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Israeli military forces continue to close main road in Gaza Strip.



Israeli Military Forces Continue to Close Main Road in Gaza Strip

Published @ 09:00 GMT 26 November, 1996

Israeli forces have called in military reinforcements to the area surrounding Netsarim settlement, including tanks and armoured personnel carriers, after Palestinians demonstrated near the settlement protesting the continued closure of a main road.

The main road, which links two north-south arteries in the Gaza Strip, runs near Netsarim settlement and has been closed to Palestinian vehicles since an Islamic Jihad suicide bomb attack at Netsarim junction killed three Israeli soldiers in November 1994.

On the morning of 24 November, Palestinians attempted to re-open the road, driving along it until the passage of their vehicles was blocked by Israeli military forces. The deadlock continued for several hours, effectively preventing movement into or out of Netsarim settlement. The demonstration took place after the closing of the Gaza Strip’s main north-south artery, which runs from Rafah to Gaza City, by the Palestinian Authority, leaving Palestinians unable to travel from the north to the south without using the closed road.

This road is considered vital to north-south travel in the Gaza Strip, and its unilateral closure by the Israeli authorities to all but Israeli settlers has imposed serious restrictions on the movement of Palestinians living in the area and farmers who own land surrounding the settlement. The closure of the linking road has also led to heavy traffic congestion on other roads in the Gaza Strip.

The closure of this road is a clear violation of para. 3(b), Article IV, Annex I of the Cairo Agreement, which states, “Palestinians will be free to move along the coast road and along the road from the Netsarim Junction to the seashore,” and constitutes the collective punishment of the residents of the Gaza Strip for an attack carried out by a single individual over two years ago. Israeli authorities have rejected the Palestinian Authority’s repeated requests that the road be opened to Palestinian traffic.

Although at the time Israeli authorities stated that the closure of the road was temporary, two years later it would appear that they intend to make the closure of this road permanent. During the two years in which the road has been closed, Israeli authorities have taken numerous actions changing the status quo in the area, in violation of the Oslo Accords. Netsarim settlement has been expanded, with new buildings constructed on the settlement and additional settlers transferred to the settlement. Following the events of late September, Israeli authorities have reinforced their military positions with additional tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and soldiers around Netsarim settlement, which is adjacent to populated Palestinian areas.

Israeli forces regularly close roads inside the Gaza Strip for hours or even days, forbidding the movement of local Palestinians on the roads while giving Israeli settlers free access. The continuation of road closures, particularly of the Netsarim road, and the reinforcement of Israeli positions in the heart of the Gaza Strip with tanks and armoured personnel carriers, serves to intensify an already tense situation. Continuing to deprive Palestinians freedom of movement within the Gaza Strip and refusing to implement signed peace agreements is likely to result in renewed crisis.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights calls upon the Israeli government to honour signed agreements, to guarantee Palestinians freedom of movement, and to open the road near Netsarim settlement immediately and promptly.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights urges the international community and the sponsors of the peace process to act to guarantee that the Israeli government respects the agreements it has signed, and lifts the ongoing closure imposed on the Gaza Strip.

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