Published on 27 June 2002

 

 

CLOSURE UPDATE NO. 42

 

A Report 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).  Since the end of March, Israeli occupying forces have tightened the siege imposed on the OPT, maintaining the apartheid system.  They have separated Palestinian cities and villages from one another, transforming them into isolated cantons.  Palestinian civilians continue to live in tragic conditions.  They continue to be denied their basic economic, social, cultural, political and civil rights.  

 

This is the 42nd in a series of updates published by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights on the closure imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip.  According to PCHR’s documentation, Israeli occupying forces have maintained a strict siege on the Gaza Strip, dividing it into three isolated zones for the fifth consecutive month.  All aspects of economic, social and cultural life in the Gaza Strip continue to be paralyzed.  Israeli military checkpoints north of Khan Yunis continue to restrict movement of Palestinian civilians between the north and south of the Gaza Strip.  Palestinian have been allowed to cross the checkpoints only for one hour daily, at an unannounced and irregular time each day.  Palestinian civilians, including women and children, have been forced to wait for long hours at these checkpoints, and they have often been forced to spend the night there.  In addition, Palestinian civilians crossing these checkpoints have been subjected to humiliation and arrest by Israeli soldiers. 

 

Israeli occupying forces have maintained a strict siege on al-Mawasi area in the southern Gaza Strip.  In a flagrant violation of the right to free movement, Israeli occupying forces have transformed al-Tuffah checkpoint, separating al-Mawasi area from Khan Yunis, into a crossing similar to Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing.  They have employed a section to check magnetic cards which were issued for Palestinian civilians living in the area at the end of May 2002, and another section to check luggage.  On 4 June 2002, Israeli occupying forces started to dig a trench, 2m deep and 4m wide, along the area between Khan Yunis and al-Mawasi area in Deir al-Balah.  Consequently, all outlets and entrances of the area would be completely closed and the area would be totally isolated from the rest of the Gaza Strip. 

 

Strict measures taken by Israeli occupying forces at military roadblocks and checkpoints have led to serious violations of health rights.  A numbers of patients have died at Israeli military checkpoints, which have obstructed their access to emergency medical treatment, and a number of pregnant women have given birth at these checkpoints. 

 

Israeli occupying forces have restricted movement at border crossings, and they often closed these crossing, denying cross-border movement of travelers and goods.  Even when these crossing are partially opened, Israeli occupying forces allow the importation and exportation of goods only under strict conditions.  Israeli occupying forces repeatedly closed the Rafah border crossing in the past month.  The crossing is the only outlet for travelers from the Gaza Strip, as Gaza International Airport has been closed for some time. 

 

Israeli occupying forces also continue to violate Palestinians' right to work.  They continue to deny access for Palestinian workers to their work places in Israel.  Although, access has been allowed for some Palestinian workers in the agricultural sector to their work places, this issue has not been fully resolved and consequently unemployment has increased to at least 55%, and poverty has increased to approximately 85%. 

 

The Israeli policy of closure is a form of collective punishment against Palestinian civilians in a systematic approach adopted by the Israeli decision makers to increase the suffering of the Palestinian people in the OPT.  It constitutes a violation of  the international humanitarian law, since they violate the rights of free movement. The policy of closure has had disastrous impacts 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 impacts of the total siege imposed on the OPT on the economic, social and cultural conditions in the Gaza Strip.


1)   Violation of the Right to Free Movement

 

Under the Interim Agreements between the PLO and the Israeli government, Israeli occupying authorities have control over the crossings and outlets of the Gaza Strip.  These 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 and the Gaza Strip. The right to free movement is a fundamental human right that must be ensured for all persons.

 

1.          Continued Restrictions on Travel

 

Israeli occupying 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 the al-Aqsa Intifada.  In this context, on Sunday, 7 April 2002, Israeli occupying forces closed the crossing, preventing thousands of people from traveling from and into the Gaza Strip.  The crossing was partially reopened on the following day under strict conditions, including the reduction of opening hours from 24 to 6.

 

At Rafah Border Crossing many travelers have been arrested, humiliated or denied traveling by Israeli occupying forces.

 

As a result of Israeli measures at Rafah Border Crossing, the number of travelers has sharply decreased.  A PCHR field officer reported that the number of Palestinian travelers was only 70 per day in April and May 2002.  Israeli occupying forces allow the passage of only four buses, 28 passengers in each, daily.  On Thursday, 25 April 2002, Israeli occupying forces prevented two bus drivers, Jaber al-Shalah, 40, and Subhi Abu Lebda, 42, both from Rafah, from entering the crossing, although the two have worked at the crossing for several years.

 

On the other hand, many Palestinians wishing to travel to Egypt through Rafah Border Crossing, especially residents of Gaza City and the northern Gaza Strip, are forced to spend days in Rafah or Khan Yunis, as they can never travel on the same day due to Israeli restrictions at military checkpoints and roadblocks that cut the Gaza Strip. 

     

 

2.          Movement between the West Bank and Gaza Strip

 

Under the current total siege imposed by Israeli occupying forces on the OPT, residents of the Gaza Strip have been denied access to the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem which has been isolated from the rest of the OPT.  According to the Interim Agreements between the PLO and Israel, Palestinians have the right to free movement between the West Bank and Gaza Strip through the "Safe Passage," which extends from Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip and Tarqumia village near Hebron in the West Bank.  Since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada, Israeli occupying forces have closed the "Safe Passage" denying movement of Palestinians between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. 

 

 

3.          Restriction of Movement inside the Gaza Strip

 

Since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada, Israeli occupying forces have imposed a strict siege on the Gaza Strip, but since the beginning of 2002, this siege has been sustained in an unprecedented manner.  Israeli occupying forces have closed Salah al-Din Street (the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip) and all alternative roads.   They have divided the Gaza Strip into three separated zones.  Israeli military checkpoints and roadblocks between and inside Palestinian areas obstructed movement of people in the Gaza Strip.  Israeli forces also continue to isolate 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 such ongoing measures, more than 1 million people are imprisoned in  the Gaza Strip, in violation of their basic human rights. 

 

School children are often unable to reach their schools located at demarcation points and those located beyond Israeli military checkpoints and roadblocks.  Farmers in several areas are not able to reach their farms to cultivate crops.  In addition, Palestinian employees from the southern Gaza Strip complain of Israeli measures at military checkpoints and roadblocks which obstruct their travel to Gaza City.  Traveling between the southern Gaza Strip to Gaza City takes long hours (as opposed to half an hour without roadblocks), 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.

 

PCHR was able to obtain testimonies by a number of Palestinians describing their daily suffering at Israeli military checkpoints and roadblocks. 

 

In his testimony to PCHR, Bilal Abu Daqqa said:

 

“I work at the Palestinian Ministry of Interior in Gaza.  For more than 40 days, I had not been able to go to my work due to Israeli measures at al-Matahen and Abu Houli checkpoints erected on Salah al-Din Street.  On Wednesday, 1 May 2002, I decided to go from my village, 'Abasan, to Gaza.  I traveled towards al-Matahen checkpoint, north of Khan Yunis.  I arrived there at approximately 09:00.  I found hundreds of people, including students, teachers, traders, employees and patients, waiting for the checkpoint to be opened by Israeli occupying forces.  I waited with these people until 13:00, but the checkpoint was not opened, so I went back home.  I went to the checkpoint again on the following day, but earlier than the day before.  I was there at 07:00.  I noticed that most of the people who were waiting at the checkpoint were the same people who were waiting on the previous day, in addition to other people.  When I arrived there, I heard from people that the checkpoint would be opened in an hour, so I waited, but the checkpoint was not opened.  At approximately 12:00, I decided to go back home.  While I was traveling back home, I heard stories of suffering and pain from people who were waiting at the checkpoint.  For instance, one said that he had not been able to travel back home for three days.  I also heard that traveling on Saturday is easier than traveling on other days.  So, on Saturday, 4 May 2002, I went to the checkpoint at approximately 06:00, thinking that I would be the first one to arrive there, but I found dozens of people waiting there.  I saw trucks loaded with more than 100 persons, including students, teachers and others, on each.  The checkpoint was opened at approximately 09:00, and I went to Gaza.  I came from Gaza at approximately 11:00.  When I arrived at Abu Houli checkpoint south of Deir al-Balah, it was closed.  I walked towards the closed car to the checkpoint.  I asked the driver when the checkpoint would be opened and he answered that he did know.  I had no other choice except to wait with hundreds of people, including women, children and men.  All of us spent the night waiting at the checkpoint under very difficult conditions as the area does not have any kind of services.”

 

In his testimony to PCHR, Mohammed Khalil Abu Fayadh, a journalist at the Palestinian News Agency (Wafa), said:

 

“I live in al-Qarara village in Khan Yunis.  I work at the Palestinian News Agency (Wafa) in Gaza City.   Since the beginning of the Israeli military campaign against the West Bank cities, Israeli occupying forces have further restricted movement at al-Matahen and Abu Houli military checkpoints.  The Israeli military generally close the two checkpoints for several hours and sometimes for several days.  I used to go to my work in Gaza in the morning and come back in the evening.  Due to Israeli measures at the two checkpoints, I was forced to spend the whole week in Gaza.  Two weeks ago, while I was traveling back home, Israeli occupying forces stopped the taxi I was traveling in together with a number of other taxis.  They forced passengers, including myself, to get out of the cars and take off the upper clothes.  Then, an Israeli soldier checked me and my identity card.  I did not show him my press card, because my friends told me that they were humiliated by Israeli occupying forces in the West Bank when they showed their press cards of Wafa.  Later, the Israeli soldier gave me back my identity card.  Several hours later, they allowed us to pass.  After this incident, I rented a flat in Gaza to live there permanently to avoid suffering an humiliation at Israeli military checkpoints.”   

 

Continued Siege on al-Mawasi Area in the Southern Gaza Strip

Israeli occupying forces have imposed a strict siege on al-Mawasi area in the southern Gaza Strip since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000. The area is categorized under the Interim Agreement between the PLO and Israel as area B, under Israeli security control.  Palestinians living in the area, approximately 15000, have suffered from Israeli measures that restrict their movement.  They can move from and into the area only through two Israeli military checkpoints: al-Tuffah checkpoint west of Khan Yunis refugee camp, and Tal al-Sultan checkpoint west of Rafah. 

 

On Sunday, 12 May 2002, Israeli occupying forces imposed a curfew on al-Mawasi area that extends from the south of Deir al-Balah to the Egyptian border south of Rafah.  A PCHR field officer reported that on Tuesday, 28 May 2002, Israeli occupying forces again imposed a curfew on al-Mawasi area.  Residents of the area were forced to stay at their homes and were denied movement inside and outside the area. Israeli occupying forces imposed a strict curfew on thousands of Palestinians living in the area after a Jewish settler was killed by a Palestinian in the area, claiming that this measure was taken to protect hundreds of Jewish settlers.  These settlers are living on Palestinian land confiscated from their original Palestinian owners to establish illegal Jewish settlements. Israeli measures in this area have posed serious and ongoing threats to the lives of the Palestinian residents, violating their economic, social, cultural, political and civil rights.

 

On Thursday, 28 March 2002, Israeli occupying forces closed al-Tuffah military checkpoint, 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.  In this context, a Palestinian farmer, Salah Saleh Mohammed al-Astal, resident of al-Mawasi area, told a PCHR field officer on Monday, 22 April 2002:

 

“I am a farmer living in al-Mawasi area in the northwest of Khan Yunis.  My brother and I own two greenhouses and a tract of agricultural land planted with guavas.  Since the beginning of April, Israeli occupying forces have completely blocked all the roads leading to the area.  My wife and I have been in my father's house in al-Rabwat area, as we have not been able to go back to our house and farm in al-Mawsai area.  We have not been able to see our two children Hadil, 6, and Zeinab, 2 1/2, who have stayed with their uncle in the area, for more than 20 days.  We left the area in the end of March, before the roads were totally closed.  My pregnant wife was in labor, and I decided to take her to hospital one day before delivery to avoid Israeli restrictions on movement at military checkpoints.  We did not know that Israeli occupying forces would completely close all the roads leading to the area, so we did not bring our other two children with us.  We left them at their uncle's house.  We thought that we would be back home in few days.  My wife gave birth but we were not able to go back home.  Even my wife was not able to go back home when Israeli occupying forces allowed entrance for women into the area 10 days ago, because her identity card was not numbered.[1] My brother was not able to look after our tract of land and greenhouses.  So we suffered additional loss, since we were not able to sell our crops.”    

   

2)     Denial of the Right of Education

 

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 separated areas.  The same applies to the West bank, which has been divided into many isolated zones. These measures taken by Israeli occupying forces have violated the right of education, according to articles 13 and 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Under the current siege the access of thousands of university and school students to their educational institutions 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 been unable to reach their universities due to the Israeli military siege.

 

In this context, PCHR gathered testimonies of some university students describing their suffering at Israeli military checkpoints and roadblocks. 

 

In his testimony to PCHR, Adham al-Najjar, a student of English at al-Azhar University in Gaza, said:

 

“I live in Khan Yunis.  I am a student at al-Azhar University in Gaza.  Everyday, we are subject to humiliation by Israeli occupying soldiers at military checkpoints.  Israeli soldiers obstruct movement of cars, sometimes check and insult us, and very often beat passing civilians for no apparent reason.  They repeatedly ordered us to get out of the cars to check them.  They even fired at us repeatedly.  They obstruct our movement by building sand hills on roads and positioning tanks that endanger our lives.  We are forced to cross long distances on foot.  We arrive at our universities late, and we miss many classes.  All these horrible Israeli measures will not prevent us from going to our universities.  Like other groups of the Palestinian people, we face many difficulties, but this will not prevent us from receiving education.”

 

In her testimony to PCHR, Nebal al-Agha, a student of engineering at the Islamic University in Gaza, said:

 

“Every day, I face the siege imposed on us.  We have only to face it and attempt to defeat it.  We are subject to humiliation and degradation while cars wait in long queues.  We have to cross sand hills or walk along the coast to avoid passing by their tanks or being fired at by them.  We go to our universities, but we do not know whether we will be able to come back home.  We spend many hours everyday to go to our universities and come back home.  We have to wait for long hours at their checkpoints and under their fire.  They want this just to make our life hell.  The siege has negatively affected us as students.  Many university students are from the southern area.  We are very often unable to reach our universities, and consequently miss classes.   We spend long hours waiting at Israeli military checkpoints.  The problem is not limited to us as students, our professors face the same problem.  Which law allows them to do this to us before the eyes of the world? What do western human rights defenders do for us as girls who are forced to sleep at checkpoints away from our homes and family?  In the face of the violations and suffering they cause us, we will not surrender.  We will defeat the siege as one of their inhuman policies aimed at suppressing our will.”

 

In her testimony to PCHR, Amal ‘Ezziddin, from Rafah, a student of commerce at the Islamic University, said:

 

“Words cannot perfectly describe or show a real picture of our suffering.  I can say much and use many words, but I will not be able to give a comprehensive picture of their practices, which, like their siege, have a taste that only who experience and challenge it can be aware of it.  I begin my day hesitant to go to the university.  When I decide to go as it is necessary to go, I feel upset, since going to the university means that I will be subject to their countless practices and restrictions.  First, they force us to wait for a long time at checkpoints, during which they check cars, open fire or make arrests.  They allow 3-5 cars only to move each time.  When we cross the checkpoints, we have to cross the sand hills or walk along the coast.  We often arrive at the university tired and late.  Despite all these practices and restrictions, which have caused many problems for universities and their students and professors, we will solve our problems as the university administration and professors make efforts to achieve this goal.  We are ready to face more difficulties.  They will not defeat us, nor our dreams.”

 

On the other hand, students and teachers of al-Mawasi area were not able to reach their schools and universities, as a result of the strict siege imposed on the area.  The area was under curfew when final school exams at public schools began on Saturday, 18 May 2002, which means that around 2000 school children were deprived of doing these exams, violating their right to education and free and secure access to their schools.

 

In al-Mawasi area, Israeli occupying forces allowed students and teachers to go to their schools on Saturday, 18 May 2002, under a specific timetable – from 06:00 to 08:00 to go and from 13:00 to 14:00 to be back.  Around 95% of school children were able to go to school.  The remaining 5% were not able to go to school as Israeli forces did not allow cars to transport them from their area of residence in the northwest of Khan Yunis to their school, approximately 5km away.  Director of the only school in the area stated that those students would take their exams at a later date.  Students of the scientific division of the secondary schools did not go to school fearing for their lives even though Israeli forces allowed them to go. 

 

In al-Mawasi area of Rafah, Israeli occupying forces took similar measures to those taken in Khan Yunis.  However, chaos spread as Israeli forces declared through loudspeakers that the curfew was continuous.  The Palestinian Ministry of Education was forced to postpone the exams until Tuesday, 21 May 2002. 

 

On Monday, 17 June 2002, the Palestinian Ministry of Education was forced to open an emergency examination committee in Jirar al-Qedwa School in al-Mawasi area of Khan Yunis, after Israeli occupying forces had prevented 24 students of the General Certificate of Education (Tawjihi) to go to their examination places in Khan Yunis and Rafah.  According to Nafez al-Sha’er, secretary of the school, students waited the whole morning at al-Tuffah checkpoint, but Israeli forces denied them crossing, allowing only female students to cross.  The exams were brought to the emergency committee in the area by a representative of the ICRC.   However, the exams did not begin on time as students had to cross two internal Israeli military roadblocks. 

 

The Deputy Director of education in Khan Yunis stated that his ministry was forced to organize an emergency examination committee after all efforts made by the ICRC and the Palestinian liaison offices to allow access of students of the area to examination places failed.

 

There have been many problems with classes at Jirar al-Qedwa School, the only school in al-Mawasi area, which serves 1067 students from the first to the 12th grades.  Director of the school Talal Mohammed Shaqqura described obstacles and restrictions imposed by Israeli occupying forces:

 

“I am the director of Jirar al-Qedwa School in al-Mawasi area of Khan Yunis, which serves 1067 students from the first to the 12th grades.  There are 41 teachers, including 21 from outside the area work.  The area has been under a strict siege since the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada.  Since the beginning of the current school year, we have faced difficulties in organizing classes due to the restrictions imposed by Israeli occupying forces on passage of teachers through al-Tuffah checkpoint leading to the area, west of Khan Yunis refugee camp.  In addition, Israeli occupying forces repeatedly impose curfews on the area.  From January to March, students missed half of their classes.  Since the beginning of April, Israeli forces have closed al-Tuffah checkpoint.  In the first week of the same month, Israeli forces denied access to teachers from outside the area to the school.  In the second week of April, Israeli forces allowed access of those teachers to the school.  They had to gather at the checkpoint at 07:00 and wait until Israeli soldiers call on them.  Waiting might last for two hours and more.  They were subject to personal checking and their identity cards were checked by computers.  Then, the teachers were ordered to cross a metal checking gate.  From Tuesday, 16 April, to Saturday, 20 April, Israeli occupying forces imposed a curfew on the area.” 

 

 

3)    Denial of Health Rights

 

Israeli occupying forces have violated international instruments relevant to the right of health, especially Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966, which provides that “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,” and Article 23 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 which provides that “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…” Israeli occupying forces at border crossings, especially al-Maentar (Karni) crossing, have obstructed passage of medicines and medical equipment.  Trucks loaded with medicines and medical equipment have to wait for long at border crossings. 

Israeli occupying forces have obstructed the passage of ambulances, which transport the wounded and patients, at military checkpoints and border crossings.  In this context, a PCHR field officer reported that in April and May 2002, Israeli occupying forces at Rafah Border Crossing prevented a number of ambulance drivers from the  Mohammed Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah from entering the crossing, to transport the wounded and patients to the Egyptian side of the crossing:

1.          Ra’ed Subhi al-Fayoumi, 30;

2.          Ashraf ‘Abdul Fattah Zaqqut, 33;

3.          Nawar ‘Abed Abu ‘Amra, 41;

4.          Samir Ahmed Jouda, 36;

5.          ‘Ali Abu ‘Amra, 39;

6.          Mohammed Mousa Abu al-Kheir, 43;

7.          Jaber Hassan Darabeih, 42; and

8.          ‘Aatef Saleh al-Sheikh ‘Eid, 30.

 

In his testimony to PCHR, Samir Ahmed Jouda, an ambulance driver, explained how Israeli occupying forces treat Palestinian ambulance drivers:

“As an ambulance driver, I transport the wounded and patients who are in critical condition from the Mohammed Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah to Shifa’ Hospital in Gaza, where intensive care units exist.  Through my job, I can describe measures adopted by Israeli occupying forces at military checkpoints, particularly, Abu Houli, al-Matahen and al-Shuhada’ checkpoints on Salah al-Din Street, the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip.  Transferring cases to hospitals in Gaza begins with coordination between the Palestinian Ministry of Health and the Palestinian Liaison Bureau, which in turn coordinates with the Israeli liaison in these cases.  Usually, I have to wait for 20-60 minutes at an Israeli military checkpoint before I am allowed to pass.  Israeli occupying forces at al-Shuhada’ military checkpoint do not allow our passage except after special coordination for this checkpoint.  This is typical for the trip to Gaza, but on my way back to Rafah, usually I have to wait for 5-9 hours, and sometimes I am forced to sleep in Deir al-Balah as Israeli occupying forces do not allow our passage.”

Another ambulance driver, Ayman ‘Abdul Ra’ouf Salim, from Khan Yunis, said:

“I have worked as an ambulance driver at Palestine Red Crescent Society for two years.  On Saturday, 19 May 2002, we received a communication that a young man from al-Mawasi area was poisoned and that we have to travel towards al-Tuffah checkpoint, west of Khan Yunis refugee camp, to receive him from another ambulance in the area.  We moved towards the checkpoint.  We were three in accordance with the Israeli orders.  When we arrived at the yellow gate, approximately 150m away from the Israeli occupying forces, the other ambulance driver who was on the other side of the checkpoint asked us to open the gate.  When one of us got out to open the gate, an Israeli soldier shouted and ordered us to move back. Then, the other ambulance driver coordinated the transfer of the young man with the Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint.  He asked us to move the young man.  This process took more than half an hour.  In previous similar cases, Israeli soldiers fired at us and checked the ambulances.”

 

Deaths at Israeli Military Checkpoint and Roadblocks

On Thursday, 18 April 2002, a baby, Dina Nasser Eshtayeh, 5 days old, died as Israeli occupying forces at a military roadblock denied her access to hospital for emergency treatment.  According to her father, Nasser Eshtyeh, a journalist, on Thursday evening, she was sick.  He took her to a physician who told him that she was suffering from irregular heart rate and that she must be taken to hospital for oxygen.  Soon, the father called an ambulance of Palestine Red Crescent Society to move her to a hospital in Nablus.  At approximately 23:30, the ambulance arrived at the entrance to Salem village.  Israeli soldiers at the entrance of the village searched the ambulance.  They allowed the passage of the ambulance at midnight.  However, an Israeli tank stopped it in Faisal Street for 35 minutes.  Then, as the ambulance proceeded to the hospital the baby died, only 3 minutes before arrival at the hospital.  Physicians told her father that they could have saved her life if she had been brought to hospital earlier. 

At approximately 05:50 on Saturday, 25 May 2002, a Palestinian baby died shortly after being born at an Israeli military roadblock in Bethlehem.  Early in the morning, Fadia Kamel Za’oul, from Nahalin village, west of Bethlehem, started labour.  At approximately 04:00, her husband Jamal took her in his brother’s car towards a hospital in Bethlehem.  When they arrived at the junction of al-Khader village, they found sand barriers established by Israeli occupying forces to block the road.  They were forced to get out of the car and take another car that traveled towards Bethlehem through the al-Sidra-Beit Jala road.  When they arrived at an Israeli military roadblock in the area, Israeli soldiers denied them passage.  The woman’s pains increased, so her husband called an ambulance, which quickly arrived.  Israeli soldiers refused to allow the evacuation of the woman into the ambulance, and allowed an obstetrician to deliver the baby.  Lives of the woman and her baby were endangered, so Israeli soldiers allowed the passage of the ambulance towards hospital, but the baby died at approximately 05:50, shortly after arrival at the hospital.

Also on the same day morning, 64-year-old Mustafa ‘Abdul Jawad al-Qarut Edkeidek, from al-‘Eizaria village, east of occupied Jerusalem, died at an Israeli military roadblock while on his way from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.  He suffered from a heart attack while waiting at the Israeli military roadblock.  Israeli occupying soldiers denied the access of ambulances to the area.  Two hours later, they brought an Israeli ambulance, but Edkeidek was dead. 

 In the Gaza Strip, on Wednesday, 29 May, Ghalia Ahmed Shalah, 70, from Rafah, died from a heart attack at an Israeli military roadblock, south of Deir al-Balah.  According to PCHR’s investigation, at approximately 11:00, Shalah arrived at an Israeli military roadblock in Abu Houli area, south of Deir al-Balah, on her way home in Rafah.  The roadblock was closed.  She remained at the roadblock until 17:00.  Then, she suffered from difficulties in breathing.  An ambulance of the Palestine Red Crescent Society was in the area.  Medics of the ambulance offered her first aid, but her health condition continued to deteriorate.  After communication with the Israeli side through the Palestinian liaison, the ambulance was allowed to cross the Israeli military roadblock.  When the ambulance arrived at another Israeli military roadblock at al-Matahen junction, north of Khan Yunis, Israeli forces thoroughly searched it.  Twenty minutes later, the ambulance was allowed to travel to hospital, but the woman died on the way.

On 23 May 2002, Tarab Ghaleb Fayez Mansour, 39, from Jourish village, south of Nablus, gave birth to a dead baby at Rafidya Hospital in Nablus.  She had a long trip from her village towards hospital that took more than five hours, as Israeli soldiers at Hawara military checkpoint, south of Nablus, obstructed he passage while she was suffering from a hemorrhage. 

      

 

4)  Denial of the Right to Work

 

Under the current total siege, workers of the Gaza Strip have been denied access to their work places both in Israel and inside the Gaza Strip, in violation of the right of work, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966, whose Article 6 provides that “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.”

 

The Palestinian economy has been dependent on the Israeli economy due to the policies adopted by Israeli occupation authorities.  The Palestinian economy basically depends on the outcome of Palestinian labor in Israel.  Israeli occupying forces have maintained a strict siege on the Gaza Strip, denying the access for Gazan workers to their work places both in Israel 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 workers have lost their jobs.   Consequently, the Palestinian economy has further deteriorated.

 

The number of Palestinian workers from the Gaza Strip who used to work officially in Israel before the current total siege was 16,000, in addition to double this number of workers who used to work unofficially.  Since December 2000, Israeli occupying forces have allowed only a very limited number of Palestinian workers, mostly in the agricultural sector, access to their work places in Israel under the following conditions:

 

·           A worker must be over 37.

·           He must have no security questions on his record.

·           He must be requested by his Israeli employer.

 

Most of those workers have not been able to reach their work places due to Israeli measures against them at internal military checkpoints, including checking and humiliation.  Sometimes, Israeli forces deny the access of workers who have work permits to their work places.  Up to May 2002, the Palestinian Ministry of Labor received and distributed around 2227 work permits for Palestinians working in Israel.

 

The following table shows the number of Palestinian workers who had permits to work in Israel in each month from the beginning of the Intifada until May 2002:

 

Month

Number of workers

October 2000

Nil

November 2000

Nil

December 2000

5,600

January 2001

Nil

February 2001

4,000

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

1,263

December 2001

1,642

January 2002

1,837

February 2002

2,227

March 2002

2,470

April 2002

Nil

May 2002

Nil

Source: Palestinian Ministry of Labor. 

 

The Director of Employment at the Ministry of Labor told a PCHR field officer that not all those who obtained permits were workers, as approximately 700 permits were offered to traders and businessmen.  According to the Ministry of Labor, the number of Palestinian workers who used to work in Israel was approximately 120,000, but sources of the World Bank and UN estimated their number at 130,000, 80% of them were from the West Bank, including Jerusalem whose share was 28%, and 20% were from the Gaza Strip.  These laborers have been denied access to their work places under the current Israeli total siege imposed on the OPT.  In addition, thousands of Palestinian workers working inside the OPT lost their jobs because Israeli occupying forces destroyed factories, workshops and infrastructure projects and razed large areas of Palestinian agricultural land.

 

Since the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada, Israeli occupying forces have employed arbitrary measures against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip.  They have arrested and fired at dozens of Palestinians fishermen and damaged fishing boats and nets.  Consequently, thousands of families have lost their primary source of income.   

 

The total number of Palestinian workers is approximately 660,885, approximately 365,000 of them (55%) are currently unemployed. 

 

The Palestinian economy largely depends on the income of casual laborers. The average daily income of a worker is US$ 27.25. Thus, the total daily loss of labor in Israel is approximately US$ 3,250,000. The daily income of Palestinian workers working inside the OPT is approximately US$ 3 million.  So, the total daily loss of Palestinian labor force is approximately US$6,250,000. 

 

5)  Restrictions on Commercial Transactions

 

The Israeli military 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

In April and May 2002, Israeli occupying forces repeatedly closed al-Mentar (Karni) crossing, obstructing Palestinian commercial activities and causing further deterioration to the Palestinian economy.  According to PCHR's documentation, Israeli occupying forced closed the crossing on Tuesday, 2 April 2002.  It was partially reopened on Monday, 8 April, and some foodstuffs, 320 tons of wheat and 200 tons of sugar, milk products, fruits and cows, were entered into the Gaza Strip. 

 

On Tuesday, 9 April, Israeli occupying forces re-closed the crossing.  They reopened it on Sunday, 14 April, allowing entry of small amounts of foodstuffs; 15 tons of wheat and 15 tons of rice, sugar, mineral water, fruits and animal feeds. 

 

As a result of Israeli measures at the crossing, the Gaza Strip suffered a shortage of wheat in April and May.  Consequently, many bakeries closed.  People queued for many hours for bread. 

 

On Wednesday, 22 May, Israeli occupying forces re-closed the crossing, after the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) took its share of taxes collected from traders at the crossing. In reaction to the new Palestinian arrangements, Israeli occupying forces closed the crossing, preventing exportation and importation.  As a consequence, Palestinian traders and farmers suffered large losses, as their products such as tomatoes and citrus spoiled.  Israeli occupying forces reopened the crossing on Tuesday, 28 May. 

 

Al-Mentar (Karni) crossing, one of the major commercial outlets of the Gaza Strip, has been frequently closed by Israeli occupying authorities since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Under 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 at 60% of the capacity it had operated at before the 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.  Under these obstacles, Palestinian economic sectors, especially agriculture and industry, have further deteriorated.

 

Gaza International Airport

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

 

Rafah Border Crossing

 

Israeli occupying forces have obstructed movement at, and repeatedly closed Rafah border crossing.  On Sunday, 7 April 2002, Israeli occupying forces closed the crossing until the following day.  Procedures employed by Israeli occupying forces at the crossing include:

1)          Sharply decreasing the number of staff working at the crossing to 6 employees and 12 porters instead of 140-150 employees.

2)          Decreasing work hours at the crossing; the crossing works from 08:00 to 14:00 for departing travelers and from 08:00 to 16:00 for arriving travelers.

3)          The number of departing travelers has sharply decreased.

4)          Many travelers are arrested by Israeli occupying forces at the crossing.

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.

  

Sofa Crossing

Israeli occupying authorities closed Sofa crossing, northeast of Rafah, on Tuesday, 26 March 2002, 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.  The crossing was partially reopened for few hours on Wednesday, 9 April.  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 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 4,000-5,000 tons daily out of 15,000-20,000 tons daily before the Intifada.

 

Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing

 

Since 2 June 2001, Israeli occupying forces have sustained the closure of Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing.  Israeli occupying forces had kept the crossing closed since October 8, 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.

 

The Palestinian economy, including trade, industry, agriculture, labor, tourism, transportation and investment, has further deteriorated due to continuous Israeli closure of crossings.  According to Palestinian official reports, losses of the Palestinian economy from the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000 up to 30 April 2002 are estimated at US$ 10 billion, with a monthly average loss of US$ 500 million.  According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), the percentage of poverty 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 retreat in their productivity, and unemployment has increased.  According to the Palestinian Ministry of Labor, the percentage of poverty is 50%, and according to the PCBS, it is 38%.  The deficit in the Palestinian budget of 2000 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 was expected to be US$ 840 million, without foreign aid.  Israeli authorities have also blocked more than US$ 650 million of tax revenues of the Palestinian National Authority.

 

Palestinian economists have estimated losses caused by Israeli occupying forces in April only after these waged a full-scale offensive on the West Bank cities at more than US$ 1 billion, 50% of which were due to the Israeli total siege imposed on the OPT, while the remaining 50% were due the destruction of Palestinian infrastructure by Israeli occupying forces. 

 

The drop of the Palestinian national product from 29 September 2000 to 30 April 2002 is estimated at 65%.  The following table shows percentages of drops in various Palestinian economic sectors from 29 September 2000 to 30 April 2002:

 

Sector

Drop

Agriculture

80%

Industry

65%

Construction

90%

Trade

50%

Transportation

90%

Financial mediation

25%

Public management and defense

50%

Services

50%

Other sectors

90%

Average

65%

Source: Palestinian State Information Service

 

Moreover, the Palestinian economy has sustained additional indirect losses, which have been estimated at US$ 3,250 million as shown in the following table:

 

Kind of loss

Amount in US$ millions

National resources

1,200

Lost opportunities

500

Additional financial burdens

900

PNA tax revenues blocked by Israel

650

Total

3,250

Source: Palestinian State Information Service 

 

6)   Continued Prevention of Visitation of Palestinian Prisoners

 

Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have been deprived of family visits as a consequence of the total siege imposed on the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israeli occupying authorities have also severely disrupted the visitation program organized by the ICRC.  The Israeli authorities have also prevented Gazan lawyers from visiting Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. These issues have a negative psychological impact on the prisoners, exacerbating the poor 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.

 


 

Conclusion

 

Israeli occupying 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 Israeli occupying forces against the Palestinian people is internationally prohibited, and it contradicts internationally accepted human rights standards and international humanitarian law.

 

PCHR calls for a lifting of the total siege imposed on the occupied Palestinian territories and an end to the policy of harsh restrictions adopted by Israeli occupying forces against the Palestinian people.  The current situation in the occupied Palestinian territories is the most serious since the beginning of the occupation 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 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.           Take effective steps by the EU, under Article 2 of the Euro-Israel Association Agreement, which provides that Israel must respect human rights.

6.          Search for and prosecute those responsible for war crimes committed against the Palestinian people.

 

 

“End”

 

 

 

 

 

Annex

 

Table of closures of crossings in the Gaza Strip from the beginning of 2002 to 26 June 2002

 

Crossing

Closure

Partial reopening

Al-Mentar

15 March 2002

28 March 2002

9 April 2002

22 May 2002

17 March 2002

8 April 2002

14 April 2002

28 May 2002

Sofa

26 March 2002

On 9 April 2002 for few hours

Erez

8 October 2000

 

Rafah

15 March 2002

28 March 2002

7 April 2002

17 March 2002

30 March 2002

8 April 2002

Gaza International Airport

14 February 2002

 

 

 

 

“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] Israeli occupying forces had already employed an oppressive measure known as "numeration," under which adult Palestinians living in the area had special numbers on their identity cards.  Anyone who does not have this number is denied entrance into the area.  Many Palestinians, including those who have old addresses and women married to men living outside the area, were not given numbers, so they have been denied free movement from and into the area