Published on June 9, 2001

 

CLOSURE UPDATE NO. 37

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

 

Since June 2, 2001, the Israeli occupation authorities have tightened the total siege imposed on the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  They have closed all border crossings and some entrances to Palestinian cities and villages, effectively interning more than 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  Jerusalem has been isolated from the rest of the West Bank as all roads leading to it have been closed.  In the West Bank, the Israeli occupation forces blocked main and secondary roads between Palestinian cities and villages.  They have also established roadblocks and checkpoints on these roads to restrict the movement of Palestinians.

 In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli occupation forces have closed all border crossings, prohibiting movement between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  They have also restricted internal movement.  They have restricted movement across Al-Tuffah roadblock between Khan Yunis and its Al-Mawasi area, and through Salah El-Din Street (the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip).

 Under these measures, Palestinians have been denied entry into Israel.  Palestinian senior officials have not been immune to these measures.  Palestinian laborers have been denied access to their work places in Israel, and import to and export from the Gaza Strip of goods have been halted.

 On Wednesday, June 6, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces allowed access of Palestinian laborers to their work places in Erez industrial zone in the northern Gaza Strip.  They also allowed the entry of foodstuffs and fuels into the Gaza Strip.

 The Israeli occupation authorities have systematically adopted a policy of total closure against more than 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in contravention of international humanitarian law.

 This is the 37th 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.  The series documents the impacts of the closure on the economic and social conditions in the Gaza Strip.  This update covers the following:

 

 

1.    Closure of All Border Crosssings

 

1)    Al-Mentar (Karni) Outlet

 

All commercial transactions of the Gaza Strip have been halted under recent measures taken by the Israeli occupation forces.  These forces have closed all border crossings of the Gaza Strip.  On Saturday, June 2, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces closed Al-Mentar (Karni) Outlet in the afternath of a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.  As a result, all commercial transactions through the outlet stopped, causing further deterioration of the economic conditions in the Gaza Strip.  It is worth mentioning that approximately 340 Palestinian trucks transport goods to the outlet daily.  Israeli forces claimed to have allowed the import of foodstuffs into the Gaza Strip on June 6, 2001.  However, the forces actually denied the export of fruits from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank while allowing the entry of some Israeli exports into the Gaza Strip.  The Palestinians rejected this trade arrangement, and the outlet was closed later that day.

 

2)   Sofa Crossing

 The Israeli occupation authorities re-closed Sofa Crossing, northeast of Rafah, prohibiting the access of approximately 1,200 Palestinian laborers to their work places in Israel.  It is worth mentioning that the Israeli occupation authorities reopened this crossing for Palestinian laborers on May 24, 2001.  As a result of closing the crossing, the entry of construction raw materials into the Gaza Strip completely stopped.  The Israeli occupation authorities had allowed the entry of aggregate and base course on Friday, March 16, 2001, under unfavorable conditions which resulted in an increase of the price of one ton of aggregate from 35 NIS (approximately US$ 8.50) to 85 NIS (approximately US$ 21).  They allowed the entry of 2,500 tons of aggregate instead of 9,000.  Consequently, construction in the Gaza Strip was significantly set back, and many concrete processing facilities stopped operation.  In addition, some projects administered by municipalities and other institutions were halted.

 

3)  Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing

 On June 2, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces sustained the closure of Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing.  The Israeli occupation forces have kept the crossing closed since October 8, 2000, thus denying entry of approximately 120 Palestinian trucks.  Consequently, Palestinian traders suffered large losses as their goods were blocked in Israeli harbors.

 Furthermore, 6,392 Palestinian laborers who obtained work permits before May 24, 2001 were denied access to their work places in Israel, as the Israeli occupation authorities cancelled these permits.  The Israeli occupation forces also denied passage of Palestinians, including senior PNA officials holding VIP cards, through the crossing.

 On June 2, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces closed Erez industrial zone in the northern Gaza Strip, denying access of 3,480 Palestinian laborers to their work places.  On June 6, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces partially reopened the industrial zone, allowing the access of 1,300 Palestinian laborers to their work places.

 

4)   Continued Closure of Gaza International Airport and Re-closing Rafah Border Crossing

 The Israeli occupation forces have continued the closure of Gaza International Airport since Tuesday, February 13, 2001.  On June 2, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces closed Rafah Border Crossing, prohibiting travel from and into the Gaza Strip.  The crossing had been operated partially from 08:00 to 15:00 local time daily.

 Thousands of Palestinians who had traveled abroad before the crossing was closed were not able to come back to the Gaza Strip.  They were blocked at the Egyptian side of the crossing.  On June 6, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces allowed entry of some of these travelers into the Gaza Strip, but on June 8, 2001, the crossing was re-closed.

 As a result of the closures of all crossings in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian economy has suffered large losses.  According to a report by the Palestinian Ministry of Finance, losses of the Palestinian industry are estimated at US$ 1.64 million daily since Palestinian factories mainly depend on raw materials imported from other countries through Israeli harbors.  Many of these factories stopped operating.

 Palestinian agriculture has also suffered large losses, estimated at US$ 1.12 million daily, according to a report by the Palestinian Ministry of Finance.  Agricultural exports from the Gaza Strip have been halted.  The impacts of the current closure on Palestinian agriculture can be summed up as follows:

 

Under the current total siege, the Palestinian transportation sector has also suffered large losses.  Thousands of Palestinian lorries and trucks have been denied access to crossings.  Under the internal siege, thousands of taxis and buses have not been working as usual.  According to a report by the Palestinian Ministry of Finance, the loss of transportation is estimated at US$ 520,000, before the recent closure.  It is worth mentioning that 4.8% of the Palestinian labor force work in the field of transportation.

 

2.   Continuation of the Military Marine Siege

 On June 2, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces imposed a total marine siege on the Gaza Strip.  The Israeli occupation forces had already limited entry of Palestinian boats into the Mediterranean Sea to 3 miles instead of 20.  This distance is not sufficient for fishermen to move freely during fishing season in the Gaza Strip during the months of April and May.  If Israeli measures against fishermen continue for much longer, fishermen may join the thousands of Palestinian families living on humanitarian assistance.

 Since the middle of May 2001, Israel gunboats have chased Palestinian fishermen and obstructed their work.  Israeli occupation forces have cut nets and fired at boats. The Israeli occupation forces also kidnapped a number of Palestinian fishermen only dozens of meters away form the seashore.

 It is worth mentioning that hundreds of Palestinian families from Al-Shati refugee camp, Deir El-Balah and Al-Mawasi area earn their living primarily from the fish industry.  Israeli forces chase fishermen who exceed the fishing limits, attack them and confiscate their nets and boats.  On the other hand, according to Palestinian fishermen from Al-Shati refugee camp, the Israeli occupation forces allowed Israeli fishermen to fish in the sea of the Gaza Strip.

 

3.  Continuation of Restrictions on Freedom of Movement

 The Israeli occupation forces have continued to close Salah El-Din Street (the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip) and all alternative roads.  On June 2, 2001, Israeli occupation forces, positioned at military roadblocks on roads of the Gaza Strip, restricted movement of Palestinians.  At Al-Matahen junction, north of Khan Yunis, the Israeli occupation forces divided the main road into two tracks, allowing movement of Palestinian cars on one track only.

 Furthermore, Palestinian employees from the southern Gaza Strip complain of Israeli measures at military roadblocks which obstruct their travel to Gaza City.  Traveling between Rafah and Gaza City takes more than two hours, so those employees arrive at their institutions very late.  This has negative impacts on social, educational and medical services offered to citizens by these institutions.  UNRWA personnel have not been immune to these measures.  On June 5, 2001, Palestinians had to wait for 4 hours at Israeli roadblocks to be allowed to travel back to their homes in Rafah and Khan Yunis.

 A Continued Siege on Al-Mawasi Area in Rafah and Khan Yunis

 On June 1, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces tightened the siege imposed on Al-Mawasi area since the beginning of October 2000.  Palestinian farmers have been prevented from transporting their agricultural products from Al-Mawasi area to the two cities and from entering cars and agricultural equipment into the area.  The Israeli occupation forces also fortified their military sites and observation towers in the area.

 The Israeli occupation forces established a new military roadblock approximately 70m away from Al-Tuffah roadblock, between Khan Yunis and Al-Mawasi area.  Palestinians going to Al-Mawasi area have to wait until Israeli soldiers call through loudspeakers for them to move forward.  Israeli soldiers very often insult Palestinians at this roadblock.  Palestinians are allowed to cross the roadblock only in groups of at least 5 persons.  Palestinians have also to undergo identity checks and body searches.

 

4.  Denial of the Import of Fuels

 On June 2, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces denied the entry of fuels into the Gaza Strip.  On June 6, 2001, they claimed that they allowed the entry of fuels into the Gaza Strip again, but facts on the ground contradicted this claim.  Israeli occupation soldiers, positioned at Nahal ‘Ouz Crossing, east of Gaza City, prevented Israeli trucks from unloading fuels into fuel tanks in the area, leaving a shortage of fuels in the Gaza Strip.  As a result of this collective punishment policy, approximately 2,000 Palestinians working in this sector and 10,000 working in the transportation sector will lose their jobs.  Furthermore, many factories and workshops will stop operating due to the lack of fuels.  Hospitals and ambulances will not be able to carry out their duties as usual.

 

5.  Denial 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. Approximately 50% of university students and 60% of university employees are from the southern Gaza Strip, while most universities are in Gaza City.  Those students were often unable to reach their universities under such conditions.  Israeli measures also coincide with final exams at universities.

 On the other hand, Gazan students studying at universities in the West Bank have been prevented from visiting their families in the Strip. 

 

6.  Denial of the Right to Free Access to the Holy Sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem

 June 4, 2001 was the occasion of the birth of Prophet Mohammed.  Palestinian Muslims usually celebrate the occasion at mosques.  This year, they were unable to celebrate it at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem due to the total siege imposed on the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  It is worth mentioning that Muslims from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank have been denied access to Jerusalem since September 29, 2000.

 On the other hand, Palestinian residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been prevented from praying at Al-Haram Al-Sharif (the Holy Sanctuary).

 

7.   Continued Prevention of Visitation of Palestinian Prisoners

 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have been deprived of being visited by their families since September 29, 2000, as a consequence of the total siege imposed on the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Lawyers from the Gaza Strip have not been able also to visit Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. This has a negative psychological effect on the prisoners that is exacerbated by the hard and inhuman conditions of detention.

 It is worth mentioning that the number of prisoners in Israeli jails is approximately 2,250, 300 of whom are from the Gaza Strip, 1,625 of whom are from the West Bank and Jerusalem, 300 of whom are from Palestine areas inside the Green Line, and 25 of whom are Arab 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 continues.  The Gaza Strip has been transformed into a series of jails of sorts.  Living conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories have deteriorated on all levels, and the economic, social and cultural rights of Palestinians have been violated.

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

 PCHR calls for a lift of the total siege imposed on the occupied Palestinian territories and for an end to the policy of harsh restrictions adopted by the Israeli occupation forces against the Palestinian people.

 The current situation in the occupied Palestinian territories is the most serious it has been since they were occupied by the Israeli occupation forces on June 5, 1967.  PCHR calls for:  

 

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

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

        (c)     Activating mechanisms of immediate intervention by the UN and its agencies, and 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 during Al-Aqsa Intifada

 

 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

Re-closed on June 2, 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 17, 2001

Partially reopened on June 6, 2001 

Sofa

Closed on October 8, 2000

 Re-closed on January 18, 2001

 

Re-closed on February 15, 2001

 

Re-closed on June 2, 2001

Reopened on January 17, 2001

Reopened for laborers only on February 12, 2001

Reopened on March 16, 2001

Reopened for laborers on May 24, 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

 

Re-closed on April 17, 2001

Completely re-closed on June 2, 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

Partially reopened for laborers on March 27, 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

Re-closed on April 25, 2001

Re-closed in the face of traders on May 27, 2001

Re-closed completely on June 2, 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

Partially reopened on March 24, 2001

Reopened on April 25, 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)