza Strip

 

For the second consecutive month, the Israeli occupation forces have continued to impose a total siege on the occupied Palestinian territories, including the areas under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These forces have continued to threaten to take tougher measures. The Palestinian people are suffering an unprecedented economic, social and political suffocation under the imposed total siege on the occupied Palestinian territories.

In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli occupation forces restricted the movement of people by closing Salah El-Din Street (the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip) and a number of branch roads several times. In addition, these forces frequently closed Gaza International Airport and Rafah Border Crossing. On November 8 these forces closed the two travel outlets once again.

This is the 26th in a series of updates published by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights on the closure imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip. This update documents the effects of the ongoing total siege, as part of a policy of collective punishment, imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip since September 29, 2000.

 

    1. Continued Restrictions on Commercial Transactions and More Deterioration of the Economic Situation

The Israeli occupation forces have continued to impose restrictions on commercial transactions from the Gaza Strip. As a result, Gaza Strip markets are suffering a shortage of raw material necessary for local industry and construction raw materials necessary for construction and development projects. In addition, losses in the agricultural sector are increasing due to restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation forces on exporting agricultural products, especially strawberries, from the Gaza Strip to markets in Israel, the West Bank and abroad. Two weeks ago, the Israeli occupation forces reopened Al-Mentar (Karni) Outlet for commercial transactions, but under strict security measures. Palestinian trucks unload their cargo in a special route under the observation of Israeli occupation troops for checking. The case is the same concerning trucks coming from Israel. Importing goes on normally, but there has been a 50 percent reduction in exports, including clothes, agricultural products and some local industrial products.

Under the above system, the Israeli occupation authorities impose a tax of 410 NIS on each car or truck loaded with goods. Currently, the number of trucks that pass through Al-Mentar (Karni) Outlet daily is 120. This is down from the 450 trucks that passed daily before the current siege was imposed. In addition, the Israeli occupation forces will make the owners of these trucks pay the wages of laborers unloading these vehicles. The number of these laborers has been reduced from 35 to 17 for claimed security purposes. As an example of the miserable situation of Palestinian merchants, one merchant stated that the Israeli occupation authorities continued to block several trucks loaded with imported goods at Rafah commercial crossing and Gaza International Airport. He added that five trucks loaded with clothes were at Noweiba’ harbor in Egypt and were supposed to pass through Rafah commercial crossing on November 8, 2000, but the closure of the crossing prevented this. The merchant has lost $50,000 because of such measures. Generally, the continued siege has led to a deterioration in all sectors of the economy: agricultural, industrial, commercial, labor, etc. The total loss to the Palestinian economy since the current siege was imposed is estimated at $1billion.

 

Although the Israeli occupation authorities declared that they decided to reopen Al-Mentar (Karni) Outlet under new procedures and arrangements, the crisis that Palestinian farmers face is still overwhelming. The Israeli occupation forces have allowed the entry of some agricultural yields in lesser amounts that meet the needs of the Israeli markets. Yet he Israeli occupation authorities procrastinate in allowing the access of agricultural yields to markets in the West Bank. The Israeli measures might lead to the damage of large amounts of these agricultural products and thereby cause more losses for farmers.

 

Israeli military roadblocks, Al-Tuffah in Khan Yunis and Tal Al-Sultan and Morag in Rafah, still constitute an obstacle to farmers’ free movement. The Israeli occupation troops at these roadblocks often prevent the access of Palestinian farmers to their farms. In addition, almost daily, the Israeli occupation forces sweep and destroy areas of agricultural and wooded land.

Nowadays, farmers are increasingly concerned that the continued siege imposed on the Gaza Strip might cause damage to strawberries and olives. The daily loss to the agricultural sector in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip because of the siege is estimated at $3.7 million according to the Palestinian Ministry of Economy and Trade.

 

 

The industrial sector faces a difficult crisis resulting from the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip. The Israeli occupation forces still prevent the export of industrial products to markets in the West Bank, Israel and abroad. They also prevent the entry of industrial raw materials into the Gaza Strip from either Israel or from other countries through Israeli harbors. The daily loss to the industrial sector in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip because of the siege is estimated at $3.52 million – the number does not include the wages of laborers – according to the Palestinian Ministry of Industry.

 

 

            2.        Further Deterioration in the Health Sector

                3.    Complete Cessation of Construction Sector
                4.    Forced Cessation of Many Developmental Projects
                5.    Continued Restrictions on the Entry of Foodstuffs
                6.    Continued Prevention of Prisoner Visits
                7.    Continued Denial of the Right to Education
                8.    Continued Restrictions on Internal and External Movement

Under the current total siege imposed by the Israeli occupation forces on the occupied Palestinian territories, Palestinian citizens have been denied their right to free movement between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Although there are agreements signed between the Palestinian and Israeli sides for a specific mechanism of free movement in the areas of the Palestinian National Authority, the Israeli authorities do not respect what they signed.

Under the current total siege on the occupied Palestinian territories, citizens of the Gaza Strip are prevented from visiting the holy sites in Jerusalem, whether Christian or Islamic. The Israeli occupation forces have also prevented Muslim men under the age of 45 who are from the West Bank and the Palestinian cities and villages inside the Green Line from reaching Al-Aqsa Mosque for the Friday Prayer.

Additionally, roadblocks between the areas of the Gaza Strip have hindered free internal movement. In this context, a PCHR field officer has reported that the Israeli occupation forces have strictly stopped and checked cars at Tal Al-Sultan roadblock separating Tal Al-Sultan neighborhood in Rafah from Al-Mawasi (agricultural) area since November 3, 2000. These forces also keep the identity cards of Palestinians who pass by the mentioned roadblock. In a serious escalation, the Israeli occupation forces have prevented Palestinians who have Palestinian passports from traveling through Al-Lod Airport in Israel.

Conclusion:

For more than six weeks, the Israeli occupation forces have been imposing a total siege on the occupied Palestinian territories in blatant violation of the simplest human rights which all international conventions ensure. The policy of collective punishment carried out by the Israeli occupation forces against the Palestinian people contradicts the international conventions and covenants on human rights. As long as the siege continues, the suffering of the Palestinian people in all aspects of political, economic, social and health-related life will increase.

 

PCHR condemns the international silence regarding the continued Israeli actions against the Palestinian people. These actions are a challenge to international law. PCHR reiterates its call to the governments of the world to ensure respect by Israel of all relevant international conventions.

 

“END”