Published on May  30, 2001

 

CLOSURE UPDATE NO. 36

 

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

 

 

 

[PCHR sincerely apologises for the delay in publishing the English version of this report]

 

 

For the eight consecutive month, Israeli occupation forces maintained a siege on the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), including PNA-controlled areas.  Israeli occupation forces kept Gaza  International Airport closed, in addition to closing Beit Hanoun (“Erez”) crossing in the Gaza Strip, and prohibiting  the movement of Palestinians between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  In addition, Israeli occupation forces occasionally closed Al-Karama/Allenby crossing between West Bank and Jordan.  Moreover, Israeli occupation forces still blocked the main roads between Palestinian villages and cities and restricted the movement of Palestinians, through checkpoints and existing roadblocks.

 

This series documents the impact of the closure imposed by Israeli occupation forces on the Gaza Strip.  Israeli occupation forces continue to restrict movement through Salah El-Din road, the main traffic artery between the north and the south of Gaza Strip, while keeping all bypass roads closed.  As a result, Israeli occupation forces have complete control over the movement of Palestinians between the cities and villages of Gaza Strip.  The closure was accompanied by a number of measures against civilians, including killings, leveling of land, house demolition, and shelling of Palestinian economic, security, and civil institutions.

 

Despite the “cease-fire,” Israeli occupation forces still practice in practices targeting the Palestinian economy.  Since the “cease-fire” until this time, Israeli occupation forces have attacked and shelled Khan Yunis city, and Block “O” in Rafah.  In addition, Israeli forces have shelled many industrial establishments in Gaza Strip, as well as occupying many houses and forcing their inhibitions to leave.

 

As result of the aforementioned policies, the economic and social situation of the Palestinians has been worsened.  The Palestinian Centre for Human rights, through its 36th special update a series on the Israeli closure of Gaza Strip, documents the latest developments as regards to the economic and social impacts of the closure on Palestinians.  This report covers the following areas:

 

  1. Continued restrictions on the Free Flow of Trade

  2. Overall Economic Impact of the Closure

  3. Access of Palestinian Labourers to Jobs in Israel

  4. Continued Military Marine Siege

  5. Continued Restrictions on Internal Movement

  6. The Ongoing Situation in Al-Mawasi Area

  7. Denial of the Right to Education

 

1. Continued Restrictions on the Free Flow of Trade

 

Israeli occupation forces maintain a comprehensive closure of and siege on the Gaza Strip.  This includes the closure of all border crossings connecting the Gaza Strip with the outside world, including Gaza International Airport, Beit Hanoun (“Erez”) crossing, and Rafah border.  In addition, it continued to restrict work at Sofia and Al-Mentar trade crossings.  These measures have destroyed the trade sector, and other Palestinian economic sectors.

Al-Mentar and Sofia Crossings

Work conditions at Al-Mentar and Sofia trade crossings have not changed since the reopening of these crossings.  Al-Mentar trade crossing has been closed since the beginning of Al-Aqsa Intifada, negatively influencing trade, and stopping the entry of raw materials used for construction.

 

Moreover, Israeli occupation forces have stopped work according to the convoy system under which Palestinians trucks passed through Erez checkpoint and Al-Mentar crossing.  Before March 2001, approximately 450 trucks passed through Al-Mentar every day, in addition to 120 passing through Erez.  Between 180 and 200 trucks brought imports into the Gaza strip, while the rest were used for export.  In addition, the crossing was kept open for six days every week instead of five, open from 08:00 to 19:00.  It is important to note that even before the Al-Aqsa Intifada, Palestinian trucks never crossed into Israel as such, but rather offloaded their materials at the checkpoint, which were then placed onto Israeli trucks waiting at the crossing.  Israeli occupation forces arbitrarily close the crossing for hours or days at a time, especially if traffic is high.  These delays cause damage to the produce waiting to be shipped.

 

At Sofia crossing, the situation has not changed, except for an increase in the quantity of some raw materials for construction (primarily aggregate) allowed through.  In March 2001, 700 tons of aggregate were allowed through per day; in April 2001, the number increased to between 2,500 and 3,000 tons.  Israel occupation forces reopened the crossing on Friday, 16 March 2001 under new conditions:

 

1.      The transfer of aggregate from Israel to the Gaza strip through the crossing can only be carried out between 07:00 and 12:30, instead of until 17:00.

2.      Palestinian trucks are forbidden to pass through the crossing into Israel in order to collect aggregate.  Palestinian trucks are now allowed only to approach the crossing, but not to cross the Green Line.

3.      The area in Israel from which aggregate could be collected was decreased from 80 donums to 20 donums, a decrease of some 75%.

4.      The quantity of aggregate allowed to enter the Gaza strip through Sofia was decreased from 9,000 tons to 700 tons per day, a decrease of over 90%.

5.      The fees paid to Israeli trucks to transport aggregate to the crossing increased from 23 NIS to 65 NIS per ton, and increase of nearly 200%.  This includes the price of aggregate per ton and the cost of transportation and loading.

6.      The crossing will remain closed to the 1,200 Palestinian workers who used to pass through Sofia.  During the entire Intifada, these workers have only been allowed through on three days, from 13 to 15 February 2001 (Sofia was later reopened for Palestinian workers on 24 May 2001).

 

Rafah Border and Gaza International Airport

Gaza international airport has remained closed by Israeli occupation forces since 14 February 2001.  Rafah border has been reopened to commercial transactions.

 

Since the beginning of April, the movement of commerce was allowed through the crossing but restrictive security measures dramatically slowed the process to the point where only one or two trucks were allowed through per day.  On 14 May 2001, Israeli occupation forces forbade Palestinian trucks from transporting commercial goods from Egypt to the Gaza strip after Israeli officials cited security concerns.  On 27 May 2001, Israeli occupation forces re-closed Rafah border to commercial transactions for a Jewish holiday.  Many medical supplies intended for the Palestinian people continued to be held up at the crossing, in addition to commercial goods.

 

 

2. Overall Economic Impact of Closure

 

A report by the Palestinian Finance Ministry about the overall economic impact of Israeli actions, including closure, destruction of land and factories, etc. estimated the losses at $US 4.43 billion from the start of the Intifada until mid-April 2001.  The following table details these losses (in millions of US dollars):

 

Activity

Sector

Losses

Estimated Outcome

Sectors of Production

Agriculture

 

224

325

Water, electricity, industry

329

955

Commercial establishments

315

635

Wholesale merchandise

161

583

Transportation

103

210

Financial institutions

22

157

Public administration

131

477

Social services

292

1,060

Tourism

422

850

External commerce[1]

888

1,775

Total

2,887

7,022

Loss of National Wealth

Agriculture

167

 

Buildings and houses

155

 

Industrial establishments

83

 

Infrastructure

71

 

Means of transportation

40

 

Opportunity cost of investment

123

 

Total

639

 

Additional burdens

Health

169

 

Security

147

 

Social services

75

 

Education

28

 

Cost of imports due to closure

47

 

 

Supply

26

 

Infrastructure

62

 

Assistance for workers

78

 

Total

632

 

Revenues held by Israel

 

190

 

Continued financial penalty from assisting families of those killed, disabled, imprisoned

 

80

 

Total losses

 

4,428

 

 

 

3. Access of Palestinian Labourers to Jobs in Israel

 

From 27 March to 17 May, 5,935 Palestinian workers from the OPT were eventually granted permission allowed to reach their jobs in Israel.  Before the closure, approximately 24,000 Gazans worked in Israel.  These Palestinians work primarily in agriculture, service industry, and construction.  Those allowed in had to be over 35 years old and to have more than one son.  The following table details labour permits from 27 March to 17 May:

 

Governate

Agriculture

Service

Industry

Construction

Total

Jabalya

341

63

220

872

1,496

Gaza

266

254

381

1,058

1,958

Deir el-Balah

231

66

161

396

854

Khan Yunis

289

62

158

530

968

Rafah

289

29

87

253

658

Total

1,345

474

1,007

3,109

5,935

 

Despite the permission given, only a few Palestinians actually arrived at work due to arbitrary measures by Israeli occupation forces at the checkpoints.  One Palestinian worker said in an affidavit that the time needed to get to Erez from Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza strip, is more than three hours and that he must leave in the night in order to pass through a number of checkpoints on Salah el-Din road, which connects the northern and southern parts of the Gaza strip.  Furthermore, he must wait at Erez for the soldiers to allow him to cross, which can take an additional 2-3 hours.  All of this is repeated on the return back.

 

The number of Palestinian workers who arrived at their work places on 17 May is estimated at 3,780 among the 5,935 who had been notionally granted permission.  Israeli occupation forces allowed approximately 3,122 Palestinian workers in the Erez industrial zone at the border.  The number of Palestinian workers with jobs in the industrial zone is approximately 4,000.

 

 

4. Continued Military Marine Siege

 

There has been no improvement in the situation of the Palestinian fishing industry for over a month.  Israel occupation forces allow Palestinian fishermen to fish within only three miles of the coastline despite stating that they can do so up to six miles into the sea.  This distance is insufficient for Palestinian fishermen to move freely, especially as April and May are the high fishing season in the Gaza strip.  These restrictions will have a disastrous impact on the Palestinian fishing industry.  Many families from Al-Shati camp and Deir el-Balah and Al-Mawasi depend on fishing as a basic source of income.  Under the conditions of the siege, Palestinian fishermen are unable to support their families.

 

Moreover, Israeli occupation forces are still preventing Palestinian fishermen from the Khan Yunis/Mawasi area, since the beginning of the Intifada, from accessing the sea.  Since mid-May, Israeli military vessels have continuously followed fishermen’s boats and prevented fishing even in the allowed areas, often damaging fishermen’s nets and shooting at trawlers.  As a result, Palestinian fishermen have suffered enormous losses.  In addition to these measures, Israeli occupation forces continue to arrest Palestinian fishermen and impose financial penalties on them.

 

On 12 May, Israel occupation forces have arrested a number of Palestinian fishermen in the northern part of the Gazan coast, near Al-Shati refugee camp.  These fishermen are:

1.      Jawad Mahmoud il-`Amoudi, 30, from al-Shati camp

2.      ‘Ala Fouad il-Habil, 24, from al-Shati camp

3.      Mohammed Bakar, 25, from al-Rimaal neighbourhood, Gaza city

 

On 13 May, an Israeli military vessel stopped a number of Palestinian fishing boats, searching and checking the identities of those on board.  Afterwards, Israeli occupation forces arrested three of the fishermen:

1.      Mohammed Raghib Faris Bakar, 31, from el-Rimaal neighbourhood, Gaza city

2.      Khalid Raghi Faris Baker, 22, from el-Rimaal neighbourhood, Gaza city

3.      Eyad Suleiman Abu Riyala, 32, from al-Shati camp

 

 

5. Continued Restrictions on Internal Movement

 

Israeli occupation forces continue to restrict Palestinians from moving between cities and towns inside the Gaza strip.  Salah el-Din street, the main traffic artery connecting the northern and southern parts of the Gaza strip, is still closed and Israeli military checkpoints and roadblocks remain.  As a result, Palestinians are unable to move freely and they are unable to move at night.  Students are often unable to reach schools located near flashpoints of violence.  They usually have to pass through many military checkpoints such as at al-Tuffah, Tal al-Sultan, Deir el-Balah (near “Kfar Darom” settlement), and al-Shuhada’ (Netzarim).  In addition, many farmers have been unable to work their fields.  PNA employees have also been affected by delays in commutes, impacting on the ability of PNA institutions and services to function effectively.

 

 

6. Ongoing Situation in Al-Mawasi area

 

Israeli occupation forces at Al-Tuffah checkpoint, east of Khan Yunis refugee camp, have prevented more than 15 civilians from returning home to Al-Mawasi, citing security justifications.  Faiz Mohammed Ahmad Shat, a board member of Al-Mawasi People’s Society, affirmed that Israeli occupation forces at the border of Al-Mawasi areas established concrete bunkers in which Israeli soldiers used a computer to check the identities of people entering Al-Mawasi.  He added that on 10 May, while en route to his home in Al-Mawasi, he was informed by the soldier checking his identity that he was not allowed to enter the area.  He added that another 15 Palestinians from Al-Mawasi were not allowed to arrive to their homes due to “security concerns.”

 

 

7. Denial of the Right to Education

 

From the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, Israeli occupation forces have continued to violate the right to education.  These include the killing and injury of students, shelling of schools, arresting students, and denying them access to educational institutions.  On 9 June, examinations for general secondary schools will be held under strict and unprecedented conditions that violate the right to education.  Despite preparations of the Ministry of Education for these examinations, PCHR is deeply concerned about measures by Israeli occupation forces that might influence the right of students to reach their classes and take their exams.

 

In addition, teachers have been unable to arrive at their workplaces due to the closure.  Suleiman Abdullah Ali Mustafa, head teacher at the Grier School Al-Mawasi/Khan Yunis asserted that on 10 May that when he arrived with a number of teachers at Al-Tuffah checkpoint on their way to work that they were subjected to searches by Israeli occupation forces and were subsequently informed that they were not allowed to enter Al-Mawasi.  These teachers are:

1.      Suleiman Eyadi Iyad Abu Mass’oud

2.      Abdel `Aziz Ayyash Abdel `Aziz Safi

3.      Salim Mustafa `Eid Abu-Arram

4.      Hamada Abdel-Majid Yusuf El-Zatmah

5.      Atyiah Ahmad Salimi Abu Ajaaj

6.      Anwar `Azmi Mohammad Shekshek

 

After a long argument with the Israeli soldiers, the head teacher was allowed to pass but the other six were barred.  The head teacher affirmed that the classes could not proceed due to the absence of the other teachers and that many students could not receive their lessons that day.

 

 

Conclusion

 

The total siege on the West Bank and the Gaza strip maintained by Israeli occupation forces constitute a form of collective punishment are illegal under international humanitarian law and international human rights law.  The Gaza Strip has effectively been transformed into three giant collective jails, and living conditions have deteriorated in all sectors.

 

PCHR calls for a lift of the total siege imposed on the OPT and for an end to the policy of applying economic pressure and collective punishment against the Palestinian people.

 

PCHR further calls for:

 

  1. The international community to pressure to Israel to lift the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, and to stop its aggression against the Palestinian people and their property

  2. The provision of immediate medical and humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people, whose living conditions have been increasingly deteriorating under the siege

  3. The immediate activation of mechanisms of intervention by the UN and its agencies, and the ICRC, to ensure access of medical and food assistance to the areas of the OPT affected by the siege

  4. The international community to oblige Israel to respect international conventions and comply with UN Security Council Resolutions, especially 242 and 338, which call for a complete Israeli withdrawal from the OPT to the 1967 borders

  5. Effective measures by the EU, under Article 2 of the Euro-Israel Association Agreement, which provides that Israel must respect human rights


 


[1] External commerce is estimated at $US 1.78 billion, of which 70% are remittances from Palestinians working in Israeli in addition to aid from donor countries and foreign direct investment.  These activities have been largely halted since October 2001.  The estimated losses until mid-April 2001 are approximately $US 888 million, including $US 570 million in labour income.