Published on January 8, 2001

CLOSURE UPDATE NO.31

 

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 this 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 could 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)

The Israeli occupation authorities have continued to impose a total siege on the occupied Palestinian territories, including the areas under the control of the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, for the 112th consecutive day.  In actions of escalation, the Israeli occupation forces tigtened the siege imposed on the occupied Palestinian territories.  On December 30, 2000, the Israeli occupation forces closed Rafah Border Crossing with Egypt, and on January 1, 2001, these forces closed Gaza International Airport and Al-Karama Crossing with Jordan.  They also closed Al-Mentar (Karni) Outlet and Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing.   The Israeli occupation forces have also imposed an internal siege on the Palestinian cities in the Gaza Strip.  These forces have closed the two main roads between governates of the Gaza Strip (Salah El-Din Street and the coastal road, which has been closed for the first time) and all alternative branch roads, isolating the Gaza Strip and cutting it into three separated areas.

Under such measures taken by the Israeli occupation forces, the social and economic conditions in the Gaza Strip deteriorate, causing disastrous impacts on Palestinian citizens in the Gaza Strip.  PCHR’s field officers reported that the Israeli occupation forces have allowed the passage of Palestinian citizens through military roadblocks since Friday, January 5, 2001, but according to a specific timetable, 9-11 and 15-17 local time, and under severe conditions and hard suffering as it was the case in the past.[1]

In its 31st Closure Update, PCHR continues to survey the impacts of the continued total siege imposed on the Gaza Strip on the social and economic conditions in the Strip.

       1.         Closing Crossings and Further Deterioration of the Economic Conditions

At the beginning of the new year, the Israeli occupation Authorities toghtened its siege on the Gaza Strip.  On December 30, 2000, the Israeli occupation forces closed Rafah Border Crossing with Egypt, and on January 1, 2001, these forces closed Gaza International Airport.  At the same time, these forces closed Al-Mentar (Karni) Outlet and Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing.  In addition, Sofa Crossing, through which construction raw materials necessary for infrastructure projects in the Gaza Strip are entered into the Gaza Strip, has been closed for more than three months.  Under such measures taken by the Israeli occupation forces, the economic situation in the Gaza Strip deteriorates, causing disastrous impacts on all aspects of life in the Gaza Strip.

The total siege imposed on the Gaza Strip has stopped all commercial transactions of the Gaza Strip.  About 80% of these commercial transactions are with Israel and 20% are with the West Bank and foreign markets.  It is worth mentioning that Al-Mentar (Karni) Outlet has been devoted to commercial transactions of the Gaza Strip even at times of total closures imposed by Israel on the occupied Palestinian territories.  Nevertheless, this Outlet has been closed several times since imposing the current total siege.[2]

The Palestinian agricultural sector is the most vulnerable sector under the current total siege, as Palestinian farmers could not reach their agricultural land to cultivate their agricultural products and selling them in local markets, because of the strict siege which isolated Palestinian cities and villages from one another.  As a result, local markets suffered a shortage of these products, and the prices of such products increased.

On the other hand, under the current siege, the export of agricultural products from the Gaza Strip into markets of the West Bank and Israeli, Arab and foreign markets has stopped, causing the spoil of these products, and consequently large losses to Palestinian farmers.  These farmers also suffered more losses because of sweeping and destruction of their agricultural land carried out daily by the Israeli occupation forces.[3]

The Palestinian transportation sector also suffered large losses due to the internal and external siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.  The Israeli occupation forces have prevented the movement of transportation between Palestinian cities in the Gaza Strip and between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.  In addition, Palestinian trucks cannot transport goods, because all crossings and outlets, especially Al-Mentar (Karni) Outlet, have been closed.  It is worth mentioning that Palestinians who work in the transportation sector constitute 4.8% of the total Palestinian labor force in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

       2.         Denying the Access of Palestinian Laborers to Their Work Places

As the Israeli occupation forces tightened the total siege and re-closed all crossings, Palestinian laborers from the Gaza Strip cannot reach their work places inside the Gaza Strip and in Israel.  The number of Palestinian laborers from the Gaza Strip who regularly used to work in Israel before imposing the current total siege on the occupied Palestinian territories by the Israeli occupation forces was 24,000, and about 48,000 laborers used to work on a non-organized basis.  It is worth mentioning that in the middle of December, the Israeli occupation authorities allowed 5,600 laborers from the Gaza Strip to reach their work places in Israel, but under strict conditions, including:

        §          The age of a Palestinian laborer must be over 37.

        §          His security record, according to the standards of the Israeli occupation forces, must be clean.

        §          His Israeli employer must request him.

Not all of this limited number of Palestinian laborers from the Gaza Strip could reach their work places, because of arbitrary measures taken by the Israeli occupation forces.  These laborers had to undergo complicated and humiliating checking procedures at which the Israeli occupation forces used police dogs in the process of personal checking.  In addition, these laborers had to cross military roadblocks of the Israeli occupation forces at which they were provoked by soldiers.  As a result, Palestinian laborers had no choice except to protest against these measures.  On December 19, 2000, the Israeli occupation forces faced these protests with opening fire on Palestinian laborers, wounding some of these laborers with live ammunition, and on December 20, 2000, six Palestinian laborers were wounded with live bullets fired by the Israeli occupation forces. 

Furthermore, the Israeli occupation forces denied the access of Palestinian laborers to their work places in the industrial zone in Beit Hanoun in the north of the Gaza Strip, and declared it a closed military area.  It is worth mentioning that about 4,000 Palestinian laborers work in factories of the industrial zone.

As a result of the internal siege imposed by the Israeli occupation forces on Palestinian cities and villages in the Gaza Strip, thousands of Palestinian laborers working inside the Gaza Strip have not been able to reach their work places, so many Palestinian factories and ateliers have stopped their work.  In addition, Palestinian employees at governmental institutions and ministries have not been able to reach their work places, which decreases the services offered to Palestinian citizens by these institutions and ministries. 

In this context, it is worth mentioning that the Palestinian economy mainly depends on the income of Palestinian labor force in Israel.  Given that the average daily income of a Palestinian laborer in Israel is approximately US$ 27.50, then the daily loss of organized Palestinian laborers from the Gaza Strip in Israel is US$ 660,000, as the number of these laborers is estimated at 24,000.  If we add the income of non-organized Palestinian laborers in Israel, laborers in the industrial zone and laborers at local factories and ateliers, then the total loss will be more than US$ 2 million daily.          

       3.         Further Deterioration of Health Conditions

The health situation in the Gaza Strip has not witnessed any improvement despite the large amounts of medical assistance the Palestinian Ministry of Health has received from Arab and friend countries, as the siege imposed by the Israeli occupation forces has stood as a major obstacle in the face of providing Palestinian citizens with medical services.  The recent strict internal siege which cuts Palestinian areas in the Gaza Strip has caused further deterioration of health conditions in the Gaza Strip, especially in the middle area, whose citizens have to go to Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis or Shifa’ hospital in Gaza City.  In this case, they have to cross military roadblocks of the Israeli occupation forces, which seems impossible under the current measures taken by these forces which restrict the movement of Palestinian citizens between areas of the Gaza Strip.  Following are examples of the impacts of the recent strict internal siege imposed on Palestinian cities and villages in the Gaza Strip on medical services:

        §          On Tuesday, January 2, 2001, Israeli occupation forces positioned near Al-Shuhada’ (Netzarim) junction, to the south of Gaza City, prevented the passage of a Palestinian ambulance in which a pregnant woman was transferred from a clinic in Dier El-Balah and going to Shifa’ hospital in Gaza City.  PCHR’s field officer in the area reported that Mrs. Mariam A’amer El-Akhras, 30 years old, from the refugee camp of Al-Boreij, was in serious health condition and deadly in need for a Caesarian operation that could not be performed in the middle area due to the lack of necessary medical equipment in nearby local clinics.

        §          On the same day, the same forces also prevented the passage of a Palestinian ambulance which transported Rajab El-Sa’afin, 70 years old, and Safeya El-Kurd, 70 years old, from Deir El-Balah, who were in need for medical care at Shifa’ hospital in Gaza City.  PCHR’s field officer in the area reported that these forces forced the ambulance to travel back to the middle area, preventing its passage to Shifa’ hospital in Gaza City.

        §          Physicians, nurses and employees of health institutions have not been able to reach their work places in Gaza City, especially those who live in the southern area, due to the strict internal siege imposed on Palestinian cities and villages in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli occupation forces.

        §          On Tuesday, January 2, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces prevented the passage of a vehicle of the Palestinian Ministry of Health loaded with foodstuffs and oxygen for premature born at Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis, whose number was 24, despite advanced co-ordination between the two sides for its passage.  The vehicle waited until 16:00 local time and could not pass on that day.  On the following day, it was allowed to pass, but after it was obstructed and fired at by the Israeli occupation forces, and after waiting for more than four hours.

        §          Patients of heart and cancer who received treatment at hospitals in Egypt have not been able to come back to the Gaza Strip, due to closing Rafah Border Crossing with Egypt, and Gaza International Airport.  The same has happened with those who were wounded during clashes with the Israeli occupation forces and received treatment at hospitals in Arab countries.

        §          On January 1, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces prevented the movement of ambulances of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society to carry out their duties of evacuating the wounded, but on January 4, 2001, these ambulances were allowed to move after co-ordination with ICRC.

       4.         Restrictions on Internal Movement – Three Collective Jails for Residents of the Gaza Strip

Since Tuesday morning, January 2, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces have tightened its siege on the Gaza Strip, when they closed the coastal road between the middle area and Gaza City, and re-closed Salah El-Din Street (the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip).  These forces also closed all alternative branch roads which Palestinian citizens usually resort to in cases of closing the main roads.  As a result, the Gaza Strip has been cut into three completely separated areas: Rafah and Khan Yunis; the middle area; and Gaza City and the northern area.  Under such recent measures taken by the Israeli occupation forces, more than 1 million residents of the Gaza Strip have been living in three collective jails, in a violation to basic human rights, as they have not been able to move between areas of the Gaza Strip, in addition to not being able to move inside the areas where they live in the evening.  In addition, pupils and students, whose schools are at points of friction with the Israeli occupation forces or who have to cross military roadblocks of these forces, such as Al-Tuffah roadblock in Khan Yunis, Tal Al-Sultan roadblock in Rafah, Kfar Darom roadblock in Deir El-balah and the roadblock at Al-Shuhada’ (Netzarim) junction, have not been able to attend classes at their schools.  Palestinian farmers also have not been able to reach their agricultural land to cultivate their agricultural.  In addition, employees of governmental institutions have not been able to reach their work places in Gaza City, which has interrupted providing social, educational and health services to Palestinian citizens.  In this context, it is worth mentioning that UNRWA could get permission by the Israeli occupation authorities, after hard efforts, which ensures free movement of its employees, especially administrative officials and service workers, so it became the second party that could get such permission after ICRC.

On Tuesday, January 2, 2001, the Israeli occupation authorities canceled the privileges offered to VIP’s of the Palestinian National Authority.

       5.         A Shortage of Foodstuffs and a Significant Increase of Prices of Goods

Under the external siege imposed on the occupied Palestinian territories and the internal siege imposed on Palestinian cities and villages by the Israeli occupation forces, residents of Gaza City suffer a shortage of some basic foodstuffs, such as vegetables, fruits and meat.  Farmers of the southern and middle areas of the Gaza Strip have not been able to reach markets of Gaza City to sell their agricultural products.  As a result, prices of some goods have significantly increased.  For example, the price of a kilogram of parsley has become 8 NIS after it was 4 NIS before imposing the current siege, the price of a kilogram of peppers has become 12 NIS after it was 6 NIS, and the price of chicken has become 10 NIS after it was 7 NIS.  As the Israeli occupation forces continues to impose a total siege on the occupied Palestinian territories, suffering of the Palestinian people is expected to increase and their economic conditions are expected to deteriorate.  In this regard, on Wednesday, January 3, 2001, the high emergency committee of Palestinian NGO’s could not provide Palestinian citizens with assistance offered by the Saudi committee to assist the Palestinian Intifada, which included 25,000 packages of foodstuffs.

       6.         Continued Deprivation of the Right of Education

As a result of cutting the Gaza Strip into completely separated areas, thousands of Palestinian pupils and students have not been able to attend classes at their schools and teachers have not been able to reach these schools.  Also, thousands of university and college students have not been able to attend classes at their universities and colleges, in a violation of their right of education.  In addition, hundreds of university and college professors and staffs have not been able to reach their work places.  As a result, the educational process at universities of the Gaza Strip has completely stopped.  It is worth mentioning that 50% of the total number of students and 60% of the total number of professors at Palestinian universities in the Gaza Strip, most of which are in Gaza City, are from the southern area of the Gaza Strip.  The most serious problem of this issue is that January is the month at which most universities were scheduled to conduct final exams of the first semester.  So, students have to attend classes at their university in order to be able to do well at these exams, and it might be impossible to conduct such exams under such circumstances.

On the other hand, since the current siege was imposed on the occupied Palestinian territories by the Israeli occupation forces, Gazan students have not been able to attend classes at their universities in the West Bank, in a 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.

       7.         Continued Denial of Free Access to Holy Sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem

The end of last December and the beginning of this month were times for feasts and religious occasions for both Muslims and Christians.  Under the current total siege, residents of the Gaza Strip could not visit the holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  Muslims of the Gaza Strip could not travel to Jerusalem to do prayers at Al-Haram Al-Sharif (the Holy Sanctuary), especially at the holy month of Ramadan.  Also, Christians of the Gaza Strip could not reach Jerusalem and Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas on December 25, 2000 for western sects and on January 7, 2001 for eastern sects.

       8.         Continued Prevention of Visit to Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli Jails

Residents of the Gaza Strip are still deprived of visiting their sons detained in Israeli jails, due the current total siege imposed on the occupied Palestinian territories since September 29, 2000.  Lawyers from the Gaza Strip also have not been able to visit Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.  These prisoners receive an inhumane treatment by the Israeli occupation forces.  In this context, it is worth mentioning that the Israeli occupation forces are still detaining more than 1,600 Palestinians, including about 300 from the Gaza Strip, in Israeli jails.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners, the number of Palestinian prisoners from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in Israeli jails up to December 18, 2000 was 2,014.

       9.         Preventing Residents of the Gaza Strip from Travelling Abroad

In addition to the above restrictions imposed on the movement of Palestinian laborers, farmers, farmers, employees, students and families of prisoners, the Israeli occupation forces have tightened its siege on the Gaza Strip by closing Rafah Border Crossing on December 30, 2000, and Gaza International Airport on January 1, 2001.  Under such closure, the Israeli occupation forces have completely prevented residents of the Gaza Strip from traveling abroad. 

The Israeli occupation forces have also continued to prevent the movement of Palestinians between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip through the Israeli territories.    

     10.       Preventing the Entry of Palestinian Newspapers into the Gaza Strip

The Israeli occupation forces have not excluded any means by which they can violate human right of the Palestinian people. On January 3, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces prevented the entry Palestinian newspapers published in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, into the Gaza Strip.  The major daily newspapers, Al-Quds, Al-Ayyam and Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, are published in Jerusalem and Ramallah. 

 

Conclusion

It seems that lifting the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip by the Israeli occupation forces is not expected in the near future.  Gaza Strip has become like three isolated collective jails.  All its outlets to outside world are closed, the living conditions of its residents are deteriorating and its production sectors, especially agriculture, have stopped.

PCHR reiterates its calls to lift the total siege imposed on the occupied Palestinian territories and to stop all measures of collective punishment taken by the Israeli occupation forces against the Palestinian people, in a violation of internationally accepted human rights standards and the international law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention. 

PCHR calls for lifting the total siege imposed on the occupied Palestinian territories and putting an end to the policy of starving adopted by the Israeli occupation forces against the Palestinian people.

PCHR calls upon international organizations and agencies to exert pressure on the Israeli occupation government to release 3 million Palestinians whom it unjustifiably detains as hostages.  The current situation in the occupied Palestinian territories is the most disastrous since they were occupied by the Israeli occupation forces on June 5, 1967.   

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 to international conventions through:

      (a)        Pressing Israel to lift the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, and to stop its barbarian 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 ICRC, to ensure the access of medical and food assistance to the occupied Palestinian territories under the siege.

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

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

 

“End”

 


 

Annex (1)

A table that shows closures of crossings since Al-Aqsa Intifada

 

The Crossing

Closure

Partially Reopening

Al-Mentar (Karni)

Closed on September 29, 2000

Re-closed on October 8, 2000

Re-closed on November 14, 2000

Re-closed on January 1, 2001

Reopened on October 2, 2000

Reopened on October 10, 2000

Reopened on November 19, 2000

 

Sofa

Closed on October 8, 2000 – now

 

Erez

Closed on October 8, 2000

 

Re-closed on January 1, 2001

Partially reopened for Palestinian laborers on

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

Re-closed on December 18, 2000

 

Re-closed on December 30, 2000

 Reopened on October 10, 2000, with reduced staff

Reopened on October 15, 2000

Reopened on October 19, 2000

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

Partially reopened on November 28, 2000 for one day only

 

 

Reopened on December 19, 2000

Gaza International Airport

Closed on October 8, 2000

Re-closed on October 29, 2000

Re-closed on November 8, 2000

 

Re-closed on January 1, 2001

Reopened on October 15, 2000

Reopened on November 6, 2000

Partially reopened on December 1, 2000

 



[1] For more information see PXHR’s previous Closure Updates.

[2] See the Annex at the end of this report, which shows the closures of crossings since imposing the current total siege on the Gaza Strip by the Israeli occupation authorities.

[3] For information, see reports by PCHR on this subject.