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West Bank Movement And Access Update
The period between July 2010 and June 2011 was characterized by the absence of significant changes in the system of movement restrictions implemented by the Israeli authorities within the West Bank territory to address security concerns.
This system has continued to hinder the access of the Palestinian population to livelihoods and basic services, including health, education and water supply.
In a comprehensive survey completed by the end of this period, OCHA documented and mapped a total of 522 obstacles (roadblocks, checkpoints, etc) obstructing Palestinian movement within the West Bank, a four percent increase from the equivalent figure recorded in July 2010 (503).1 Similarly, almost no changes were observed in the other components of the system of movement restrictions, including the Barrier, the permit and ‘prior coordination’ regimes to access the ‘Seam Zone’ or settlement areas, and the closure of areas for military training.
Regarding access to and from the main towns and cities (excluding East Jerusalem), the lack of improvement observed during this period contrasts with the previous two years. Between July 2008 - June 2010 the Israeli authorities implemented a relatively large number of relaxation measures, which contributed to reducing travel time and resulted in less friction between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers at checkpoints.
Despite the easings implemented in previous years, nine of the ten governorates main cities have one or more of their historical entrances currently blocked, resulting in traffic congestion and frequent delays through those entrances that are open. Access to the main traffic arteries leading from the villages to the cities also continues to be limited to select junctions.
As a result, much of the Palestinian traffic between the villages and the main service centers is funneled along secondary and often lower-quality routes.
Palestinians holding West Bank IDs continued to require special entry permits to access East Jerusalem. Those who obtained an entry permit,were limited to using four of the 16 checkpoints along the Barrier. Overcrowding, along with the multiplelayers of checks and security procedures at these checkpoints have made entry into East Jerusalem a long and difficult experience. Restricted access to East Jerusalem has had a particularly negative impact on patients and medical staff trying to reach the six specialized Palestinian hospitals located in the city, as well as on Muslims and Christians wishing to access Jerusalem’s holy sites.
The Old City of Hebron is an additional urban area severely affected by movement restrictions. This area is segregated from the rest of the city by 122 closure obstacles (most of them not included in the abovementioned count), while Palestinian movement by car, and in some cases also by foot, remained banned along certain streets. As a result, thousands of Palestinians who abandoned this area in previous years were unable to return; hundreds
of shops and businesses have remained closed; and many of those still living in the area have continued to suffer from poor access to basic services. Additionally, Palestinian movement into and within large rural areas of the West Bank, designated as Area C, has remained banned or significantly restricted.
These include a strip of land between the Barrier and the Green Line along the western side of the West Bank; the Jordan Valley (including the Dead Sea coast) along the eastern side; and agricultural land in the vicinity of Israeli settlements: Nearly 62 percent of the Barrier was complete by the end of this period. The majority of the Barrier route lies inside the West Bank.
- The agricultural livelihoods of thousands of families owning land between the Barrier and the Green Line (the Seam Zone’) continued to be undermined by the permit and gate regimeregulating access to this area. While one small segment of the Barrier was rerouted during this period (Bil’in), as in similar cases in the past, the new route is still located within the West Bank. Also during this period, the Israeli Supreme Court issued a ruling upholding the legality of the Barrier permit regime, in defiance of the Advisory Opinion issued by the International Court of Justice in July 2004.
- Over three-quarters of the land in the Jordan Valley area (78.3 percent), designated in the past as ‘firing zones’ and ‘nature reserves’, or allocated to Israeli settlements, has remained off-limits for Palestinians. Additionally, entry of Palestinian-plated vehicles into the Jordan Valley remained prohibited through four of the five possible routes, except for residents of the Jordan Valley and a few other exceptions. Combined, these restrictions have had a particularly devastating impact on the living conditions of Bedouin and other herder communities. This is reflected, among others, in an extremely high food insecurity rate (55 percent), despite extensive food assistance.
- Access to private agricultural land in the vicinity of Israeli settlements has remained significantly constrained due to the fencing off of those areas, or due to settler violence. The Israeli army implements a ‘prior coordination’ procedure allowing limited access of farmers to land within or in the vicinity of at least 55 Israeli settlements. The ‘prior coordination’ system, however, usually allows access only during the olive harvest season therefore preventing the conduct of essential agricultural activities during the rest of the year.
As a result of all types of movement restrictions, there are some 70 villages and communities, with a combined population of nearly 200,000, compelled to use detours that are between two to five times longer than the direct route to the closest city .2 Most of the movement restrictions addressed in this report are related, in one way or another, to the Israeli settlements established throughout the West Bank in contravention of international humanitarian law. This includes restrictions aimed at protecting the settlements, securing areas for their expansion, and improving the connectivity between settlements and with Israel itself. Palestinian movement along some of the main traffic arteries in the West Bank, (including Road 60, 90 and 443) has been gradually reduced in past years by means of physical obstacles and administrative restrictions, transforming these roads into rapid ‘corridors’ used by Israeli citizens to commute between the settlements and Israel, and, in some cases, between various areas within Israel via the West Bank.
As the occupying power, Israel is responsible for ensuring that the humanitarian needs of the local population in the oPt are met, and that Palestinians are able to exercise their human rights. While Israel is allowed under international law to restrict the right to freedom of movement of Palestinians to address legitimate security needs, it can do so only “to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation”, in a non-discriminatory manner and taking into account other legal obligations. Given the illegality of settlements under international law, and the close relationship between the settlements and the system of movement restrictions, the legality of the latter is called into question.
To reduce the vulnerability of those affected by poor access to services and livelihoods and to comply with its legal obligations under international law, Israel must aim at dismantling the system of movement restrictions. While the removal of some obstacles in previous years was a step in the right direction, much more needs to be done to achieve significant progress. Further steps must include the removal of all obstacles blocking the historical entrances to towns and cities, the revocation of the permit regime associated with the Barrier, the opening up of ‘closed military zones’ for Palestinian movement and use of the land, and the lifting of restrictions on vehicular access to the Jordan Valley and within the Old City of Hebron. Israel should cease all settlement activity.
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West Bank Movement And Access Update (40 page, 8.94 MB )
Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs occupied Palestinian territory - OCHAOPT, August 2011