Published on 3 December 2002

 

CLOSURE UPDATE NO. 43

 

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

 

 

Overview:

 

Since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada on 29 September 2000, Israeli occupying forces have maintained a total siege on the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), causing a humanitarian crisis under which Palestinians are deprived of their basic rights.  

 

In the Gaza Strip, for 26 months, Israeli occupying forces have maintained a closure on all border crossings between the Gaza Strip and the outside world.  They have totally closed Gaza International Airport for 721 days and partially for 72 days.  They have imposed a full closure on Rafah Terminal at the Egyptian border for 120 days and a partial closure for 673 days.  The Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing has been fully closed for 684 days and  partially closed for 109 days.  They have also fully closed al-Mentar crossing for 56 days and partially closed it for 737 days.  Sofa crossing has been totally closed for 349 days and partially closed for 444 days.  Israeli occupying forces have also closed the "Safe Passage" crossing between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intiafada.[1]

 

Israeli occupying forces have maintained restrictions on internal movement.  They have erected military checkpoints and roadblocks on the main roads in the Gaza Strip, partitioning the Gaza Strip into three isolated zones.  In 2002, Israeli occupying forces imposed more restrictions on movement at these military checkpoints and roadblocks, and repeatedly closed them, denying movement of Palestinians from one area of the Gaza Strip to another. Israeli occupying forces have also severely restricted movement within some areas of the Gaza Strip, such as the al-Mawasi area in Khan Yunis and Rafah, the al-Sayafa area in Beit Lahia and the Wadi al-Salqa and al-Qarara areas in Deir al-Balah, by instating curfews, setting up checkpoints in these areas. 

 

As a result of the restrictions on movement described above, the living conditions of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip has rapidly deteriorated, and Palestinians have been denied many of their fundamental rights.

 

The Israeli siege has violated the right of Palestinian children to education, as thousands of students and teachers have faced difficulties in reaching their schools and universities because of the Israeli military checkpoints and roadblocks erected along the main roads in the Gaza Strip. 

 

Furthermore, Israeli occupying forces have restricted Palestinian and international medical personnel from providing health services to the civilians of Gaza, thus denying thousands of Palestinians their right to health care.  They have prevented hundreds of ambulances from evacuating the wounded and patients to hospitals.  As a result of the restriction of ambulance movement, since the beginning of the intifada until 24 October 2002, 51 Palestinians, including 8 in the Gaza Strip, have died.  Israeli occupying forces have also prevented necessary medical supplies from reaching hospitals and clinics.  Thus, children’s medical care and vaccination programs have been disrupted.  A particularly harmful action in the OPTs considering that, according to a new study, 12.5% of Palestinian women and 12.5% of children in the West Bank and Gaza Strip suffer from anemia.  Access to emergency and regular medical treatment has been negatively affected by the Israeli total siege, as 33% of those who were in need for emergency medical treatment were denied access to such treatment, 21% of those who were in need for maternal care were deprived of it, and 17% of children did not receive necessary vaccination shots.  Furthermore, 44% of those who suffered from renal diseases, 38% of diabetes patients and 46% of cancer patients were prevented from receiving regular medical treatment.   At one point, due to Isreali restrictions on movement these groups were unable to reach hospitals and medical centers for 6 weeks. 

 

As the result of the Israeli siege on the OPTs, the Palestinian economy has dramatically deteriorated.  According to Palestinian official reports, the losses of the Palestinian economy since the beginning of the Intiafada are estimated at US$ 11.7 billion.  A recent report by the World Bank expected that the gross national product of the Palestinian Territories will decrease by the end of 2002 by 25% as a result of the Israeli siege and restrictions on commercial transactions.  Poverty in the OPT has mounted to approximately 75%, and unemployment has increased to approximately 65%. 

 

The Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip has also had a negative impact on social relations in Palestinian society.  Restrictions on movement within and across the boarders of the Gaza Strip, and the strain on economic resources for families within this area caused by closures, have severely limited the ability of Gazans to visit friends and relatives.


 

Introduction

 

During the present Intifada Israeli occupying forces have maintained a total siege on the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), a measure not witnessed  since 1967.  They have isolated Jerusalem from other areas in the West Bank, and have not allowed travel between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  By closing the parameters of the OPTs and restricting internal movement within the OPTs, Israeli forces have, in effect, transformed these territories into two large detention areas that contain dozens of small isolated cantons.  This system of isolation and closure disrupts and impairs  every aspect of Palestinian life, greatly magnifying the already harsh conditions that  Palestinian civilians live under, and depriving the Palestinians of fundamental economic, social, cultural, political and civil rights.

 

Since February 2002, Israeli occupying forces have tightened the siege imposed on the OPTs, especially the West Bank, and have fragmented these territories with road-blocks, checkpoints, settlement, etc. 

 

PCHR asserts that the Israeli policy of closure is a form of collective punishment against Palestinian civilians.  An illegal military strategy adopted by Israeli authorities with the aim of increasing the suffering of the Palestinian people in the OPTs in order to intimidate Palestinians from supporting or participating in resistance activities against Israeli occupying forces.  Among the many violations of human rights perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians, the policy of closure has had a disastrous impact on the economic, social and cultural rights of Palestinians  within  the OPTs.

 

Israeli occupying forces have imposed curfews on Palestinian communities for long periods, placing entire towns under a form of de facto house arrest, and causing a shortage of foodstuffs and medical services within these same areas by preventing supplies from getting into seized towns.  During these times, many patients who suffer from chronic diseases and need regular medical treatment are not able to reach hospitals and medical centers on a regular basis.  In summer 2002, Israeli occupying forces imposed a curfew on Nablus, where more than 200,000 Palestinians live, for more than 100 days. 

 

Israeli occupying forces have maintained a strict siege on the Gaza Strip, dividing it into three isolated zones.  They have also totally isolated some areas from the rest of the Gaza Strip, such as the al-Mawasi area in Khan Yunis and Rafah, Wadi al-Salqa village in the central Gaza Strip and al-Sayafa area in the northern Gaza Strip. In addition, Israeli occupying forces have imposed a night curfew on these areas. 

 

Israeli military checkpoints north of Khan Yunis continue to restrict movement of Palestinian civilians between the north and south of the Gaza Strip.  In the past four months, Palestinian civilians crossing these checkpoints were subjected to humiliation and arbitrary arrest by Israeli soldiers. 

 

Israeli occupying forces have maintained a strict siege on the al-Mawasi area in the southern Gaza Strip.  In flagrant violation of the right to free movement, Israeli occupying forces have transformed al-Tuffah checkpoint, separating the al-Mawasi area from Khan Yunis, into a crossing similar to the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing, and have also imposed a night curfew on Wadi al-Salqa village in the central Gaza Strip for more than a year. 

 

Israeli occupying forces at military roadblocks and checkpoints have frequently disallowed travel through these points for no discernable reason, seriously violating the rights of Palestinians to health care, education facilities and free movement.  Israeli occupying forces have restricted movement at border crossings, and have often closed these crossings, denying cross-border movement of travelers and goods.  Even when these crossing are partially opened, Israeli occupying forces severely limit the importation and exportation of goods.

 

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.  Consequently unemployment has increased to at least 65% in the OPTs.  As a result, the poverty rate has increased to approximately 75% of the population in the Gaza Strip, and to 82% in the Rafah and Khan Yunis areas of the Gaza Strip. 

 

The Israeli claim that the policy of closure is one in a series of security measures that aim at stopping violence has proved to be misleading, as such measures have not prevented Palestinians militant organizations from carrying out attacks against Israeli targets.

 

This is the 43rd in a series of updates published by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights on the closure imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip.  It highlights the impacts of the Israeli policy of closure on the living conditions of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip over the period 1 July – 30 November 2002. 


 

1)                Violation of the Right to Free Movement

 

Since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada, Israeli occupying forces have restricted movement of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.  These forces have repeatedly closed the Rafah Border Crossing, between Gaza and Egypt. 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. Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinians violate the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, particularly Article 27, which protects all fundamental human rights of civilians within an occupied territory, and Article 33, which prohibits collective penalties against protected civilian persons.

 

1.                  Continued Restrictions on Travel between Gaza Strip and Egypt

 

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, the latest incidence of which was on Sunday and Monday, 15 and 16 September 2002.  Israeli occupying authorities have adopted unnecessarily complicated procedures at the crossing, restricting travel of thousands of Palestinians.  Several months ago, Israeli occupying forces cancelled the travel procedures that were followed before the Intifada and adopted new procedures, including decreasing the number of Palestinian employees working at the crossing to 2, one of whom is responsible for collecting fees of travel from travelers and the other is responsible for collecting passports and handing them to Israeli employees.   Israeli soldiers have become completely responsible for customs.  Travelers coming from Egypt are subject to strict search.  Before the Intifada the crossing was in operation 24 hours a day.  Now the crossing operates between 09:00 and 14:00 for departing travelers and between 09:00 and 16:00 for arriving travelers.  Israeli occupying authorities make some apparent attempts to decrease the number of travelers.  Sometime, they start work at the crossing after 09:00, obstruct travel of some people and interrogate some travelers.  Due to these conditions, Palestinians traveling through the Rafah Border Crossings face inhuman and degrading treatment. For instance, on Monday and Tuesday, 12 and 13 August 2002, Israeli occupying forces opened the crossing at 11:55 instead of 09:00, obstructing travel procedures at the crossing.  Consequently, the number of travelers at the Egyptian side increased to about 1000, most of whom were forced to spend 2-5 days at the Egyptian side waiting to be allowed entry into the Gaza Strip.  There are no facilities at the Egyptian side of the terminal and travelers are forced to spend long hours in the sun and sleep on the floor outside.  The lack of basic sanitation facilities in particular poses a serious health concern.

 

It takes a Gazan who wishes to travel from the Gaza Strip to Egypt several days to get through the crossing.  First, he/she has to go to the crossing a few days before the date of his travel. 

 

He/she has to hand his/her passport to Palestinian employees to include him/her on the list of travelers and to book him/her a place in one of a series of cars that transport travelers.  He/she can then travel at least 2-3 days later.[2] 

 

·                    An Old Man Spends a Week to Be Allowed to Travel to Egypt

 

A man over 60 years old was sitting in a cafeteria near the Rafah crossing talking with a friend a bout the conditions of travel stated: 

 

“I have a medical report and I have to travel in order to receive medical treatment, but I could not.  This is my seventh day at the crossing.  I come in the morning and spend the whole day waiting.  At the end of the day, they tell me that I will travel on the following day.  If I do not travel today, I will not go back home.  I will spend the night here.” 

 

·                    A Woman and Her Children Spend 4 Days Waiting to Be Allowed to Travel

 

A.Q., 42, from Khan Yunis, said:

 

“For 4 days, I have been coming to the crossing with my 3 children every day.  I have been trying to travel in one of the cars, but all my attempts have failed.  They have given me several numbers, but I have not been able to travel.  My mother lives in Egypt.  She is sick and I wish to visit her, but it seems that I will not succeed.  I feel pity for my children who have to wait with me under the sun.  Although I booked the traveling several days ago, I have not been able to travel.”

 

·                    The Way Back to the Gaza Strip: Humiliation, Long Waiting and Inhuman Conditions

 

A girl traveling back to the Gaza Strip from Egypt described to PCHR her suffering at Rafah Border Crossing:

 

“I arrived at the Egyptian side of the crossing at approximately 05:45 on Wednesday, 31 July 2002.  Immediately, I went to the hall and handed my passport to the Egyptian authorities at the crossing.  The number of arriving travelers was about 15.  At approximately 06:30, the Egyptian authorities completed our procedures and I received my passport.  I went out of the hall. I was surprised by a long queue.  There were approximately 300 people waiting.  I stood in the queue until 12:00.  We were standing under the sun.  at approximately 12:15, while I was standing in the queue – 50 travelers were before me and more than 100 other behind me, an Egyptian officer came to me and asked: ‘Are you alone?’  I said: yes.  He repeated the question to make sure.  Then, he told me that he would help me because I was alone, because the bus that would come soon would be the last one to cross on that day.  I thanked him and walked with him until the beginning of the queue, where a number of Egyptian officers were standing.  One of those officers asked the officer why he had brought me.  The officer who brought me told him that they had to help me because I am a girl and was alone.  The second officer took my passport and allowed me to stand in another queue, which was designed for the travelers who were about to get into the bus.  About 80 travelers were standing before me.  I waited there from 12:30 to 13:00.  Then, I got into the bus.  About 90-100 travelers with their bags were in the bus.  The bus moved towards the gate leading to the Israeli side of the crossing.  We remained there until 15:45, when they allowed us to cross the gate towards the Israeli side.  While we were waiting at the gate, one of the travelers fainted.  In the Israeli hall, I was checked and my mobile phone was checked by a machine.  An Israeli soldier also checked my bag.  Checking was very strict.  I could see only one Palestinian employee who was collecting passports and handing them to Israeli soldiers.  Outside the hall, there were Israeli employees instead of Palestinian ones as before.  They asked me if I had cigarettes or electric sets.  Then, I moved towards buses outside the hall.  I got into a bus and waited.  At approximately 17:00, the bus moved outside and we got into cars that transported us to our houses.”       

 

·                    Israeli Procedures and Facilities at the Crossing

 

Misleadingly, Israeli occupying forces declared that they eased procedures of travel for travelers arriving from Egypt.  However, the Egyptian side of the crossing was over-crowded from Tuesday, 20 August, to Friday, 23 August 2002.  While approximately 1500 travelers were able to cross to the Palestinian side during this time period, Israeli occupying forces applied the same procedures of travel, including long waiting and checking.  Israeli measures at the crossing include:

 

§         The crossing works from 08:00 to 14:00 for departing travelers and from 08:00 to 17:00 for arriving travelers, but in fact, Israeli occupying forces don not allow cars to enter the crossing until after 09:00.

§         Israeli occupying forces have continued to interrogate and arrest some Palestinian travelers.

§         Buses have to wait for hours before they are allowed entry to the Palestinian side of the crossing.

§         Buses coming from the Egyptian side are over-crowded, and sit in the sun while the travelers wait inside them.   

 

 

 

 

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.  Consequently, commercial transactions witnessed a setback, Gazan students studying at universities of the West Bank have not been able to travel back to the Gaza Strip and Gazan members of the Palestinian Legislative Council have not been able to attend sessions of the council in the West Bank, thus sessions have been held through telephone and video conference.  The “Safe Passage” is the only path available for Palestinians to move between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. 

 

·                    14 Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council Denied Access to the West Bank

 

Under the current total siege imposed on the OPT by Israeli occupying forces, members of the Palestinian Legislative Council have been denied access to the West Bank.  In this context, on Sunday, 8 September 2002, Israeli occupying forces denied access of a number of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council to the West Bank, in violation of the Interim Agreements between the PLO and the Israeli government, which allow free movement for members of the Palestinian Legislative Council between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  Israeli occupying forces also attacked or arrested a number of those members. 

 

3.                  Restriction of Movement inside the Gaza Strip

 

Over the period under study, Israeli occupying forces closed Salah al-Din Street, the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip, on a number of occasions.  They also imposed curfews on some areas, such as the al-Mawasi area in the southern Gaza Strip, Wadi al-Salqa village in the central Gaza Strip and the al-Sayafa area in the northern Gaza Strip.  In July 2002, Israeli occupying forces closed Salah al-Din Street between Rafah and Khan Yunis and all branch roads, isolating the 150,000 population of Rafah from the rest of the Gaza Strip.

 

By closing Salah al-Din Street at al-Matahen and Abu Houli military checkpoints, Israeli occupying forces have fragmented the Gaza Strip into three isolated zones.[3]  Consequently, the over 1,300,300 civilians living in the Gaza Strip are currently confined by force in what can be described as collective detention areas, a practice that contradicts with international humanitarian law and human rights standards, including the right to free movement.  In July and August 2002, Palestinians traveling through the al-Matahen and Abu Houli military checkpoints on Salah al-Din Street were stopped, searched and ill-treated by Israeli forces stationed at these points.

 

 According to information available to PCHR,[4] at approximately 17:00 on Sunday, 21 July 2002, Israeli soldiers blocked a number of civilian cars between the aforementioned checkpoints.  They forced Palestinian travelers to get out of cars and checked them and their identity cards.  Israeli soldiers then forced the travelers to take off their upper clothes, and detained a number of them for long hours in yards surrounded by cement blocks where they were interrogated by Israeli soldiers before being released. 

 

At approximately 12:00 on Wednesday, 24 July 2002, Israeli occupying forces blocked a number of Palestinian vehicles between al-Matahen and Abu Houli military checkpoints.  They forced Palestinians traveling in these vehicles to get out of the vehicles and checked them after having forced them to take off their upper clothes.  Israeli soldiers also detained and interrogated 3 Palestinians.  Later, Israeli occupying forces claimed that they had arrested a wanted Palestinian, without giving details about his identity.          

 

Israeli occupying forces often close the two checkpoints for no apparent reason.  For instance, on 11, 12 and 21 August 2002, Israeli occupying forces closed the two checkpoints, blocked a number of cars and checked Palestinians traveling in those cars.

 

In September 2002, Israeli occupying forces closed the two checkpoints more than once.  At approximately 07:00 on Thursday, 5 September 2002, Israeli occupying forces closed the two checkpoints denying movement of cars in both directions.  They also blocked 7 cars between the two checkpoints.  Palestinians traveling in these cars were forced to stay in these cars for 13 hours.  Then, Israeli soldiers forced the cars to travel back towards Deir al-Balah even though they were attempting to travel towards Khan Yunis.  As a result of this closure, thousands of Palestinian students and employees were not able to reach their universities and work places in Gaza city.  During the closure, Israeli soldiers fired more than once at Palestinians waiting at the checkpoints.  They also called on them through megaphones to go back to their homes, claiming that the checkpoints would be closed for some days.  However, Palestinians insisted on staying as many of them did not have relatives or places to stay on the side of the check point they were trapped on. Israeli occupying forces partially reopened the two checkpoints at approximately 21:00. 

 

Furthermore, Israeli soldiers arrested Mohammed Hikmat ‘Edwan, a journalist of Ramatan press center, while he was photographing Israeli practices against Palestinian civilians at the two checkpoints.  On Saturday, 7 September 2002, Israeli occupying forces totally closed the two checkpoints once again.

 

In his testimony to PCHR on Israeli practices against Palestinian civilians at al-Matahen and Abu Houli military checkpoints, Mohammed Khalil Salama Abu Fayadh, a journalist, stated:

 

“I work as an editor at the Palestinian News Agency (Wafa).  On 7 September, after I had finished my night work at UNRWA headquarters in Gaza city, I decided to go back home in Khan Yunis in the morning.  I traveled in a taxi towards Khan Yunis.  When we arrived at Abu Houli military checkpoint, south of Deir al-Balah, Salah al-Din Street was open for cars traveling from Khan Yunis to the north, but was closed on the other direction.  However, Israeli soldiers allowed our taxi and 5 other cars to cross the checkpoint.  When we got between Abu Houli and al-Matahen checkpoints, Israeli occupying forces closed the two checkpoints and we were blocked in between.  I saw dozens of cars waiting outside the two checkpoints.  People got out of cars and sat on the ground.  There was an intense movement of Israeli heavy military vehicles in the area.  Suddenly, Israeli soldiers on an observation tower and the roof of a house they had already seized, fired live ammunition and tear gas.  We remained between the two checkpoints until 19:30.  During this period, we were prevented from getting out of our cars.  Then, two Israeli military jeeps arrived and Israeli soldiers ordered us to travel back to Deir al-Balah, saying that the road would be closed in the coming days.  We traveled back, but people were not convinced that the road would remain closed.  Soon, Israeli military vehicles arrived and opened fire, terrifying people, especially women and children.  At approximately 21:00, the two checkpoints were reopened and people were able to travel back to their homes late at night.”    

 

On Thursday, 28 September 2002, Israeli occupying forces closed al-Matahen and Abu Houli military checkpoints.  The closure remained in effect until the end of the month, during which the checkpoints were opened two hours a day, one in the morning and another in the evening. 

 

At approximately 10:15 on Monday, 14 October 2002, Israeli occupying forces blocked a number of Palestinian vehicles between al-Matahen and Abu Houli military checkpoints.  They searched these vehicles, concentrating their efforts on the car traveling from Khan Yunis to Deir al-Balah.  They also checked the identity cards of passengers.  They forced a number of passengers to get out of their vehicles and detained them in an adjacent yard.  A number of these passengers, including the aforementioned journalist, were moved in military jeeps to nearby Israeli military locations, where they were interrogated.  During this period an Israeli soldier cut the journalist’s identity card.  Other Palestinian passengers were not able to get out of their vehicles from 13:15 until after 23:00.  In the meantime, thousands of Palestinians were waiting at the two checkpoints to travel back to their homes.  According to information available to PCHR, Israeli occupying forces eventually released all of the Palestinians who were blocked between the two checkpoints, excluding two people who were traveling in a Peugeot 504 car.  The two were taken to an unknown destination while their car remained in the area. 

 

In her testimony to PCHR about the closure of the two checkpoints on 14 October, Islam ‘Abdul Hamid al-Astal, stated:

 

“I live in Khan Yunis.  I work as an editor at the magazine and radio station of the Union of Palestinian Workers in Gaza city.  At approximately 07:00 on Monday, 14 October 2002, I traveled towards my work in a taxi.  We waited at al-Matahen checkpoints for approximately 10 minutes.  Then, the checkpoint was opened and we traveled to Gaza city.  On the way back home, I arrived at Abu Houli checkpoint at approximately 14:00.  I was surprised by the many cars that were waiting at the checkpoint.  People told me that Israeli soldiers closed the checkpoint.  Half an hour later, I looked at the area between the two checkpoints (Abu Houli and al-Matahen).  I saw many cars blocked by Israeli soldiers there.  I saw Israeli soldiers searching the cars, forcing men out of the cars, and checking them and their identity cards.  I also saw Israeli soldiers taking a number of young men to a nearby yard.  I did not know what was going on with those young men.  Hours passed and the checkpoint remained closed.  I was worried as darkness was getting close and I do not like to stay away from f home at such a time.  We waited until approximately 23:00, when Israeli occupying forces opened the checkpoint.  When I arrived in Khan Yunis it was a problem for me to travel home, as I live in al-Rabwat area, near ‘Gani Tal’ settlement, and there is no transportation to this area at night.  I went to an ambulance center, where medical staff transported me home.”

 

4.                  Isolation of Areas

 

·                    Al-Mawasi Area in the Southern Gaza Strip[5]

 

Israeli occupying forces have restricted movement of the Palestinian population of al-Mawas

area.  On Monday morning, 22 July 2002, Israeli occupying forces closed al-Tuffah military checkpoint, west of Khan Yunis, denying movement of Palestinians into and outside the area.  Consequently, dozens of Palestinian civilians, mostly women who went out of the area to receive medical treatment, were forced to wait near the checkpoint under the sun.  PCHR’s field worker in Khan Yunis reported that on Tuesday morning, 23 July 2002, Israeli occupying forces imposed a curfew on the area, further denying the economic and social rights of the Palestinian population of the area. 

 

In her testimony to PCHR, M.Q. said:

 

“I live with my family in the al-Mawasi area of Rafah.  I got out of the area on Sunday morning, 21 July 2002 through Tal al-Sultan military checkpoint, together with my daughters and my daughter-in-law, to buy marrage supplies for one of my daughters who was supposed to get married on Thursday, 25 July 2002.  After we had gone shopping, we traveled towards al-Tuffah checkpoint in Khan Yunis to go back home.   Israeli occupying forces only allow us to go back to the area through al-Tuffah checkpoint.  Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint told us that they would not allow the entry of anything through the checkpoint.  We waited until the evening, but the checkpoint was not opened.  We went to a nearby house in Khan Yunis refugee camp and the family hosted us that night.  At approximately 05:00 on the following day, we went to the checkpoint again, but Israeli soldiers only allowed workers from Jewish settlements to cross the checkpoint.  We waited with dozens of people until night.”

 

On 18, 20 and 21 August 2002, Israeli occupying forces again closed al-Tuffah military checkpoint and denied the movement of Palestinians. According to dozens of Palestinian civilians living in al-Mawasi area, they faced extreme difficulties in crossing the checkpoint on the two days that preceded this closure.  Israeli occupying forces also closed the checkpoint from 6 to 8 September 2002.  Many people were not able to go back to the area and were forced to stay in houses in the Khan Yunis refugee camp. 

 

In her testimony to PCHR, H.Z., from the al-Mawasi area of Khan Yunis, said:

 

“I have lived in the al-Mawasi area for several years.  On Sunday, 18 August 2002, I went out of the area together with my child, Rami, 14, through al-Tuffah, to buy milk and medicines for my 9-month-old sick infant.  I left her at home with her father and brothers, the eldest of whom is 16 years old.  On the way back, I was surprised that the checkpoint was closed even though buying the milk and medicines took only 10 minutes.  I waited until 19:00, but the checkpoint was not reopened.  I went towards the checkpoint again on the following day, but I could not cross the checkpoint as Israeli soldiers allowed few people to move into the al-Mawasi area.  On the third day, the checkpoint was totally closed.  I am still waiting for the checkpoint to be opened.  My husband told me through a telephone call that my other child was sick.”

 

On 7 October 2002, Israeli occupying forces imposed a curfew in the al-Mawasi area.  The curfew remained in effect until 15 October 2002.  All aspects of live were hindered by the curfew. 

 

In his testimony to PCHR on 20 October 2002, Suleiman Mohammed al-Astal said:

            

"I live with my six-member family in a 120-square-meter, asbestos-roofed house in the al-Mawasi area.  I am a farmer.  I have a 15-donum area of agricultural land planted with guavas and palms.  We live in the area despite all the suffering and restrictions we endure at checkpoints.  Since Israeli occupying forces issued magnetic cards and prohibited the entry of young people into the area, my sons: Tariq, 17, Isma'il, 22, Nafez, 25, and Ibrahim, 23, have not been able to come back home, so they have lived in a house we own in Khan Yunis.  My wife Mahzhia al-Astal, 55, my daughter 'Azza, 18, and I have remained in the area.  Approximately one month ago, my daughter suffered from a spasm.  Her mother was forced to go with her to hospital.  After she received medical treatment, they wanted to come back home, but Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint denied them passage, claiming my daughter was young.  My wife told me that they repeatedly went to the checkpoint, but Israeli soldiers denied them passage.  As a long time passed and they did not come back, I decided to go to Khan Yunis to see them.  On 5 October 2002, I went to al-Tuffah checkpoint to cross to Khan Yunis.  One day after I left the area, I was informed that Israeli occupying forces closed the checkpoint and imposed a curfew on the area.  Since then, I have tried, almost daily, to come back home to work in my land, especially as this time is the season of guavas and palms, and I have some birds and animals that need care.  Although Israeli occupying forces lifted the curfew, they have maintained the closure of the checkpoint, preventing us from entering the area.”

 

Dozens of Palestinian Civilians Spend Nights out of Homes Due to Israel Measures in the al-Mawasi Area

 

On Wednesday evening, 30 October 2002, PCHR organized a special field visit for a delegation of Amnesty International and another of International Solidarity Movement, to the area al-Tuffah checkpoint to meet with Palestinians living in the al-Mawasi area.  The visitors met with dozens of inhabitants of the al-Mawasi area who were sitting under an umbrella, which the Municipality of Khan Yunis had established two months earlier, approximately 50m away from the checkpoint.  Women, children and old people were in very bad condition.  Dozens of the inhabitants said that they had spent the whole day at the checkpoint for the third consecutive day.  At night, they went to find shelter at houses of relatives in Rafah and Khan Yunis as Israeli occupying forces continued to close the checkpoint.  Dozens of these inhabitants had not been able to go back to the al-Mawasi area for 15-25 days.[6]

Four members of the delegations of Amnesty International and International Solidarity Movement intervened with Israeli occupying forces.  They talked with an Israeli officer for more than 10 minutes, asking him to allow people to cross the checkpoint, but the officer refused.  He even ordered them to leave the area and threatened to shoot them if they did not do.  They were forced to leave the area. 

 

PCHR warned of the measures and policies adopted by Israeli occupying forces against the al-Mawasi area since the beginning of the Intifada on 29 September 2000.  These measures have included imposing curfews, closing the area for long periods, numerating identity cards of residents of the area, and attacking houses and property.  

  

"I live with my husband and my six children, the eldest of whom is an 11-year-old and the youngest is 2-years-old, in al-Mawasi area in Khan Yunis.  At approximately 09:00 on Wednesday, 30 October 2002, I left the al-Mawasi area through al-Tuffah checkpoint to receive medical treatment in an UNRWA clinic in Khan Yunis refugee camp, as I had pains in the head.  I was careful to receive medical care soon in order to be able to come back home.  When I went back again to al-Tuffah checkpoint at approximately 11:30, I was surprised by the presence of dozens of people, including women and children, who were waiting.  It was clear that Israeli soldiers did not allow them to cross the checkpoint.  I waited until 17:00, hoping that the checkpoint would be reopened. However, the checkpoint was not reopened and I was forced to come back.  I, like many others, was hosted at night by a family in Khan Yunis refugee camp.  On Thursday morning, 31 October 2001, I left the house and thanked the family that hosted me.  When I and others arrived at the site of the Palestinian National Security Force, located before al-Tuffah checkpoint, security men asked us not to move towards the checkpoint to avoid being fired at by Israeli soldiers, as it was too early.  I waited until 07:00 and then went with other people to the checkpoint.  Only few people were allowed to cross the checkpoint.  Women rushed to cross the checkpoint.  Israeli soldiers fired live bullets at us, while we were waiting at the iron gate in the area.  At approximately 09:00, chaos spread over the area after Israeli soldiers opened fire.  I felt that something hit my foot.  I fell onto the ground.  I noticed that my foot was bleeding.  I cried that I was wounded.  People took me in a civilian car to Nasser Hospital, where I knew that I was wounded in the foot by shrapnel from live bullets.  I was moved into the surgery department at the hospital 

 

 

 

 

 

 

·                    Wadi al-Salqa Village[7]

 

Wadi al-Salqa village is one of the areas in the Gaza Strip in which the civilians have been subject to serious violations of human rights by Israeli occupying forces, due in large part to the location of the “Kfar Darom” settlement near the Palestinian houses and farms of the area.  Villagers pay a very high price for the security of Israeli settlers traveling on “Kissufim” road (86), a branch of Salah al-Din Street, which passes through the village.  Israeli occupying forces have razed large areas of Palestinian agricultural land on both sides of the road and denied access of Palestinian farmers to their agricultural lands.  Israeli occupying forces often encroach into the village, destroy houses and raze areas of agricultural land in order to ensure the that the road is “secure.”

 

Since January 2002, Israeli occupying forces have imposed a night curfew on Wadi al-Salqa village, from 18:00 to 07:00.  Residents of the these areas have been denied their right to free movement at night, including access to hospitals and medical centers outside these areas.  Israeli occupying forces have also closed the main road leading to the village. 

 

Head of the local village council, Yousef Abu al-‘Ajin stated that movement of residents of the village had been restricted as Israeli soldiers often took position at the main entrance of the village and prevented villagers from leaving or coming into the town.  In addition, since the beginning of the Intifada, Israeli occupying forces in the area, have denied access of Palestinian farmers to their agricultural lands located near the border of Israel.  As a consequence, levels of unemployment in the village have sharply increased since more than 70% of the population depend on agriculture for their living.  Israeli soldiers fire at farmers who go to their agricultural lands near the border, which has caused a number of casualties.  Some Palestinian farmers have agricultural lands in al-Qarara village, which is located south of “Kissufim” road.  They have to travel to Deir al-Balah, then to Khan Yunis and from there to their agricultural lands in al-Qarara village.  When Salah al-Din Street between Deir al-Balah and Khan Yunis is closed, they cannot reach their agricultural lands.

 

Israeli occupying forces often open fire at houses in the area, and, since the beginning of the Intifada, Israeli occupying forces have demolished many houses and razed large areas of agricultural land in the village.

 

Following are testimonies of a number of Palestinians living in the area who have been subjected to abuse by Israeli forces:

 

Salem ‘Atwa Salem Khattab, 52, said:

 

“I work as a mosque preacher with a monthly salary of 450 NIS (approximately US$ 100).  I live with my 9-member family in a 140-square-meter, asbestos-roofed house in Wadi al-Salqa village.  My house is approximately 400m away from ‘Kissufim’ road.  Since the beginning of the Intifada, my house has been subject to permanent Israeli gunfire.  We are now living in a jail called Wadi al-Salqa.  My sons, ‘Omar, 19, and Yassin, 17, used to study in al-Qarara secondary school, which is approximately 500m away from our house.  When the Intifada broke out, Israeli occupying forces closed ‘Kissufim’ road, which my sons used to cross on the way to school.  So, I transferred them to al-Manfalouti school at Salah al-Din Street.  They have to walk a distance that exceeds 1km and then take a taxi to go to school.  The road they use is extremely difficult as it is close to ‘Kfar Darom’ settlement.  Their traveling to school costs us 5 NIS per day.  At night, people cannot leave their homes as Israeli occupying forces have imposed a night curfew on the village since the beginning of the Intifada.”

 

Bader al-Din Rasheed ‘Aayesh al-Mahi, 27, a grocer, who is married and lives with his 3-member family in Wadi al-Salqa village, said:

 

“Since the beginning of the Intifada, sales at my shop have decreased by more than 50%, and since January 2002, the sales have further decreased, as Israeli occupying forces have imposed a night curfew on the village from 18:00 to 06:00.  Before January 2002, I used to work from 08:00 to 22:00, but now I open the shop from 08:00 to 17:00.  Before the Intifada, wholesalers from Gaza and Khan Yunis used to come to my shop three times a week, but now they come only once a week, due to the Israeli siege.  There has been a shortage of goods in my shop and consequently, sales have decreased.”

  

Salman ‘Abdul Karim Abu Zhaher, 62, a farmer who lives with his 8-member family in a 2-story house in Wadi al-Salqa village, said:

 

“At approximately 18:00 on 19 June 2002, Israeli occupying forces imposed a curfew on the village.  At approximately 22:30, Israeli soldiers deployed near ‘Kissufim’ junction, which is approximately 500m away from my house.  I saw 4 tanks, a bulldozer and 3 military jeeps of Israeli occupying forces.  Three hours later, I heard sounds of Israeli tanks and military vehicles moving in the area.  In the morning, I learned that Israeli tanks erected two checkpoints; one at the northern entrance of the village and one at its western entrance.  Israeli soldiers raided and searched houses in the village.  An Israeli tank stopped near my house.  Then, I heard knocking on the door and shouts in Hebrew: ‘Open the door.’  When I opened the door, 11 Israeli soldiers rushed inside.  They searched the house and broke some pieces of furniture.  Then, they mounted to the second floor of the house, where my son, Ziad, and his family live.  The searched it and broke some furniture.  Then, Israeli soldiers took me and my son, Hisham, 20, outside of the house.  They handcuffed and blindfolded us and put us in the tank that stopped near the house.  The tank took us towards an Israeli military location located at the road leading to the village, north of Khan Yunis.  Twenty minutes later, they interrogated us and asked if we have seen terrorists, we said: ‘No.’ They interrogated us for an hour.  Then, a truck came and transported me, my son and some of residents of the village who were detained with us to ‘Kissufim’ road where we were released at 12:00.  Other residents who remained in custody by Israeli occupying forces were released on the following day.”    

 

·                    Israeli Occupying Forces Impose a Curfew on Um al-Nasser Village in the Northern Gaza Strip

 

On 5 September 2002, Israeli occupying forces moved into Um al-Nasser village, northwest of the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia, and imposed a curfew.  A number of Israeli tanks surrounded the building of the local council and prevented staff members of the council from leaving it until the afternoon, when those forces withdrew from the village.  During this incursion, Israeli occupying forces blocked the main road leading to the village.  

 

5.                  Denial of Health Rights

 

Israeli occupying forces have violated international instruments relevant to the right of health, especially 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…”, and 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: …the creation of conditions which could assure to all medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness.”  Israeli occupying forces at border crossings have obstructed passage of medicines and medical equipment.  Trucks loaded with medicines and medical equipment have to wait for long periods at border crossings.  Isreali forces have also fired on and obstructed the passage of ambulances, attempting to transport the wounded and patients across military checkpoints and border crossings.        

 

1.                  Deaths at Israeli Military Checkpoints

 

A number of Palestinian patients have died due to Israeli restrictions at border crossings and military checkpoints and roadblocks, which have obstructed their accesses to medical treatment.  Since the beginning of the Intifada, 51 Palestinian patients, including 8 from the Gaza Strip, have died due to Israeli occupying forces at border crossings and military checkpoints obstructing their access to medical treatment.  In this context, over the period under study, 4 Palestinian patients, including two from the Gaza strip and two others from the West Bank, died.[8]

  

At approximately 09:00 on Sunday, 20 October 2002, Isma'il Khalil Salim Habboush, 63, from Gaza City, died while on his way to a hospital in Jerusalem.  He was suffering from a cardiac disease.  In her testimony to PCHR, the victim's wife Nawal Sha'ban Habboush said:

 

"At approximately 06:30, I went with my husband to 'Erez (Beit Hanoun) crossing in a taxi instead of an ambulance to travel to Jerusalem.  We waited at the crossing for two hours.  At approximately 08:30, Israeli soldiers told me that I was forbidden from crossing, although my entry was coordinated.  My husband went alone and I went back home.  At approximately 09:30, a neighbor came to our house and told me that my husband died and that he was in Shifa' Hospital in Gaza.  On the same day, some workers who were at the crossing told us that they saw him fainting while he was on his way to the car park at the crossing.  An Israeli ambulance evacuated him to the Palestinian side.  He was dead.  According to medical sources, he died from an acute heart attack."

 

At approximately 13:00 on Tuesday, 22 October, Khalil Ibrahim Hussein Ahmed, 62, from Jabalya refugee camp, died from an acute heart attack in the traveling hall of Rafah border crossing.  An ambulance evacuated his body to a hospital in Rafah. 

 

2.                  Deterioration of Health Conditions of Children and Women  

 

Health conditions of Palestinians, especially pregnant women, children and patients who suffer from chronic diseases, have sharply deteriorated due to the total siege imposed on the OPT by Israeli occupying forces.  According to a study conducted in cooperation between the Palestinian Ministry of Health and US CARE,[9] 12.5% of Palestinian women and 21.5% of Palestinian children suffer from moderate or acute anemia.  According to the same study, 33% of Palestinians who were in need for emergency medical treatment were not able to access medical services, 21% of pregnant women were not able to access medical care, and 17% of the children did not received necessary vaccination.  Furthermore,  44% of patients who suffer from renal failure, 38% of patients of diabetes and 46% of patients of cancer were not able to received regular medical treatment.  Many of those with chronic health problems had been denied access to medical centers for 6 weeks straight. 

 

3.                  A Medical Center Raided by Israeli Occupying Forces

 

At approximately 11:30, eight Israeli occupying soldiers raided a clinic of the Palestinian Union of Medical Relief Committees in Um al-Nasser village in the northern Gaza Strip.  They held a doctor, a nurse, two medical assistants and a woman and her child and searched the clinic, while Israeli tanks were surrounding it.  According to Dr. Mohammed Yaghi, after the exchange of fire in the morning and the Israeli incursion into the village, the medical staff remained in the clinic and no patients came there.  While tanks were surrounding the clinic, eight Israeli soldiers moved in and ordered him to gather all the staff.  They were all held in one room.  Israeli soldiers searched the clinic.  Fifteen minutes later, Israeli soldiers withdrew and ordered the medical staff not to leave the clinic. 

 

6.                  Denial of the Right of Education

 

The total siege imposed on the OPT by Israeli occupying forces since the beginning of the current Intifada has deprived Palestinians of their right of education, in violation to articles 13 and 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  The number of Palestinian students who have attended school this year (2002-2003) is approximately 1,021,057, in addition to 75,000 children in kindergarten.  The number of schools is 2,029 and the number of staff members at Palestinian schools is about 48,260.[10]

 

The number of Palestinian students in Khan Yunis and the central Gaza Strip is 60,491 studying in 80 schools, in addition to thousands of university students, almost all of which are denied access to schools when Israeli occupying forces impose a closure on the main roads of the areas.

 

On 17 June 2002, Israeli occupying forces prevented male students from leaving the al-Mawasi area in the southern Gaza Strip to attend the final exams of the general certificate of education (Tawjihi) in Rafah and Khan Yunis.  Consequently, the Palestinian Ministry of Education was forced to establish a special examination committee for them, with assistance from the ICRC and the Palestinian liaison bureau. 

 

On 7 and 8 September 2002, about 30 teachers and students were denied access to Jirar al-Qidwa school in the al-Mawasi area as Israeli occupying forces closed al-Tuffah military checkpoint at the entrance of the area.  Secretary of the school ‘Ali el-‘Aal al-Najjar stated that the number of teachers working at his school is 32, including 25 living outside the area, which means that any closure of the area causes total disruption of the educational process at the school. 

 

On Thursday, 5 September 2002, Israeli occupying forces forced dozens of university students to wait at the al-Matahen and Abu Houli checkpoints on Salah al-Din Street for more than 13 hours.  On the same day, more than 11 children studying at the school of Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children in Gaza city were not able to go back to their homes in Khan Yunis as Israeli occupying forces closed al-Matahen and Abu Houli.  These children had to remain in offices of the organization for 3 days.  During which time, staff members of the society had to stay with the children to provide them with their needs. 

 

On the same day, Israeli occupying forces raided Hamza Ben ‘Abdul Muttaleb elementary school in the Bedouin village in the northern Gaza Strip and detained all the pupils and teachers inside the school.  PCHR’s field worker in the Gaza Strip reported that at approximately 08:15, four Israeli tanks surrounded the school south of the main road, approximately 700m away from "Nissanit" settlement.  Then, seven Israeli soldiers raided the school and detained 293 pupils, eight teachers, the headmaster, the guard, an engineer, five workers and a father of one of the students, in seven classrooms.  They searched the school, including the classrooms where the pupils were being held.  Then, Israeli soldiers moved to the second floor while tanks surrounded the school.  Most of the pupils were detained until 10:30, while the others were held until 12:00.  The northeastern façade of the school was damaged and four windows were destroyed by Israeli gunfire.

 

From 7 to 15 October 2002, Israeli occupying forces imposed a curfew on the al-Mawasi area, hindering all aspects of life in the area.  Consequently, 1,175 students were not able to attend classes at Jirar al-Qidwa school, the only school in the area.  Israeli occupying forces lifted the curfew on Tuesday morning, 15 October 2002.  However, the operation of the school was disrupted as teachers living outside the area were still denied access to the school due to a closure of the al-Tuffah checkpoint.  The school headmaster Talal Shaqqura stated that the educational process at school was also disrupted on Wednesday, 16 October 2002, as 15 teachers living outside the al-Mawasi area were not able to reach the school.      

 

7.                  Denial of the Right to Work

 

Israeli occupying forces have often closed Erez crossing since the beginning of the Intifada.  Erez crossing is the main crossing used by Palestinians in Gaza to cross in to Israel in order to find work.  Since 3 June 2002, they allowed a limited number of Palestinian workers from the Gaza Strip to reach their places of work in Israel through the crossing.  However, the crossing was totally closed from 6 to 8 September 2002, and on 15 and 16 September 2002.

 

According to sources of the Palestinian Ministry of Labor, until October 2002, Israeli occupying forces issued 12,530 permits for workers from the Gaza Strip to go to their work places in Israel.  However, only 10,500 workers were able to reach their work places due to the arbitrary and inhuman restrictions  on travel imposed on Palestinians by Israeli occupying forces at Erez crossing.  Work permits were issued under the following conditions:

 

§                     A worker must be over 28 for males and 25 for females.

§                     A worker must be married and own a house.

 

Suffering of Palestinian Workers at “Erez” (Beit Hanoun) Crossing

 

Workers from the Gaza Strip traveling to their work places in Israel face distressing measures by Israeli occupying forces, which constitute a form of humiliation and inhuman treatment.  Workers have to leave their houses early in the morning, and when they reach “Erez” crossing, they have to walk into an 800-meter-long narrow path, which gets narrower when it gets closer to the end.  When workers reach the gate of the crossing, they are distributed into 24 narrow paths after being checked. Because of the long period of time this process takes, workers who come to the crossing are often restricted from crossing in enough time to go to work and are forced to go back their homes.  Workers are not allowed to carry anything other than food, which must be put in a transparent plastic bag.  After the checking, workers have to walk long distances to reach vehicles that transport them to their work places.  On the way back home workers are subjected to the same procedures, causing them to arrive home late at night. 

 

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.  The denial of access to one’s place of work constitutes a violation of the right to work as protected by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966, Article 6 of which 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.”

 

Israeli forces have destroyed or restricted access to many Palestinian factories, workshops and large areas of Palestinian agricultural land, causing a major loss of employment sources in the Gaza Strip.  As a result, the Palestinian economy has come to depend heavily on the access of employment opportunities in Israel by Palestinian workers.

 

The following table shows the number of Palestinian workers who had permits to work in Israel in each month from October 2000 until November 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

June 2002

3,500

July 2002

6,695

August 2002

7,288

September 2002

10,315

October 2002

12,530

November 2002

12,530

Source: Palestinian Ministry of Labor

 

The Director of Employment at the Ministry of Labor told a PCHR field worker 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 workers have been denied access to their work places under the current Israeli total siege imposed on the OPT. 

 

The total number of Palestinian workers is approximately 660,885, approximately 365,000 of them (55%) are currently unemployed.  According to the General Union of Labor Syndicates in the Gaza Strip, unemployment in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has mounted to approximately 70%, and poverty has increased to 75%, while the total loss of the Palestinian labor force has been estimated at US$ 3 billion. 

 

8.                  A Marine Siege on the Gaza Strip

 

On Tuesday, 26 November 2002, Israeli occupying forces imposed a marine siege on the Gaza Strip, preventing about 3,000 Palestinian fishermen from fishing.  Since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada, Israeli occupying forces have imposed restrictions on fishing, including searches of fishermen, shooting at fisherman and restricting the distance fishing boats can go out into the sea to a distance of 3 miles (under the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, they are supposed to be able to fish up to 20 miles into the sea).  These measures have severely affected the activity of fisherman and the amount of fish available to catch, thus dealing a severe blow to the fishing industry and the families who depend on it. 

 

9.                  Further Deterioration of the Palestinian Economy

 

Closing the Exit and Entry Points of the Gaza Strip:

 

Israeli occupying forces 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

 

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 raw materials used in construction, has been obstructed.  The crossing is operating at 60% of the capacity it operated at before the Intifada.  Only 250 trucks per day are allowed to go through the crossing out of the 450 per day that used to cross it before the Intifada.  Because of these obstacles, Palestinian economic sectors, especially agriculture and industry, have further deteriorated.  In April and May 2002, Israeli occupying forces repeatedly closed the al-Mentar (Karni) crossing, and again on Sunday, 15 September 2002, Israeli occupying forces closed the crossing on the occasion of Jewish feasts.  The crossing was reopened two days later.   

 

 

 

 

·                    Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing

 

Since Saturday, 2 June 2001, Israeli occupying forces have maintained a sustained closure of the Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing.  Israeli occupying forces have denied the entry of approximately 120 Palestinian commercial trucks through the crossing since 8 October 2000.  Consequently, Palestinian traders have suffered large losses as their goods were blocked in Israeli harbors.  Furthermore, as discussed earlier, only a limited number of Palestinian workers are now allowed entry to Israel through the crossing.

 

·                    Gaza International Airport

 

Israeli occupying forces have maintained the closure of Gaza International Airport since Wednesday, 14 February 2001, causing large losses for Palestinian traders and for the Palestinian Airlines.

 

·                    Rafah Border Crossing

 

Israeli occupying forces have obstructed movement at, and repeatedly closed the commercial crossing point of the Rafah border crossing, decreased the amount of workers at the crossing and the operation hours of the crossing. 

 

Palestinians traders are prevented from exporting goods through the crossing.  In addition, medical and food assistance offered to the Palestinian National Authority from Arab and foreign countries is blocked from entering the Gaza Strip at the crossing.

  

·                    Sofa Crossing

 

On Sunday, 21 July 2002, about 170 Palestinian workers working in agriculture were allowed access to their work places in Israel through Sofa crossing, northeast of Rafah.  Palestinian workers had been denied passage through the crossing since the beginning of the current Intifada.  On Monday morning, 5 August 2002, dozens of Israeli heavy military vehicles moved several kilometers into Rafah.  They closed Salah al-Din Street linking Rafah and Khan Yunis, isolating Rafah from the rest of the Gaza Strip.  Consequently, Palestinian trucks were denied access to the Sofa crossing which is just off of Salah al-Din street.  The crossing was reopened on Sunday, 11 August 2002, but it was again closed between 15 and 17 September 2002.  Israeli measures to restrict Palestinian movement through the crossing include:

 

§         The hours designated to allow workers through the crossing is limited from 04:30 to 06:00  in the morning and from 14:00 to 17:00 in the afternoon.

§         Israeli trucks transport aggregate from Israel to the crossing between 07:00 to 16:00.  Palestinian trucks transporting aggregate are prevented from entering the crossing and are substituted by Israeli trucks.

§         Palestinian trucks transport aggregate from the crossing to the Gaza Strip between 16:00 and 20:00.

§          The amount of aggregate (material used in making concrete) allowed entry into the Gaza Strip is 4,000-5,000 tons daily out of 15,000-20,000 tons daily before the Intifada.

 

Since the beginning of the current Intifada, Israeli occupying forces have repeatedly closed Sofa crossing, which has paralyzed the construction sector that depends on aggregate material.  The crossing was reopened on 30 May 2002 after a two-month closure. 

 

Effect of Closures on the Economy of the Gaza Strip:

 

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 in the past two years are estimated at US$ 11.7 billion.[11]

 

According to the same sources, the public debt of the Palestinian treasury has increased to US$ 900 million, while the deficit in the budget has mounted to US$ 877 million.  There are also US$ 300 million of uncovered checks issued by the Palestinian Ministry of Finance.  Israel has also blocked US$ 700 million of revenues belonging to the Palestinian Authority.  The Palestinian gross national product has decreased by 70%.  Levels of unemployment have increased from 21% in 2000 to 65%, and mounts to 85% in times of total closures.  Levels of poverty have mounted to 70%, and in the southern Gaza Strip to 81%. 

 

A UN official has stated that 70% of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip live below the poverty line.  He added that unemployment increased to approximately 50% due to the denial of access of Palestinian workers to their work places.  The number of unemployed workers in the Gaza Strip is 366,000, including 120,000 who used to work in Israel before the al-Aqsa Intifada.  The daily loss of Palestinian workers is estimated at US$ 3 million. 

 

Under the current total siege, the Palestinian commercial sector has suffered large losses.  Israeli occupying forces have control over border crossings and outlets.  They have restricted importation and exportation from and to the outside world. They have forced Palestinian traders to import Israeli goods, especially foodstuffs.  The Palestinian side recently made attempts to persuade the Israeli side to issue permits to Palestinian traders, and managed to obtain 1,500 permits.  An insufficient amount compared to the almost 10,000 permits issued before the Intifada.  In addition, Palestinian traders face daily difficulties at commercial crossings.  Israeli occupying forces often delay the passage of Palestinian goods.  In a recent instance, Israeli occupying forces delayed the passage of Palestinian goods due to a claimed lack of dogs to search the goods.  Israeli occupying forces have denied entry of raw materials into the OPT and prevented the Palestinian side from exporting industrial products.  Losses of the Palestinian industrial sector are estimated at approximately US$ 900 million.    According to a report issued by the Palestinian State Information Service, Palestinian industrial production has decreased by 65%.  According to the same report, the total losses of the Palestinian industrial sector are estimated at more than US$ 1.2 billion,  US$ 937.5 million worth of losses per day.  Furthermore, the Palestinian economy has suffered US$ 67 million loss of national wealth, US$ 17.3 million in emergent losses and US$ 178.45 million in projected profits. 

 

According to a report issued by the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture in September 2002, losses of the Palestinian agricultural sector in the Intifada are estimated at US$ 749 million, including a loss of US$ 108 million resulting from the decrease of prices in local markets, and a loss of US$ 26 million resulting from a decrease in the exportation of agricultural products to Israel and abroad.  Director General of Ministry of Agriculture, Mahmoud Abu Samra stated that approximately 900,000 workers, about 14% of the Palestinian labor force, used to work in agriculture within the Gaza Strip.  This number has progressively deceased due to the Israeli siege.     

 

According to a report issued by the Palestinian Ministry of Transportation, the total losses of the Palestinian transportation due to the total siege imposed on the OPT are estimated at approximately US$ 2 billion, including about US$ 45 million of direct losses and about US$ 1,934 billion of indirect losses, as many drivers, who constitute approximately 4.8% of the Palestinian labor force, have lost their jobs due to the decrease in the importation and exportation of goods.  According to a survey conducted by the Palestinian Center for Statistics, 34,483 Palestinians who used to work in transportation with an average income of 61 NIS (approximately US$ 13) per day have lost their jobs, and their total losses since the beginning of the Intifada have been approximately US$ 430 million.

 

According to the Palestinian State Information Service, losses of the Palestinian economy due to the total siege imposed on the OPT have also included sectors other than the aforementioned ones.  The construction sector, which contributes 12% to the Palestinian gross national product, has sustained losses estimated at US$ 900 million.  The financial mediation  sector, which contributes 3% to the Palestinian gross national product, has sustained losses estimated at US$ 67 million.  The communication sector has sustained losses estimated at US$ 69 million.  The public management sector, which contributes 9% to the Palestinian gross national product, has sustained losses estimated at more than US$ 480 million.  The construction sector has sustained losses estimated at US$ 3.006 million.

 

Conclusion

 

The Israeli occupation forces have continued to impose a total siege on the occupied Palestinian territories.  The Gaza Strip has been transformed into a series of detention cantons of sorts..  Due to the closures imposed by Israeli occupying forces and the restrictions on the movement of civilians and goods in the OPTs, living conditions in these territories have deteriorated on all levels, and the economic, social and cultural rights of Palestinians have been severely undermined.

 

PCHR asserts that Israeli restrictions on movement within the OPTs amounts to a form of collective punishment, and, as such, is prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention and internationally human rights standards.

 

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

 

The current humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories is in a state of crisis unparalleled since the West Bank and Gaza Strip were first occupied by Israeli forces on June 5, 1967.  PCHR calls on the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention 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 increasingly deteriorated under the siege.

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

4.      Pressure Israel to respect international conventions and to comply with the UN Resolutions, especially 242 and 338, which call for a complete Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories in 1967.

5.      Taking effective steps by the EU, under Article 2 of the Euro-Israel Association Agreement, which obligates Israel to respect human rights.

6.      Prosecuting Israeli leaders for the war crimes they commit against the Palestinian people.

 

 

 

“End”


 

 

 

Annex

 

Table of closures of crossings in the Gaza Strip from the beginning of 2002 to 30 November 2002

 

Crossing

Closure

Partial reopening

Al-Mentar

15 March 2002

28 March 2002

9 April 2002

22 May 2002

15 September 2002

17 March 2002

8 April 2002

14 April 2002

28 May 2002

 

Sofa

26 March 2002

 

 

5 August 2002

15 September 2002

9 April 2002 for few hours

30 May 2002, excluding workers[12]

11 August 2002 

17 September 2002

Erez

8 October 2000, excluding workers of the agricultural sector 

 

 

26 September 2002

3 June 2002 for workers

 

 

9 September 2002 for workers

17 September 2003 for workers

Rafah Terminal

15 March 2002

28 March 2002

7 April 2002

15 September 2002

17 March 2002

30 March 2002

8 April 2002

17 September 2002

Gaza International Airport

14 February 2002

 

 


 

Relevant Articles:

 

Article 1, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1996)

 “1) All people have the right of self determination.  By virtue of this right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. 

“2) All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law.  In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.”

 

Article 17, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

“No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.”

 

Article 12, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)

“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 33, the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949)

 “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 23, 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 6, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)

 “1) The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right to work, which includes the right of every one to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right.”

 

 

Article 12, 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 13, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)

 “1) The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to education.  They agree that education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”   

 

 


 


 

[1] See graph in the Annex at the end of this report for dates and location of closures.

[2]Israeli occupying forces allow passage of 30 cars that transport 7 travelers in each, which means that only 210 travelers can travel through the crossing per day.  This number  constitutes 20% of the usual number of travelers at the crossing.  

[3] It has become easy for Israeli occupying forces to divide the Gaza Strip into isolated zones whenever they wish: the south (Rafah and Khan Yunis); the center; Gaza and the north; the al-Mawasi area; the al-Sayafa area; and Wadi al-Salqa village.

[4] These are examples of the suffering of Palestinians at Israeli military checkpoints while traveling between the north and  south of the Gaza Strip. 

[5] Al-Mawasi area is located in the southern Gaza Strip, extending from the Egyptian border in the south to the edge of Deir al-Balah in the north.  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 15,000, 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. 

[6] For more details see PCHR’s Urgent Appeal on 31 October 2002 to the international community to pressure Israeli occupying to open al-Tuffah checkpoint and allow residents of al-Mawasi area to go back to their homes.  

[7] Wadi al-Salqa village is located southeast of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.  It is located between Salah al-Din Street in the west and the border with Israel in the east, and between Deir al-Balah in the north and Street 86 in the south.  The village is surrounded by Israeli settlements; “Kfar Darom” in the north and west and “Kissufim” in the southeast.  Its population is 5,000, including 2,524 males and 2,476 females, constituting about 500 families.  There are 650 housing units in the village.  Its local council was established in 1967, and now 8 people work in it.  The council has conducted 11 projects to improve the infrastructure of the village.   

[8]According to information available to PCHR, at approximately 10:00 on Wednesday, 10 July, Zuhair Tawfiq ‘Awad, 60, from Salfit, suffered from a heart attack.  Immediately, his family took him to Salfit Hospital, where the doctors decided to move him to Rafidya Hospital in Nablus as he was in a serious condition.  At approximately 10:45, an ambulance took him towards Nablus.  At approximately 11:00, the ambulance arrived at Hawara military checkpoint, south of Nablus, but Israeli occupying forces didn’t allow it to pass before 13:00.  At approximately 13:10, the ambulance arrived at the hospital, but the patient was already dead. 

At approximately 07:00 on Monday, 21 October 2002, 'Allam got suddenly sick.  Immediately, his family called the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees asking for help.  At approximately 08:15, an ambulance of the union arrived at 'Allam's house.  Ten minutes later, the ambulance moved towards Nablus.  When it arrived at an Israeli military checkpoint at the southern entrance of Nablus, Israeli occupying soldiers prevented its passage, although its medical personnel told the soldiers that there was a patient in serious condition in the ambulance.  At approximately 10:00, 'Allam died inside the ambulance that was still waiting at the checkpoint.  Traveling between the victim's village and Nablus normally takes only 10 minutes.

[9] The study was conducted in cooperation with the US John Hopkin University, 17 July 2002. 

[10] These figures include all of the students and employees working in the three stages of school education in both public and UNRWA schools, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Education. 

[11] Palestinian National Information Center, State Information Service, Report on Economic Losses. 

[12] On 21 July 2002, Israeli occupying forces allowed entry of 170 Palestinian workers into Israel through Sofa crossing.