Published on March 22, 2001

CLOSURE UPDATE NO. 34

 

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

 

 

This is the 34th 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, documenting the impacts of such closure.  The Israeli occupation authorities have continued to impose a total siege on the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem and areas of the Palestinian National Authority since September 2000, despite calls by the international community to lift such siege.

 On Thursday, March 8, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces closed the main road between Ramallah and Bir Zeit, isolating the northwestern villages of Ramallah and Al-Bireh governate from the other villages of the governate.  As a result, Palestinian citizens were not able to move freely, and Bir Zeit University students were not able to attend classes at their university.

 Furthermore, on Friday, March 9, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces re-imposed curfew on Hawara village near Nablus, and on Saturday, March 10, 2001, they re-imposed curfew on the part of Hebron under their control.

 In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli occupation forces tightened the siege imposed on Palestinian cities and villages, which refutes all claims by these forces in regard to easing such a siege.  On Monday, March 12, 2001, the Israeli forces concluded establishing an barbwire fence, 80-120m long, on both sides of Al-Shuhada’ (Kissufim) Street.  Similarly, on Tuesday, March 13, 2001, they started to establish a barbwire fence on both sides of a road from Al-Matahen junction on Salah El-Din Street (the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip) up to the coatal road leading to Gush Qatif settlement block in the west.

 Field information indicates that impact of the total siege imposed on the Occupied Palestinian Territories have resulted from continued restrictions on commercial transactions, further deterioration of medical conditions, denial of access to workplaces for thousands of Palestinian laborers, denial of the right of visitation of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, restrictions on the movement of students, and preventing the travel of dozens of Palestinian pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.

 

       1.         Further Deterioration of the Palestinian Economic Sector

 

The Israeli occupation forces claimed that they eased the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, but on the ground, there are still restrictions imposed on movement through commercial crossings.  Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing, one of the major crossings of the Gaza Strip has been closed in the face of commercial transactions since October 8, 2000.  In the past, convoys of trucks loaded with both goods imported through Israeli harbors and goods for export such as agricultural products (e.g. flowers and strawberries).  It was partially reopened for Palestinian laborers several times, but it was finally closed on February 15, 2001.  Furthermore, Rafah Commercial Crossing, which is under the control of the Israeli occupation forces, has been closed to Palestinian traders since October 8, 2000, with the exception of some foodstuffs and medical assistance that are blocked at the crossing.

 

       1)         Reopening Sofa Crossing under New Unjust Israeli Conditions:

 

On Friday, March 16, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces reopened Sofa Crossing under the following conditions:

 

        §          Work at the crossing (transporting aggregate from inside the Green Line to the crossing) shall commence at 7:00 local time and end at 12:30 local time, after it was from 7:00 to 17:00 local time.

        §          Palestinian trucks are not allowed to enter the crossing into the Green Line to bring aggregate.  These trucks are allowed to enter the crossing area only.  They were replaced by Israeli trucks that bring aggregate to the crossing and then Palestinian trucks transport it from the crossing into the Gaza Strip.

        §          The area where aggregate is gathered was reduced from 80 donums to only 20 donums.

        §          The amount of aggregate allowed entry into the Gaza Strip was reduced from 9,000 tons to 7,000 tons only.

        §          The cost of one ton of aggregate has increased from 23 NIS to 65 NIS, including its price and the cost of loading and transportation.

        §          The crossing is still closed to approximately 1,200 Palestinian laborers, who were allowed entry into the Green Line only for three days, February 13, 14 and 15, 2001, and thereafter were denied entry.

 

In regard to internal commercial exchange in the Gaza Strip, it sharply decreased under the siege imposed on the Strip.  Deterioration of the economic sector has resulted in an increase of the rates of unemployment, poverty and purchasing power.  During the major Islamic holiday, 'Eid al Kabir (or greater feast), many people were unable to buy their needs to celebrate it.

 

       2)         A Decrease of Flower Export

 

Commercial flower cultivation was a new vital project that began in the Gaza Strip after the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority.  It has been severely damaged under the current total siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.

 

According to an official Palestinian source, approximately 550 donums of agricultural land in the Gaza Strip are planted with flowers, including 450 donums in Rafah and 100 donums in the northern area of the Strip.  The number of Palestinian farmers working in this field is approximately 120 farmers.  The cost of one donum planted with flowers this season is approximately 24,000 NIS (approximately US$ 6,000).  Revenues of one donum planted with flowers in normal conditions are estimated at approximately 37,000 NIS (approximately US$ 9,250), with a gain of approximately 13,000 NIS (approximately US$ 3,250).

 

The amount of flowers annually exported from the Gaza Strip is estimated at approximately 65 million flowers, according to last year's statistics, when 60 million flowers were exported to England, the Netherlands, Germany and USA, and 1 million were exported to Israeli markets.

 Flowers were loaded on trucks equipped with freezers, which used to pass through Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing to a station inside Israeli, which is owned by the Israeli Gresco Company that exports flowers to Europe.  Since October 2000, after Beit Hnoun (Erez) Crossing was closed, flower export  has occured through Al-Mentar (Karni) Outlet.  Since then, flowers have been transported by trucks equipped with freezers to be transferred to Israeli trucks that transport them to the aforementioned station in Israel.  As a result of this procedure, farmers' losses have increased.  Losses are also attributed to other factors, such as:

 

        §          Approximately 25% of exported flowers damaged, so Palestinian farmers were requested to bear the costs of transporting them to importing countries.  The cost of one flower is estimated at 0.25 NIS, and it is sold with 0.50 NIS.

        §          The cost of flower transportation id high, as Palestinian farmers have to pay 370 NIS (approximately US$ 92) at Al-Mentar (Karni) Outlet, and 700 NIS (approximately US$ 175) to transport them from the Outlet to the station of import inside Israel.

        §          Large amounts of flowers damaged due to closing internal roads between the south and north of the Gaza Strip, as most flower farms are in Rafah.

        §          Large amounts flowers damaged as their transportation was obstructed at Al-Mentar (Karni) Outlet, either for heavy pressure on the Outlet or because of closing the Outlet.

        §          Many Palestinian farmers were not able sometimes to reach their flower farms, due to the ongoing security situation, which obstructed taking care of and cultivating flowers.

        §          Flower package materials were not available due to the siege and other measures adopted by the Israeli occupation forces.

        §          The high price of fertilizers and other agricultural materials.

 

The income of the Gaza Strip from flower export for this season is estimated at approximately US$ 2.5 million, while it was US$ 5 million last year, taking into consideration that the area of agricultural land planted with flowers is the same in the two years.

    

       2.         Continued Restrictions on Internal and External Movement

 

       1)         Restrictions on Free Movement inside the Gaza Strip

 

The Israeli occupation forces have continued to impose an internal siege on Palestinian cities and villages in the Gaza Strip.  They have continued to position their troops on the main roads, threatening the security and safety of Palestinian civilians.  They also close main roads whenever they wish.

 On Friday, February 23, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces closed Salah El-Din Street (the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip) at Al-Shuhada’ (Netzarim) junction, and the coastal road between Gaza City and the middle area of the Gaza Strip.  Under such closure, the Israeli forces prevented the passage of Palestinian cars and citizens through the aforementioned roads, after they put concrete blocks at Al-Shuhada’ (Netzarim) junction, and reinforced their presence on the coastal road with tanks, military vehicles and troops.  Palestinian citizens wishing to move between Gaza City and the middle area of the Strip were forced to walk at the seashore, and sometimes were forced by Israeli soldiers to cross the seawater.

 On Monday, February 26, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces reopened Salah El-Din Street at Al-Shuhada’ (Netzarim) junction and the coastal road.  However, they continued to put military roadblocks and to position tanks and armored vehicles on the main roads of the Gaza Strip.  Palestinian citizens traveling between the north and south of the Gaza Strip have to pass near some settlements and to cross nearby military roadblocks, such as Netzarim and Kfar Darom settlements and Gush Qatis settlement block.  They are often exposed to abuse by the Israeli forces, sometimes including arrest or shooting.

 On Monday, February 26, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces put barriers on the road between Abu Houli military roadblock and Al-Matahen roadblock, where their tanks are positioned.  This resulted in a traffic jam on both directions of the road.

 On Monday, March 12, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces concluded the establishment of a barbwire fence, 80-120m long, on both sides of Al-Shuhada’ (Kissufim) Street, from Salah El-Din Street (the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip) to Kissufim Crossing on the eastern border of the Gaza Strip.  Under this measure, the Israeli forces seized more than 200 donums of Palestinian land, and established five military sites.  Similarly, on Tuesday, March 13, 2001, the Israeli forces established a barbwire fence on both sides of a road between Al-Matahen junction on Salah El-Din Street and the coastal road in the west leading to Gush Qatif settlement block.  Under these measures, the south of the Gaza Strip became isolated from the north.  Palestinians wishing to move between the south and north of the Strip are allowed to do so only through Salah El-Din Street, where they have to endure long waits at two Israeli roadblocks at Al-Matahen and Abu Houli junctions, where tanks are positioned.

 In this context, Palestinian citizens, resident of Rafah and Khan Yunis, expressed their resentment towards such measures, and stated that traveling to Gaza City takes them more than two hours on each direction, in comparison with half an hour before the outbreak of Al-Aqsa Intifada.  As a result, the economic, social, educational and health sectors were negatively affected, since work hours of employees from the southern area of the Gaza Strip were reduced.  These measures also obstructed the access of Palestinian university students to their universities, and the movement of transportation.  According to a Palestinian taxi driver, on Wednesday, February 28, 2001, Israeli occupation forces positioned at Abu Houli junction, denied the passage of vehicles loaded with petrol and gas to Rafah and Khan Yunis.  It is worth mentioning that the Israeli forces have prevented the access of oxygen, gas and fuel to the European Hospital and the southern area of the Gaza Strip for two weeks. 

 Military roadblocks of the Israeli occupation forces have created daily suffering for Palestinian citizens that affected all categories.  The situation has become unbearable due to the continued siege imposed on the Gaza Strip by the Israeli occupation forces.

 

       2)         Restrictions on Free Internal and External Movement of the PLC Members

 

The Israeli occupation forces continued to obstruct the activities of the elected Palestinian legislature.  In this context, the Israeli forces continued to obstruct free movement of the Palestinian Legislative Council between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  Consequently, the P LC was not able to carry out its duties.  Since the outbreak of Al-Aqsa Intifada, the PLC has not been able to hold even one session, in which all members of PLC from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would participate.  Consequently, the PLC was forced to hold separated session in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  It is worth mentioning that PLC Members hold VIP cards of the second category, which should allow them to move freely between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  Instructions on such cards provide that their bearers are VIP’s of the Palestinian National Authority, who should not be checked by the Israeli forces.  They have the right to move freely by his car.  Despite all of this, the Israeli forces obstructed their free movement between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and their travel abroad.

 On Friday, February 23, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces prevented the travel of the Speaker of the Palestinian National Council Salim El-Za’noun, and PCL Members Ibrahim Abu El-Naja, Rawia Al-Shawa, Dalal Salama and Hussam Kahder, to Abu Dhabi, to participate in a periodical meeting of the Arab Parliamentary Union, which was held on Sunday, February 25, 2001.

 On Thursday, March 8, 2001, the Israeli forces prevented the travel of the PNC Speaker Salim El-Za’noun to Egypt through Rafah Border Crossing, on his way to Oman, Cuba amd Chile, despite advanced coordination with the Israeli side.

 On Saturday, March 10, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces prevented PLC Members ‘Abbas Zaki and Marwan Barghouthi from coming to the Gaza Strip to participate in the session of the sixth of the PLC.  It is worth mentioning that this session was the first one in which all PLC Members participated since the outbreak of Al-Aqsa Intifada.

 On Sunday, March 18, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces prevented the travel of the Palestinian Minister of Communication Emad El-Falouji to Egypt, through Rafah Border Crossing, to participate in a conference on information technology.  The Israeli forces claimed that there had not been prior coordination.

 

       3)         Continued Prevention of Free Movement between Palestinian Areas and Traveling abroad

 

Under the current siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, the Israeli occupation forces prevented Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to travel to the West Bank and Jerusalem and abroad, across the Israeli territories.  They also denied the access of Palestinians from the West Bank and Jerusalem to the Gaza Strip.  These measures have been in effect for more than five months.

 These measures negatively impacted thousands of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, including university students, businessmen, official delegations, patients, traders and persons wishing to visit their relatives.

 Under such restrictions, on Friday, March 2, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces prevented the access of Palestinian lawyers from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip to participate in a meeting of the general assembly of the Palestinian Bar Association, in order to hold election.  As a result, the session was canceled due to the lack of quorum.

 On Thursday, March 8, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces prevented the entry of dozens of Palestinians living in Israel into the Gaza Strip to spend the major Islamic holiday, 'Eid al Kabir (or greater feast) with their relatives.  These Palestinians gathered at Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing, condemning such measures.

 

       4)         Continued Closure of Rafah Border Crossing

 

The Israeli occupation forces have closed Rafah Border Crossing since Wednesday, February 14, 2001.  Under this closure, Palestinians have not been able to travel though the Crossing, with the exception of pilgrims and some humanitarian cases, such as patients and students.  On February 20, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces started to allow the entry of returning Palestinian travelers into the Gaza Strip through the crossing.  They also allowed the travel of Palestinians bearing residence permits in other countries, and those who have visit permits, either Palestinian, Arab or foreign, through Rafah Border Crossing.

 On Sunday, March 18, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces re-closed Rafah Border Crossing in the face of travelers, including humanitarian cases, after the Palestinian side rejected Israeli conditions regarding entry of Palestinian employees into the Palestinian wing of the crossing.  The Israeli side had requested that Palestinian employees walk one kilometer on foot, instead of traveling by vehicles.  Rafah Border Crossing was frequently closed very often since the outbreak of Al-Aqsa Intifada, as shown in annexed tables.

 It is worth mentioning that the Palestinian staff at the crossing is still reduced.  Only nine Palestinian employees, including directors of security and civil directors, work at the crossing.  This has resulted in delays for arriving Palestinian travelers, particularly pilgrims arriving over the past two weeks.    

 Furthermore, Rafah Commercial Crossing has been closed since October 8, 2000, with the exception of the entry of a little medical and food assistance, which is blocked at the Israeli side of the Crossing.

 

       5)         Closing Gaza International Airport and Continued Violation of the Right to Free Worship

 

Thousands of Palestinian pilgrims from the Gaza Strip were not able to return to the Gaza Strip through Gaza International Airport as a result of the Israeli closure of  the Airport since Tuesday, February 13, 2001.  Instead, they were forced to resort to Al-Arish Airport in Egypt and then to return through Rafah Border Crossing, which was reopened for traders and some returnees on Tuesday, February 27, 2001.  Palestinian pilgrims endured long waits at Rafah Border Crossing.  According to one pilgrim, they were forced to wait for more than 12 hours to be allowed entry into the Gaza Strip and were forced to stay at busses despite their exhaustion  The Israeli occupation forces also prevented dozens of Palestinians from making the pilgrimage; this includes the families of martyrs who were denied travel, with Israeli siting security claims.

 Furthermore, Palestinian police at Rafah Border Crossing told PCHR’s field officer in Rafah that on Saturday, March 17, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces arrested Haj Seif El-Din Abu Nahel, 21, from Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City.  He was arrested upon his return from Saudi Arabia (through Egypt) where he had accompanied his mother on pilgrimage.

 The Israeli occupation forces also continued to violate the right to free worship through the denial of access to Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to holy sites in Jerusalem.  They also attacked holy places in several areas in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, continuing to shell Al-Nour mosque in Rafah.

 

       6)         A Continued Siege on Al-Mawasi Area in Rafah

 

Since the beginning of October 2000, the Israeli occupation forces have continued to impose a siege on Al-Mawasi area in Rafah.  Palestinian farmers have been prevented from transporting their agricultural products from Al-Mawasi area to Rafah City and from entering cars and agricultural equipment into their area since February 8, 2001.

 Furthermore, the Israeli forces deployed armored vehicles into the area for patrolling, and closed main roads.  Since February 14, 2001, Palestinian fishermen have been prevented from entering the sea up to 120m.  Five fishermen were arrested on this ground, in addition to Khaled Ibrahim ‘Oudeh who was arrested by the Israeli forces on Wednesday, March 13, 2001.

 Residents of Al-Mawasi area were denied their rights to free movement and education; they were also prevented from bringing foodstuffs into the area.  In addition, they were terrified and provoked; some were arrested by the Israeli forces.

 

       3.         Further Deterioration of the Medical Conditions

 

Under the current siege, which includes closing main roads, border crossings and Gaza International Airport, the medical conditions in the Gaza Strip deteriorated.  On Friday, February 23, 2001, Israeli occupation forces positioned at Netzarim roadblock, to the south of Gaza City, denied the passage of an ambulance that transported Talal Hassan Abu ‘Arida, 17, from Rafah, who was critically wounded with a live bullet in the head, to Shifa’ hospital in Gaza City.  The ambulance was forced to travel back to Al-Joneina hospital in Rafah. 

 On Thursday, March 1, 2001, Israeli occupation forces positioned at Abu Houli roadblock, to the south of Deir El-Balah, denied the access of a Palestinian car loaded with, medicine to the European Hospital in Rafah and detained its occupants for several hours and assaulted them.

 According to an official source at the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the disastrous consequences of the current siege are:

 

        §          Obstructing the vaccination of children against diseases.

        §          Denying the access of medical personnel to hospitals and medical centers.

        §          The accumulation of garbage at streets of Palestinian cities and villages, which will inevitably cause diseases.

        §          Obstructing the evacuation of the wounded and patients to hospitals and first medical aid centers by ambulances, which poses danger to the lives of them.

        §          Delaying the passage of cancer patients at roadblocks, and maltreatment and assaults against Palestinian patients at Israeli hospitals.

        §          Obstructing the transfer of the wounded to Arab countries.

        §          Obstructing the entry of medical personnel from Arab countries into the Gaza Strip.

        §          Obstructing the travel of Arab medical personnel who were in Palestine back to their countries.

        §          Obstructing the entry of medicines at Al-Karama Border Crossing in the West Bank.

        §          Delaying the return of the wounded who received treatment in Arab countries to Palestine.

        §          The cancellation of school health programs which provided medical services to more than 500,000 students.

        §          Negative impacts on pregnant care programs.

        §          A shortage of vaccines against tetanus.

 

Furthermore, on the child Abdel-Fattah Jouhar El-Sbakhi, 4, who suffered from enlargement of the heart muscle, and in need for treatment abroad, died at Rafah Border Crossing.  The Israeli occupation forces refused to allow the travel of the child to Palestine hospital in Egypt, accompanied by his father, through the Crossing.  Such measure adopted by the Israeli forces is a blatant violation of human rights. It cannot be justified by any claims by the Israeli forces.

 

       4.         Violation of the Rights to Work and the Increase of the Level of Unemployment

 

       1)         Continued Denial of the Access of Palestinian Laborers to Their Work Places, and an Increase of Unemployment

 

Under the current total siege imposed on the occupied Palestinian territories by the Israeli occupation forces the crisis of Palestinian laborers deteriorates, as thousands of these laborers have not been able to reach their work places in Israel for more than five months.  Under Israeli military occupation, the economic infrastructure of the Gaza Strip was destroyed.  The Strip transformed into a market of labor force for Israel, and the incomes of Palestinian laborers from the Strip in Israel became an essential part of the Palestinian local economy.  It is worth mentioning that Paris Economic Protocol between Palestinians and Israel, signed in 1994 under Oslo Accords, strengthened the dependence of the Palestinian economy on Israel. 

 Under the current siege imposed on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, approximately 25,000 organized Palestinian laborers lost their jobs in Israel, and 2,000 laborers out of 4,200 lost their jobs at Erez industrial zone under security claims.  In addition, thousands of laborers in Palestinian local factories and economic facilities that stopped operation or were demolished by the Israeli occupation forces lost their jobs. According to a recent report by UNSCO, the level of unemployment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories increased to 38% and then to 42%, according to recent information.  The percentage of unemployment in the Gaza Strip became more than 50%.  The number of Palestinians of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip living under poverty increased to reach 50%.  According to the aforementioned report of UNSCO, the number of the poor increased from 650,000 to approximately 1 million.     

 

       2)         Continued Denial of the Access of Palestinian Laborers to Their Work Places inside the Gaza Strip 

 

Although the Israeli occupation forces declared that they eased the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, they continued to position their troops on the main and branch roads leading to Palestinian cities and villages.  Under these measures adopted by the Israeli forces, many Palestinian laborers were not able to reach their work places, both agricultural and industrial.  This was especially the case with factories and farms adjacent to Jewish settlements and at areas of friction with the Israeli occupation forces and Jewish settlers. 

 On Sunday, March 11, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces destroyed two Palestinian factories of concrete in the area between Al-Mentar (Karni) Outlet and Al-Shuhada’ (Netzarim) junction.  The first was owned by Haj Fadhel Hussein.  The Israeli occupation forces demolished and destroyed the following:

 

       1)         a 250-square meter building used as offices for the company;

       2)         two trucks for transporting manufactured concrete and two concrete containers;

       3)         six concrete containers without trucks;

       4)         a car maintenance workshop with its equipment;

       5)         a 1988-made tractor,

       6)         a car equalizer;

       7)         an equipment container;

       8)         a 120-cubic-meter pool that provided the factory with water;

       9)         an electricity generator and the electricity and telephone networks; and

     10)       cement saving tanks.

Losses were estimated at US$ 1 million.

 The other factory was owned by Abu ‘Oudeh El-‘Amawi.  This factory and its equipment were completely destroyed.  Losses were estimated at US$ 55,000.  Israeli occupation forces also had prevented the access of Palestinian laborers to the factories during the past months.

 Furthermore, owners and directors of factories were forced to dismiss many of their laborers,; others gave their laborers non-paid open vacations; and others organized the work of its laborers on a shift system.

 Moreover, military roadblocks of the Israeli occupation forces obstructed the access of Palestinian farmers to their farms, preventing them from caring for their agricultural products, especially at Al-Mawasi area.

 

       3)         A Continued Military Marine Siege

 

The Israeli occupation forces have imposed a military marine siege on the Gaza Strip since February 15, 2001, under which Palestinian fishermen have not been able to work.  It is worth mentioning that hundreds of Palestinian families from Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, Deir El-Balah and Al-Mawasi area in Rafah and Khan Yunis work in the field of fishing and fish trade.  According to Palestinian fishermen from Al-Shati refugee camp, the Israeli occupation forces allow Israeli fishermen to work in these areas.

 Furthermore, the Israeli occupation forces continued to chase and attack Palestinian fishermen, who did not surrender to such measures.  On Wednesday, March 7, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces kidnapped two Palestinian fishermen in Gaza City, taking them to an unknown destination.  They were Ismail Mohammed El-‘Aamoudi, 47, and his son Ayman, 27.

 Although the Israeli occupation forces declared that they eased the marine siege imposed on the Gaza Strip on Thursday, March 14, 2001, Israeli military vessels continued to attack Palestinian fishermen.  On Saturday, March 17, 2001, they arrested two Palestinian fishermen and took them to an unknown destination, and forced another three to leave the sea.  The arrested fishermen were Ahmed Khalil El-Habil and Hassan Ibrahim El-Habil.  According to their families, they were fishing inside the four-mile area of fishing specified by the Israeli occupation forces, and these forces forced them to take off their clothes and remain in underwear when they arrested them.

 

       5)         Continued Violation of the Right to Education

 

The Israeli occupation forces continued to violate the right to education under the current siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.  Military roadblocks of the Israeli occupation forces posed dangerous threats to the security and safety of Palestinian university students.  The number of Palestinian university students from the southern area of the Gaza Strip is approximately 11,000, studying at three universities in Gaza City, and they have to cross military roadblocks of the Israeli occupation forces in order to reach their universities.  In this context, many of these students expressed their fear when they crossed such military roadblocks, and said that they say farewell to their families when they go to their universities.  Others were forced to rent apartments in Gaza City, in order to avoid crossing military roadblocks.  This in turn increased the economic burden on their families. 

 On the other hand, Gazan students studying at universities in the West Bank have been deprived of visiting their families in the Strip, even during the 'Eid al Kabir, due to the current total siege. 

 Furthermore, hundreds of Palestinian students studying abroad were not able to travel to their universities through Rafah Border Crossing.  PCHR’s field officer in Rafah reported that on Tuesday, March 20, 2001, dozens of these students organized a sit-in at Rafah Border Crossing, in protest to continued Israeli closure of the crossing.

 Moreover, the Israeli occupation forces continued to attack Palestinian schools in the Gaza Strip.  On February 25, 2001, these forces shelled Deir El-Balah industrial secondary school and Abdullah Ben Rawaha elementary school, causing severe damage to the two schools.  As a result, instruction at the two schools was interrupted for several days.

 

       6)         Continued Deprivation of Prisoner Visitation Rights

 

Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have been deprived of being visited by their families for more than five months as a consequence of the total siege imposed on the Occupied Palestinian Territories. 

 On February 11, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces established a program for visitation of prisoners, under which visits would take place bimonthly and under specific conditions and timetables.  According to ICRC, in the last two visits, the Israeli occupation forces prevented 200 members of prisoners’ families from visiting their relatives in Israeli jails. 

 It is worth mentioning that the number of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails is approximately 2,250, 300 of whom are from the Gaza Strip, 1,625 are from the West Bank and Jerusalem, 300 are from Palestine areas inside the Green Line and 25 are political prisoners.

 

Conclusion

 The Israeli occupation forces have continued to impose a total siege on the occupied Palestinian territories.  Under the siege, the suffering of the Palestinian people is continuous.  The Gaza Strip has been transferred into three isolated collective jails.  Living conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories have deteriorated on all levels, and their economic, social and cultural rights are violated.

 The policy of collective punishment adopted by the Israeli occupation forces against the Palestinian people is internationally prohibited, and contradicts internationally accepted human rights and the international humanitarian law.

 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 whim 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 calls for:  

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

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

(Three) 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.

(Four)  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.

 (Five)   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 Partial 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

Re-closed in the morning of January 14, 2001

Re-closed on January 15, 2001

Reopened on October 2, 2000

Reopened on October 10, 2000

Reopened on November 19, 2000

Partially reopened January 7, 2001

Partially reopened in the evening of January 14, 2001

Partially reopened on January on January 17, 2001

Sofa

Closed on October 8, 2000

 Re-closed on January 18, 2001

 

Re-closed on February 15, 2001

Reopened on January 17, 2001

Reopened for laborers only on February 12, 2001

Reopened on March 16, 2001

Beit Hanoun (Erez)

Closed on October 8, 2000 – now

 

 

 

Re-closed on January 1, 2001

 

Re-closed on February 4, 2001

 

Re-closed on February 15, 2001

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

Partially reopened for laborers on January 22, 2001

Partially reopened for laborers on February 7, 2001

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

Re-closed on January 14, 2001

Re-closed on January 24, 2001

 

Re-closed on January 31, 2001

Re-closed on February 5, 2001

 

 

 

Re-closed on March 18, 2001

Reopened on October 10, 2000, with reduced staff

Reopened on October 15, 2000

Reopened on October 19, 2000

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

Partially reopened on December 4, 2000

 

 

Reopened on December 19, 2000

Reopened on January 11, 2001

Reopened on January 17, 2001

Partially reopened on January 25, 2001

Reopened on February 1, 2001

Reopened only for pilgrims on February 13, 2001

Reopened for returnees on February 20, 2001

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

 

Re-closed on January 15, 2001

 

Re-closed on January 31, 2001

Re-closed on February 5, 2001

 

Re-closed on February 14, 2001

Reopened on October 15, 2000

Reopened on November 6, 2000

Partially reopened on December 1, 2000

Partially reopened on January 12, 2001

Partially reopened on January 18, 2001

Reopened on February 1, 2001

Reopened only for pilgrims on February 13, 2001

 


“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)