Published 6 April 2002

 

CLOSURE UPDATE NO. 41

 

A Report by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

 on the Closure Imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip

 

This is the 41st in a series of updates published by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights on the closure imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip.  For the 19th consecutive month, Israeli occupation forces have maintained a total siege on the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).  In the past two weeks, Israeli occupation forces have launched a full-scale offensive on Palestinian National Authority (PNA)-controlled areas in Ramallah, al-Bireh, Tulkarm, Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, Nablus, and Jenin.  They have isolated PNA President Yasser Arafat in his office in Ramallah, severely limiting his access to electricity, water, and food, as well as his communication with the outside world.  They have also attacked ambulances and medical personnel, preventing them from carrying out their humanitarian mission to offer medical help to the wounded.  Journalists have also not been immune to Israeli attacks.  Israeli occupation forces have attacked journalists, preventing them from carrying out their jobs in revealing violations of human rights, including war crimes, perpetrated against Palestinian civilians.  Israeli forces also attacked Islamic and Christian holy sites and educational institutions.  In the Gaza Strip, Israeli occupation forces have tightened the siege imposed on towns, villages and refugee camps.  They have closed all crossings, prohibiting movement of persons and goods.

 

The Gaza strip remained almost entirely shut off from the outside world, with Gaza international airport closed since February 2001 and the ongoing closure of Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing in the north.  Israeli occupation forces have blocked Salah al-Din road, the main traffic artery between the northern and southern parts of the Gaza strip, while closing all bypass routes, thus impeding movement between Palestinian towns.

 

Israeli occupation forces also continue to restrict trade and other movement of goods, severely damaging the economy.  Nearly all Gazans with jobs in Israel have been unable to reach their workplaces since the beginning of the Intifada.  Israeli occupation forces maintain a military marine siege on Palestinian fishermen, preventing many fishermen from doing their work.  Meanwhile, travelers stuck at the Rafah border crossing during frequent closures also suffer from long waits, up to days at a time.

 

The Israeli policy of closure is a form of collective punishment against Palestinian civilians as part of a systematic approach adopted by Israeli decision-makers to “pressure” Palestinians in the OPT.  It constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law (collective punishment is prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention) and violates the freedom of movement.  It also violates the Interim Agreements signed between the PLO and the Israeli government, which emphasize free movement at crossings.  The policy of closure has had a disastrous impact on economic, social, and cultural conditions in the OPT, and constitutes a violation of Palestinian human rights.  In this update, PCHR reports on the latest impact of the total siege on the economic, social and cultural conditions in the Gaza Strip.

 

 

The Interim Agreements between the PLO and the Israeli government gave control over all border crossings and outlets of the OPT to Israel.  Israeli occupying forces have repeatedly closed Rafah Border Crossing since the outbreak of Al-Aqsa Intifada. They have also closed Gaza International Airport and the “Safe Passage” linking the West Bank with the Gaza Strip.

 

 

Israeli authorities have continued to restrict the movement of Gazans through Rafah Border Crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.  The crossing has been repeatedly closed during Al-Aqsa Intifada.  On Sunday, 3 March, Israeli occupation forces closed the crossing, preventing thousands of people, including pilgrims, from traveling from and into the Gaza Strip.  The crossing was reopened on the following day.  However, Israeli occupation authorities again closed the crossing on Friday, 15 March, until Sunday, 17 March.  Hundreds of Palestinians returning to the Gaza Strip were blocked at the Egyptian side of the crossing, forced to wait under severe conditions.

 

On Thursday, 28 March, Israeli occupation authorities closed the crossing again and reopened it on Saturday, 30 March.  Only 600 Palestinian travelers were able to cross that day, since the Gaza Strip was under a very strict siege

 

 

Residents of the Gaza Strip have been denied the right to travel to the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem, as Israeli occupation forces have closed the “Safe Passage” linking the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada.  This measure violates the Interim Agreements signed between the PLO and the Israeli government, which emphasize that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip should be treated as one unit and ensure save passage between the two areas through four routes.

 

 

On 3 March, Israeli occupation forces closed Salah al-Din Street (the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip) and all alternative roads.  They divided the Gaza Strip into three separate zones (northern area, middle area, southern area).  Israeli military roadblocks between and inside Palestinian areas obstructed movement of people in the Gaza Strip.  Israeli forces also isolated al-Mawasi area in Rafah and Khan Yunis and al-Sayafa area in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip from the rest of the strip.  Under these measures, more than 1 million people in the Gaza Strip have been placed in a series of collective jails.

 

Schoolchildren were not able to attend classes located beyond Israeli military roadblocks.  Farmers in several areas were unable to reach their farms to cultivate crops.  In addition, Palestinian workers from the southern Gaza Strip with jobs in Gaza city faced long and difficult commutes due to Israeli military roadblocks. Traveling between the southern Gaza Strip to Gaza City takes long hours (as opposed to half an hour without roadblocks), incurring major delays.  This has had a negative impact on social, educational and medical services offered to citizens by these institutions.

 

The Gaza Strip has been under an unprecedented strict internal siege.  According to PCHR’s documentation, on Thursday, 17 January, Palestinian civilians were subjected to humiliation by Israeli occupation forces at Israeli military roadblock in the middle Gaza Strip.  On Saturday, 26 January, Israeli forces closed al-Shuhada’ junctions, south of Gaza City, and military roadblocks in the middle of the Gaza Strip, preventing movement of persons and cars.  On Friday, 1 February, Palestinian civilians were subject to strict checking by Israeli forces at military roadblocks.  On Wednesday, 6 February, Israeli forces closed Abu Houli military roadblock, dividing the Gaza Strip into two separated zones.  Israeli soldiers, accompanied by two tanks and police dogs, were deployed at the two sides of the roadblock.  All cars that crossed the roadblock were subject to thorough searches.  As a result, the roadblock experienced enormous traffic congestion.  The roadblock was reopened on the following day.  Throughout January, Israeli forces repeatedly closed the roadblock.

 

On Friday, 8 February, Palestinian civilians were humiliated and checked by Israeli forces at military roadblocks.  On Sunday afternoon, 10 February, Israeli occupation forces closed Abu Houli roadblock, al-Shuhada’ junction and the coastal road.  On Monday and Tuesday, 18 and 19 February, Israeli occupation forces closed all military roadblocks, dividing the Gaza Strip into three separated zones.  On Monday, 25 February, Israeli forces closed Abu Houli roadblock from 14:30 to 17:00 and insulted and checked Palestinian civilians.  Since 3 March, Israeli occupation forces have imposed an unprecedented strict internal siege on the Gaza Strip, dividing it into three isolated zones.

 

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

 

Israeli occupation forces have continued to impose a strict siege on Al-Mawasi area since the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000.  Al-Mawasi is categorized under the interim agreements between the PLO and Israel as area B, i.e. under Israeli military control.  Palestinians living in the area, of whom there are approximately 15,000, live under extremely tight restrictions, which also apply to the entry of foodstuffs into the area and access to schools and farms.  It takes residents of the areas several hours to cross Israeli military roadblocks and checkpoints.  Palestinians living outside the area are prohibited from entering.  Israeli forces have assigned numbers to residents of the area numbers to be added to their identity cards and prevented without such numbers from entering the area.  Women from the area married to men living outside the area cannot visit their families.

 

On Thursday, 28 March, Israeli occupation forces closed al-Tuffah ceckpoint, separating al-Mawasi area in Khan Yunis from the rest of the town.  They denied movement from and into the area.  Farmers were not able to reach their farms, and dozens of residents of the area who were in Khan Yunis were not able to go back home.

 

On Friday morning, 8 March, Israeli occupation forces imposed a curfew on al-Mawasi area.  Residents of the area were perverted from leaving their homes or to move to other areas of the Gaza Strip.  This caused further deterioration to the living conditions and economic and social rights of people in the area.  Israeli forces claimed that the curfew on 15000 Palestinian civilians is to ensure security for hundreds of Jewish settlers living on Palestinian lands that were confiscated from their owners to establish settler colonies.

 

Night Curfew on Wadi al-Salqa and al-Qarara Villages

    

For approximately one month, Israeli occupation forces have imposed a night curfew on Wadi al-Salqa village, east of Deir al-Balah, and al-Qarara village, north of Khan Yunis, from 18:00 to 07:00.  Residents of the two villages have been denied their right to free movement at night.  Israeli forces fire at any moving object in the two villages during curfew hours.  This has affected the social and economic rights of Palestinian civilians living in the two villages.     

 

Strict Siege on al-Syafa Area

 

The Israeli occupation forces have maintained a total siege on al-Sayafa area north of Beit Lahia since Friday, 22 June 2001.  Israeli forces closed al-Sayafa area from the outside from Thursday, 28 March to Sunday, 31 March.  Under this closure, Israeli soldiers prohibited any movement of Palestinians from and into the area.  Israeli occupation forces had already surrounded the area with sand barricades, approximately 2.5m high, above which barbed wires 0.5m high were placed. All entrances to the area where closed, isolating it from its surroundings.  They had also established an electronic gate northwest of “Dogit” settlement, to be the sole entrance to the area, in a way similar to procedures applied in Al-Mawasi area in Khan Yunis and Rafah.  They established observation towers near the two settlements.  Movement of Palestinian civilians from and into the area is allowed during limited hours.  Israeli forces check Palestinian civilians and their belongings, especially foodstuffs, using dogs, even though this measure is offensive to Islamic sensibilities.  A curfew is imposed on the area daily from 17:00 until 06:00.

 

 

 

The Palestinian health sector has been subject to many violations perpetrated by Israeli occupation forces and Jewish settlers.  Such violations have included attacks on medical personnel and the obstruction of access of ambulances to the wounded and patients.  Israeli military roadblocks and checkpoints have obstructed the access of patients to emergency and regular medical care.  As a result, several Palestinian civilians including children, women, and old people, have died and several women have been forced to give birth to children at military roadblocks.  Despite their clearly marked attire, Palestinian medical personnel on duty have been subject to Israeli attacks.  Israeli occupation forces have repeatedly denied the access of medical assistance through border crossings.  They have also obstructed travel of the wounded abroad to receive medical treatment. 

 

On Wednesday, 2 January, a Gazan woman was forced to give birth to a child at Rafah border crossing with assistance of some women, as Israeli occupation forces denied the access of ambulance to the crossing to move her to hospital

   

On Wednesday, 9 January, Shadi Ahmed Lafi Musallam, 25, from Jabalya refugee camp, died at Rafah Border Crossing while on his was back to the Gaza Strip from EgyptThe Israeli forces at the crossing obstructed his evacuation to Shifa’ Hospital in Gaza for several hours.  Musallam, a member of the Palestinian Military Intelligence, was injured by two live bullets in the head and the neck, when he confronted an Israeli incursion into Beit Hanoun on 15 December 2001.

 

The victim’s uncle, Ra’ed Lafi Musallam, 30, who accompanied him to Egypt, stated:

 

“Five days after my nephew was wounded, he was transferred from Shifa’ Hospital in Gaza to Nasser Institute for Research in Egypt.  I accompanied him.  We stayed there until 8 January 2002, when physicians in the institute decided to send him back to Shifa’ Hospital due to the heavy burden on rooms and since his health conditions did not improve.  At approximately 03:30 on Wednesday, 9 January 2002, we, accompanied by a physician and a nurse from the institute, traveled in an ambulance provided with oxygen towards Rafah border crossing.  We arrived at the crossing at approximately 09:30.  The physician and the nurse traveled back to Egypt at approximately 10:00 when we crossed to the Israeli side of the crossing.  I, my nephew and the ambulance driver remained in the waiting hall.  I noticed that Shadi’s health condition was deteriorating and oxygen was running out.  At approximately 12:30, Shadi was taken from the Egyptian ambulance to a Palestinian one that was waiting at the other side of the crossing.  I was not allowed to accompany him.  I remained in the waiting hall until 17:00.  Then, I received a phone call from my brother ‘Abdul Karim who told me that Shadi died at the crossing before reaching Abu Yiousef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah.”

 

On Saturday, 9 February, Slam Hatem al-Tai, from al-Mawasi area in the west of Khan Yunis, gave birth at al-Tuffah checkpoint which separates al-Mawasi area from the rest of Khan Yunis.  Israeli occupation forced prevented an ambulance from entering the area to evacuate her to hospital for more than two hours.  Israeli forces allowed the ambulance to evacuate her to hospital only after the childbirth.    

 

At approximately 13:30 on Tuesday, 12 February, Na’ima ‘Abdul Rahman ‘Afana, 40, from Rafah, who was suffering from hypertension, was on her way from Gaza back to Rafah.  While she was crossing an Israeli roadblock at the coastal road in Sheikh ‘Ejlin area, she heard sounds of Israeli gunfire and was terrified.  Exhausted from walking, she collapsed and was evacuated to a hospital in Deir al-Balah, where she was pronounced dead.

 

On Friday, 1 March, Israeli forces wounded a handicapped Palestinian civilian in Jabalya.  Israeli forces at the eastern border of the Gaza Strip, east of Jabalya, fired several artillery shells at Palestinian agricultural areas approximately 700m west of the border.  Khader Tayseer Wadi, 19, deaf and dumb, was injured by an artillery shell that destroyed his left leg.  According to PCHR’s investigation, the handicapped young man was collecting wood from agricultural areas at the time of shelling, and was unable to leave the area.  Israeli forces allowed Palestinian medical personnel to offer him emergency treatment only two hours later.

 

On Monday, 4 March, Israeli heavy military vehicles invaded Block J area of Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza StripAccording to eyewitnesses, Israeli forces moved 50m into the camp under the cover of intense shooting, prompting local residents to flee.  IbrahimAli Barhoum, 42, was shot in the head by Israeli forces.  Israeli occupying forces fired upon medical personnel who attempted to reach Barhoum, making it impossible to provide him with emergency treatment.  Israeli soldiers also took up positions on the roofs of Palestinian homes in the area and fired at local residents who were attempting to flee, as well as at medical personnel.

 

On Wednesday, 6 March, Israeli military vehicles thrust approximately 1200m intoAbassan village, east of Khan Yunis.  Soon, they opened fire at Palestinian houses.  Palestinian civilians rushed towards the area to check the matterIsraeli forces fired at them, killing two:

                       1.     Mufida Mohammed Khudeir Abu Daqqa, 47, shot by a live bullet in the head; and

                       2.     Jamal Mohammed Salman Abu Hamad, 27, shot by a live bullet in the chest.

 

Then, the invading Israeli forces raided some Palestinian houses, including the house ofAbdel-GhaniAbdel-Rahman Abu Daqqa, 57, who was shot in the head by the invading forces after they had checked his houseAbu Saqqa bled to death, as Israeli forces denied the access of ambulances to the area.

 

On the same day, Israeli gunboats, supported by a helicopter, launched a missile and opened fire from heavy machine guns at sites of the Palestinian Naval Police in the northwest of Beit Lahia.  The missile hit a police car, wounding a policeman, Jamil Samih Jamil El-Sabbagh, 37, from Jabalya.  He bled to death, as ambulances were not able to reach the area due to intense Israeli shelling.  Two other policemen and a civilian were killed:

                     1.       Maher Fu’ad Hamada, 20, from Al-Tuffah neighborhood in Gaza;

                     2.       Ahmed Fureij Abu Zhaher, 28, from Khan Yunis; and

                     3.       Eid Khalil El-Qumo’, 35, a civilian from Jabalya refugee camp.

 

Health conditions in isolated areas in the Gaza Strip have sharply deteriorated due to Israeli military measures, including the curfew and the siege.  In al-Mawasi area in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian civilians, especially children and pregnant women, have faced difficulties in reaching hospitals and medical centres out of the area, since the area lacks medical care centres.  They spend hours at Israeli military roadblocks before being able to reach hospitals and medical centres in Rafah and Khan Yunis.

 

The same applies to al-Sayafa area in the northern Gaza Strip.  According to a Palestinian farmer living in the area, evacuation of patients to hospital at night is prohibited by Israeli occupation forces.  Ambulances are also denied access to the area.  In emergency cases, the Palestinian side has to coordinate with Israeli occupation forces, which takes a long time, before evacuation of patients to hospital is allowed.

 

Israeli occupation forces have blocked large amounts of medicines and medical equipment at al-Mentar (Karni) crossing since Tuesday, 16 March.  The Israeli all-out offensive on the West Bank has stopped work at medicine factories there.  As a result, the Gaza Strip is suffering a shortage of many medicines, which may cause a health disaster in the case of an Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip.

 

 

Israeli occupation forces have continued to violate the right to education through military roadblocks erected at the main and branch roads in the Gaza Strip dividing the Gaza Strip into five separated areas.  The same applies to the West bank, which has been divided into dozens of isolated zones.  Under the current siege the access of thousands of university and school students has been obstructed.  Approximately 50% of university students are from the southern and central Gaza Strip, while most universities are in Gaza City.  Those students have often unable to reach their universities under Israeli military siege.

 

According to the students’ affairs department of the Islamic University in Gaza, approximately 40% of the university students and 25% of the university employees are from the southern and central Gaza Strip.  They have not been able to reach the university.  The university was forced to open an office in Khan Yunis to follow up affairs of students in the southern Gaza Strip.  It also employed some part-time professors to teach there. 

 

According to the students’ affairs department of al-Azhar University, 3000 out of the 11000 university students are from the southern Gaza Strip, and hundreds are from the middle area.  They have not been able to reach the university.  The university was forced to hold classes at some schools and institutions in the southern Gaza Strip to address the problem, as students of the scientific colleges still need laboratories.  It also employed some part-time professors to teach there. 

 

In al-Aqsa University in Gaza, the situation is not different.  The university has three branches, one for humanities in Khan Yunis, one for science in Gaza, and the third for science at al-Shuhada’ junction.  The third has been closed for more than 17 months due to the situation at al-Shuhada’ junction.  Students of this branch were distributed to the other two branches, while students of fine arts were moved to a centre in Deir al-Balah.  The number of professors of the university is 154, of whom 46 are from the southern area.  The university was forced to coordinate with other universities to meet the needs of its students.  The second semester was postponed from 1 March to 1 April and it is expected to be postponed further due to the internal siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.

 

According to sources at the College of Science and Technology in Khan Yunis, 102 out of its 800 students and 19 out of its 100 employees are from the northern Gaza Strip.  They have not been able to reach the college in Khan Yunis due to the current internal siege.  They have their classes at Palestine Technical College in Deir al-Balah.

 

The public relations department of Palestine Technical College in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip stated that 250 out of its 524 students are from the southern Gaza Strip.  These students have not been able to attend classes due to the internal siege imposed on the Gaza Strip

 

School children from al-Mawasi area in Rafah and Khan Yunis face difficulties in reaching their schools as they are forced to cross Israeli military roadblocks

 

School children from al-Sayafa area in the northern Gaza Strip also face difficulties in going to school.  Israeli occupation forces at observation towers surrounding the area often fire at school children.  Israeli forces very often close the main gate of the area and sometimes, they do not open it in the morning to allow school children to go to school.  On their way back home, school children have to wait for several hours, as Israeli occupation forces open the gate from 13:00 to 16:00 while they leave school at 10:00-11:00. 

 

Gazan Students studying at universities in the West Bank have not been able to visit the Gaza Strip since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada due to the closure of crossings.  Postgraduate students from the West Bank who study at Egyptian Universities through al-Aqsa University in Gaza have not been able attend classes in Gaza

      

 

Under the current total siege, laborers in the Gaza Strip have been denied access to their work places both in Israel, in violation of the right of work.  The Palestinian economy has been dependent on the Israeli economy due to the policies adopted by Israeli occupation authorities since the start of the occupation in 1967. 

The Palestinian economy is highly dependent on the income of Palestinian laborers working in Israel.  Israeli occupation forces have maintained a strict siege on the Gaza Strip, denying the access of Palestinian laborers to their work places both in Israeli and inside the Gaza Strip itself.  They have also destroyed many Palestinian factories and workshops and razed large areas of Palestinian agricultural land.  As a consequence, many Palestinian laborers have lost their jobs.  As a result, the Palestinian economy has further deteriorated.

 

The number of licensed Gazan laborers who used to work in Israel was 24000 before the al-Aqsa Intifada.  Israeli occupation forces have allowed the access of a limited number of Palestinian laborers to their work places in Israel under the following conditions:

 

                     1.       A laborer must be over 37.

                     2.        He must have no “security” problems.

                     3.        He must be asked for by his Israeli employers.

 

Most of those laborers have not been able to reach their work places due to Israeli measures against them at military checkpoints, including harassment and humiliation.  Sometimes, Israeli forces deny the access of laborers who have work permits to their work placesUp to 28 February, the Palestinian Ministry of Labor received around 2227 work permits from the Israeli authorities, to be forwarded to Palestinian labourers.

 

The following table shows the number of Palestinian laborers who had permits to work in Israel in each month from the beginning of the Intifada up to the end of February 2002:


 

 

Month

Number of Laborers

October 2000

Nil

November 2000

Nil

December 2000

5600

January 2001

Nil

February 2001

4000

March 2001

743

April 2001

816

May 2001

Nil

June 2001

Nil

July 2001

Nil

August 2001

Nil

September 2001

202

October 2001

475

November 2001

1263

December 2001

1642

January 2002

1837

February 2002

2227

 

The Palestinian economy largely depends on the income of laborers.  The average daily income of a laborer is $US 27.50.  Thus, the total daily loss of organized labor in Israel is approximately $US 660,000If the losses of non-organized laborers, of those working at Erez industrial zone and of laborers working in local factories and workshops is summed, then the total daily losses of Palestinian labor will be approximately $US 3.5 millionThe total loss resulted by the denial of the access of laborers to their work places in Israel is estimated at $US 1.092 billion.

 

 

Israeli occupation forces have maintained a total siege on the Gaza StripThey have closed most border crossings and outlets and imposed complicated, cumbersome procedures at Al-Mentar (Karni) and Sofa Crossings, causing further deterioration to Palestinian economic activities.

 

 

Al-Mentar (Karni) crossing, one of the major commercial outlets of the Gaza Strip, has been frequently closed by Israeli occupation authorities since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa IntifadaUnder the closures, the entry of goods, especially construction raw materials, has been obstructed.

 

The crossing has operated under complicated procedures since Israeli occupation forces reopened it on 2 October 2001.  Israeli occupation authorities had already abandoned the “Levoi” system, under which Palestinian trucks would cross Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing in convoys.  All commercial movement was shifted to al-Mentar (Karni) crossing.  The crossing is operating in 60% of the capacity it had operated in before the al-Aqsa Intifada.  In the last four months of 2001, only 300 trucks crossed the crossing out of 450 that used to cross it before the Intifada, and some 120 trucks that used to cross Beit Hanoun crossing before commercial movement was shifted to al-Mentar crossing.  Israeli occupation forces closed the crossing from 15 to 17 March and again since 28 March 2002.  Under these obstacles, Palestinian economic sectors, especially agriculture and industry, have further deteriorated.

 

 

The Israeli occupation forces have continued the closure of Gaza International Airport since Wednesday, February 14, causing large losses for Palestinian traders and for Palestinian Airlines.

 

 

Israeli occupation forces have obstructed movement at, and repeatedly closed Rafah border crossing.  The number of Palestinians traveling from and into the Gaza Strip has sharply decreased due to Israeli restrictions.  PCHR learned that Israeli occupation authorities took the following measures at the crossing:

                     1.       They decreased the number of Palestinian employees to five out of 150-200, and the number of workers to 12.

                     2.       The crossing is opened from 08:00 to 14:00 for departing travelers and from 08:00 to 16:00 for arriving travelers.

                     3.       Only 100 travelers travel through the crossing.

                     4.       Israeli forces often arrest some Palestinian travelers.

                     5.       Dozens of travelers are interrogated by Israeli intelligence officers.

 

Palestinians traders are prevented from exporting goods through the crossing.  Medical and food assistance offered to the Palestinian National Authority from Arab and foreign countries was still blocked at the crossing.

  

 

Israeli occupation authorities closed Sofa crossing, northeast of Rafah, on Tuesday, 26 March, prohibiting the access of approximately 1,200 Palestinian laborers to their work places in Israel, and preventing the entry of aggregate into the Gaza Strip.  Israeli measures at the crossing are similar to those at al-Mentar (Karni) crossing:

                     1.       Palestinian laborers working in agriculture are denied access to their work places in Israel.

                     2.       Palestinian trucks transporting aggregate are prevented from entering the crossing and are substituted for by Israeli trucks.

                     3.       Palestinian trucks are allowed to transport aggregate from Israeli trucks only from 16:00 to 17:30.

              4.     The amount of aggregate allowed entry into the Gaza Strip is 4000-5000 tons daily instead of 15000-20000 tons daily before the Intifada.

 

                     q          Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing

 

On 2 June 2001, Israeli occupation forces reclosed the Beit Hanoun (Erez) CrossingThe crossing had been closed to commercial traffic since 8 October, 2000, thus denying entry of approximately 120 Palestinian trucks. Consequently, Palestinian traders have suffered large losses as their goods were blocked in Israeli harbors.  Only a limited number of Palestinian laborers working in agriculture are allowed entry to Israel at sporadic intervals.

 

The Palestinian economy, including trade, industry, agriculture, labor, tourism, transportation and investment, has further deteriorated due to continuous Israeli closure of crossings.  According to PNA reports, losses of the Palestinian economy from the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000 up to 31 March 2002 area estimated at $US 7 billion, with a monthly average loss of $US 400 million.  According to estimates by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), the poverty rate in the OPT has increased from 22% before the current Israeli total siege to 64.9% under the siege.  Palestinian economic sectors have witnessed a decrease in productivity, and unemployment has increased.  According to the Palestinian Ministry of Labor, the poverty rate is 50%, and according to the PCBS, it is 38%.  The deficit in the 2000 PNA budget was approximately $US 205 million, while it was expected to be only $US 10 million.  Public revenues decreased from $US 90 million before the Intifada to $US 20 million per month currently.  The deficit of the 2001 budget is expected to be $US 840 million, without foreign aid.  Israeli authorities have also blocked more than $US 380 million of tax revenues of the Palestinian National Authority.  The public debt also increased from $US 607 million to $US 781.      

 

1) Agriculture[1]

 

Israeli measures and frequent closures have severely damaged agriculture in the Gaza Strip, since export of agricultural products to the West Bank and neighboring Arab countries, especially tomatoes and cucumbers, guavas, oranges and strawberries, has been halted.  Losses of the Palestinian agriculture until the end of December 2001 were estimated at $US 482,592,340, with an average monthly loss of $US 32.2 million. The impacts of closure and Israeli measures on Palestinian agriculture can be attributed to the following:

 

                     ·            Palestinian farmers face difficulties in reaching their farms at demarcation points.

                     ·             Exportation of vegetables and fruits has been halted.

                     ·            The entry of basic materials necessary for agriculture has been denied.

                     ·            Razing more than 18,907 donums of Palestinian agricultural land, including approximately 10,000 donums in the Gaza Strip by the end of 2001, according to the PNA Ministry of Agriculture.

                     ·            Razing more 30,000 donums of land ready for plantation by the end of 2001, according to the PNA Ministry of Agriculture.

                     ·            Destruction of the infrastructure of agriculture. 

 

2) Industry

 

Under the current total siege that has been imposed on the OPT for about 18 months, the Palestinian industrial sector is further deteriorating, as more than 90% of industrial raw materials are exported from foreign countries through Israeli harbors, and Israeli authorities have obstructed the clearance of these materials from harbors, apparently to cause further damage to the Palestinian industrial sector.  Moreover, Palestinian laborers have not been able to reach their work places in Palestinian factories due to the internal siege.  As a result, sales and exports of Palestinian industrial products have sharply decreased.

 

According to a report by the Palestinian Ministry of Industry, Israeli authorities have blocked approximately 2,800 containers of goods and raw materials in Israeli harborsPalestinian importers have to pay delay fines to harbor authorities.  After Palestinian trucks had been denied movement, Palestinian importers were forced to use Israeli ones, despite dramatically higher costs ($US 200 per truck.

 

According to a report by the Palestinian State Information Service, Palestinian industrial production decreased by 50.46% between 13 and 31 December 2001.  The following table illustrates these percentages distributed in kinds of industry:

 

Kind of industry

Contribution to industrial production before the Intifada

Percentage of decrease in industrial production, 13-31 December, 2001

Percentage of decrease in contribution to industrial production, 13-31 December, 2001

Building materials

31.6%

70%

22.12%

Food

20.3%

20%

4.06

Ready-to-wear clothes

11.8%

55%

6.49%

Shoes and leather products

6.5%

60%

3.9%

Chemical industries

3.2%

20%

0.64%

Furniture

9.5%

40%

3.8%

Mechanic industries

9%

60%

5.4%

Plastic industries

4.5%

50%

2.25%

Paper industries

3.6%

50%

1.8%

Total

100%

 

50.46%

Source: State Information Service

 

According to the same report, the loss of the Palestinian industrial sector up to 31 December 2001 was approximately $US 802.2 million, with an average loss of $US 53.5 million.  Losses of the Palestinian industrial sector up to the end of March 2002 totaled approximately $US 963 million.

 

3) Tourism

 

Due to instability in security conditions and continued attacks on Palestinian tourist establishments, Palestinian tourism has suffered large losses in the IntifadaMany hotels, restaurants and tourist places have closed their doors and thousands of laborers have lost their jobs.  Losses to the tourism sector during the Intifada up to 13 January 2002 were estimated at $US 450 million, with an average monthly loss of $US 28.1 million.  So, the losses of tourism up to the end of March 2002 would be $US 505.8 million.  The number of tourists has sharply decreased.  The number of tourists who visited Bethlehem in 2001 was 63,000, compared to 992,000 in the first ten months of 2000.

 

4) Commerce

 

Under the closure of border crossings and restrictions imposed on internal movement in the OPT, Palestinian commerce has suffered large losses, estimated at approximately $US 410 million in 2001, with an average monthly loss of $US 27.3 million.  Losses of commerce from the beginning of the Intifada up to the end of March 2002 total $US 491.4 million.

 

5) Construction

 

The Palestinian construction sector has suffered large losses due to the total closure imposed on the OPT, and continued Israeli attacks on buildings and establishments.  Israeli occupation forces have also denied the entry of construction raw materials, such as cement, aggregate, wood, etc., into the OPT.  Consequently, construction has been obstructed and thousands of laborers lost their jobs.  Losses of this sector up to 31 January 2002 were estimated at $US 677.3 million, with an average monthly loss of approximately $US 42.3 million.  Total losses in the Palestinian construction sector up to the end of March 2002 were estimated at $US 761.4 million.

 

6) Transportation

 

The Palestinian transportation sector has suffered large losses due to restrictions imposed on internal and external movement.  Thousands of taxis and trucks stopped working.  Israeli forces have also destroyed many roads.  Losses of this sector up to 31 January 2002 were estimated at approximately $US 195.8 million, with an average monthly loss of $US 12.2.  Losses of this sector up the end of March 2002 totaled approximately $US 219.6 million. 

 

 

Palestinians have been denied access to holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  Israeli occupation authorities also denied travel of a number of pilgrims, members of families of those killed in the al-Aqsa Intifada, from traveling to Saudi Arabia.  On Saturday, 16 February, Israeli occupation authorities at Rafah border crossing prevented 9 of those pilgrims from traveling to Saudi Arabia:

                     1.       MohammedAayesh Ibrahim al-Nathar, from Gaza

                     2.       Mohammed Mustafa al-Nathar, from Gaza

                     3.       Ahmed Salem Dahashan, from Gaza

                     4.       Ahmed Jaber Ibrahim al-Mishal, from Gaza

                     5.       Mohammed Shehada Tafesh, from Gaza

                     6.       Fawzi Khalil al-Dabbas, from Rafah

                     7.       Fathi Mohammed al-SheikhEid, from Rafah

                     8.       Essam Mustafa Qeshta, from Rafah

                     9.       Jamal al-Halabi

 

On Monday, 18 February, Israeli occupation authorities prevented 7 other pilgrims from Khan Yunis from traveling to Saudi Arabia:

                     1.       Hamdan Mahmoud Huneideq

                     2.       Shaher Majdi Muhareb

                     3.       Ibrahim MahmoudAashour

                     4.       Rawdha Fayez Radwan

                     5.       Fawzi Salim Shubeir

                     6.       Musbah Isma’il Abu Ghali

                     7.       Tawfi al-Tawil

 

On 30 January, Israeli occupation forces prevented 16 Palestinian pilgrims, aged 15-35, from traveling to Saudi Arabia.  They also denied the travel of 6 other pilgrims on “security” grounds.

 

 

Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have been deprived of family visits as a consequence of the total siege imposed on the Occupied Palestinian TerritoriesIsraeli occupation authorities have also canceled the visitation programme organized by the ICRC.  Due to the closure, Gazan lawyers cannot visit Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.  This has had a negative psychological effect on the prisoners, exacerbating their inhuman conditions of detention.  The number of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails has sharply increased and it is difficult to estimate their number now due to continued Israeli large scale offensive on the West Bank.

 

 

Since Thursday, 28 March, Israeli occupation forces have denied the entry of Palestinian local newspapers into the Gaza Strip.  In addition, Ramallah-based newspapers have not been issued due the Israeli large scale offensive on the city.

 

Conclusions

 

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.  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 prohibited under international humanitarian law, and contradicts internationally accepted human rights standards.

 

PCHR calls for a lifting of the total siege imposed on the occupied Palestinian territories and an end to the 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 upon the international community to:

 

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

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

              3.      Activate mechanisms of immediate intervention by the UN and its agencies, and the ICRC, to ensure the access of medical and food assistance to the occupied Palestinian territories under the siege.

                     4.        Oblige Israel to respect international conventions and to comply with the UN Resolutions.

                     5.       For the EU to take effective steps, under Article 2 of the Euro-Israel Association Agreement, which provides that Israel must respect human rights.

                     6.        Prosecute Israeli leaders for war crimes committed against the Palestinian people.

 

 

“End”

 


 

 

Annex

 

Table of closures of crossings during Al-Aqsa Intifada

 

Crossing

Closure

Partial reopening

Al-Mentar (Karni) Crossing

29  September 2000

 8  October 2000

14  November 2000

1  January 1, 2001

14  January, 2001

15  January 2001

1  June 2001

11  September 11, 2001

15  March 2002

28  March 2002

2  October 2000

10  October 2000

19  November 2000

7  January 2001

14  January 2001

17  January 2001

6  June 2001

28  September 2001

17  March 2002

Sofa Crossing

 8 October 2000

18  January 2001

 

15  February 2001

 

1  June 2001

 

26  March 2002

17  January 2000

12  February 2001 (for laborers only)

16  March 2001

24  May 2001 (for laborers)

28  September 2001 (for the entry of aggregate)

 

Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing

8  October 2000

1  January 2001

4  February 2001

15  February 2001

17  April 2001

1  June 2001

14  December 2000 (for laborers)

22  January 2001 (for laborers)

7  February 2001 (for laborers)

27  March 2001 (for laborers only)

17  May 2001 (for laborers)

21 September 2001 (for agriculture laborers only)

Rafah Border Crossing

8 October 2000

12 October 2000

16 October 2000

8 November 2000

20 November 2000

29 November 2000

11 December 2000

18 December 2000

30 December 2000

14 January 2001

24 January 2001

31 January 2001

5 February 2001

 

 

 

18 March 2001

17 April 2001

25 April 2001

27 May 2001 (for traders)

1 June 2001

13 July 2001

11 September 2001

26 September 2001

15 March 2002

28 March 2002

10 October 2000

15 October 2000

19 October 2000

20 November 2000

28 November 2000

4 December 2000

11 December 2000

19 December 2000

11 January 2001

17 January 2001

25 January 2001

1 February 2001

13 February 2001 (for pilgrims only)

20 February 2001 (for coming travelers)

24 March 2001

24 April 2001

25 April 2001

 

16 June 2001

19 July 2001

20 September 2001

30 September 2001

17 March 2002

30 March 2002

Gaza International Airport

8 October 2000

29 October 2000

8 November 2000

1 January 2001

15 January 2001

31 January 2001

5 February 2001

 

14 February 2001

15 October 2000

6 November 2000

1 December 2000

12 January 2001

18 January 2001

1 February 2001

13 February 2001 (for pilgrims only)

 

 

 

 
 

 

“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. 

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 (1966)

 

 

“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)

 

 

“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)

 

“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)

 

 

 

 

 


 


[1] To calculate losses of various economic sectors, PCHR depends on average monthly losses.