Security measures in place to restrict the movement of West Bank Palestinian residents within the West Bank and between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip [PSE102390.E]

Information on security measures in place to restrict the movement of Palestinian residents within the West Bank and between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was abundant. This Response covers the separation barrier in the West Bank as well as checkpoints, road restrictions, physical obstacles, closures and curfews. Restrictions on movement between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are also addressed.

Amnesty International (AI) states the following in a December 2006 report on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories:

Through a combination of administrative measures and physical barriers, which have increased significantly over the past six years, Israel has virtually halted the movement of Palestinians within the Occupied Territories. (1 Dec. 2006, Sec. 9).

The United Nations (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) describes security measures in the West Bank in the following manner:

The closure system … restricts Palestinian access not only to basic services such as health and education, but divides communities from their land and one another, places of work and sites of religious worship. The types of obstacles used to restrict free Palestinian movement include permanent and partially manned checkpoints, roadblocks, … metal gates, earth mounds, earth walls, … trenches, road barriers and an elaborate system of permits. The purpose of these obstacles, as the Israeli Government states, is to protect Israeli citizens from Palestinian militant attacks that have killed around 1,000 Israelis since September 2000. (Sept. 2006)

Separation barrier

In 2002, Israel began building a separation barrier in the West Bank (IDMC 21 June 2006, 1; B'Tselem n.d.a) to safeguard Israeli citizens from Palestinian armed incursion (IDMC 21 June 2006, 4). The separation barrier is approximately 700 kilometres in length (AI 1 Dec. 2006, Sec. 8; IDMC 21 June 2006, 4). Roughly 80 percent of the separation barrier is being built inside the West Bank (HRW 11 Jan. 2007, 4; AI 1 Dec. 2006, Sec. 8) and in some cases, 20 kilometres east of the internationally recognized Green Line, which officially divides Israel and the West Bank (ibid.). In the vicinities of Qalqilya, Tulkarm, Bethlehem and East Jerusalem, the separation barrier takes the form of an eight-metre concrete wall; in other areas, it is a 60 to 100-metre-wide barrier "with trenches and barbed wire, trace paths to register footprints, an electric fence with sensors, … a two-lane patrol road and fortified watchtowers at regular intervals" (IDMC 21 June 2006, 5). AI describes the barrier in a similar fashion, but adds that each side of the fence also includes "buffer zones and no-go areas of varying depths" (1 Dec. 2006, Sec. 8).

According to both AI and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), the separation barrier in the West Bank seriously restricts the movement of Palestinians, hindering access to their farmland, places of employment, schools and medical facilities (AI 1 Dec. 2006, Sec. 8; IDMC 21 June 2006, 12, 15). In order to facilitate movement through the separation barrier, a system of gates and permits is used (AI 1 Dec. 2006, Sec. 8; B'Tselem n.d.a). However, AI reports that the gates frequently do not open on time, and that approximately half do not regularly operate (AI 1 Dec. 2006, Sec. 8). The passage of tractors through the gates is seldom allowed, restricting the Palestinian farming community in particular (ibid.; IDMC 21 June 2006, 13).

With respect to permits, Palestinians who reside in seam zones, the areas between the barrier and the Green Line also known as the "closed zone" (AI 1 Dec. 2006, Sec. 8; IDMC 21 June 2006, 12-13), must obtain authorization from Israeli officials to maintain residence in the area (IDMC 21 June 2006, 13; B'Tselem n.d.a), while Palestinians with farmland in seam zones face restrictions in accessing their land (ibid.; IDMC 21 June 2006, 13). According to the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), in early November 2006, over 60 percent of families with agricultural land located west of the separation barrier were unable to reach it (30 Nov. 2006). AI reports that permits are often given to older family members who are unable to tend their land instead of to younger family members who are more able to do so (1 Dec. 2006, Sec. 8).

Checkpoints and road restrictions

According to figures updated in December 2006 by B'Tselem (The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), there are 54 permanent internal checkpoints inside the West Bank where Palestinians are required to submit to an inspection (n.d.b). There are also 29 Green Line checkpoints that serve as the final crossing point between the West Bank and Israel, and 73 gates in the separation barrier of which 38 can be used by Palestinians (B'Tselem n.d.b). In addition to permanent internal and Green Line checkpoints, there are also "flying checkpoints" that are set up for short periods of time at random locations in the West Bank (ibid.; UN May 2006). According to the UN OCHA, there were roughly 165 flying checkpoints set up in the West Bank every week in December 2006 (Jan. 2007, 15). The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) also reports the use of flying checkpoints, specifying that in 2005 there were roughly 60 set up per month (2006).

According to B'Tselem, procedures at most checkpoints for Palestinians include the requirement to present their identity cards and submit their vehicles and belongings to searches (n.d.c). At certain checkpoints, particularly in Nablus, men between the ages of 16 and 35 are forbidden to cross (B'Tselem n.d.c; UN Sept. 2006). Occasionally, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) will restrict all Palestinians in certain districts from crossing particular checkpoints by foot (B'Tselem n.d.c; UN May 2006) or by car (B'Tselem n.d.c). A number of checkpoints forbid vehicles altogether except for public transport or commercial vehicles, which require a special permit (ibid.; see also UN May 2006).

In the West Bank, there are certain roads that have been designated specifically for the use of Israeli settlers (B'Tselem n.d.c; AI 1 Dec. 2006, Sec. 9). According to USCRI, Palestinians are denied complete or partial access to 41 roads, totalling over 700 kilometres (2006). B'Tselem reports that due to Israel's system of checkpoints and restrictive roadway policies for Palestinians, "simple actions, such as shopping, visiting relatives, and going to classes at the university, have become a complicated, and at times impossible, task" (n.d.c).

Physical obstacles, closures and curfews

B'Tselem reports that, in 2006, there were 470 obstacles blocking West Bank roadways (n.d.c). These physical obstacles include "dirt piles, concrete blocks, iron gates and trenches," which create further divisions within the West Bank and restrict vehicle access (ibid.). According to the UN OCHA, the total number of checkpoints and physical obstacles was 528 in September 2006 (Sept. 2006). AI notes that as a result of delays and detours on roads, travel time from Hebron to Jerusalem is approximately three to four hours compared to the 20 to 30 minutes it took previously (1 Dec. 2006, Sec. 10).

Other restrictions on movement include comprehensive closure days, when all special permits for Palestinians are considered invalid (UN May 2006; see also B'Tselem n.d.d). From January 2006 to July 2006, there were 78 comprehensive closure days (B'Tselem n.d.e). Israel also increases restrictions on the movement of Palestinians during Jewish holidays (AI 23 May 2006) and following armed attacks by Palestinians (ibid.; US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 2.d).

Curfews are used as a mechanism to restrict the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank (AP 25 Feb. 2007; B'Tselem n.d.f). During military operations, the IDF enforces prolonged curfews, affecting, at times, close to two million people (ibid.). In late February 2007, the IDF closed off the West Bank city of Nablus and imposed curfews (AP 25 Feb. 2007; BBC 25 Feb. 2007).

Movement between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip

In 2005, the movement of Palestinians between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was not permitted except in a small number of cases (AI 23 May 2006; see also B'Tselem n.d.g). In order for Palestinians to enter Israel and move between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, a special permit is needed that is difficult to obtain (USCRI 2006; AI 23 May 2006). USCRI notes that violations of special permits carry punishments of expulsion, detention or fines (USCRI 2006).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References


Amnesty International (AI). 1 December 2006. "Israel and the Occupied Territories: Road to Nowhere." (MDE 15/093/2006) http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engmde150932006 [Accessed 31 Jan. 2007]

_____. 23 May 2006. "Israel and the Occupied Territories." Amnesty International Report 2006. http://web.amnesty.org/report2006/isr-summary-eng [Accessed 30 Jan. 2007]

Associated Press (AP). 25 February 2007. Ali Daraghmeh. "Israeli Troops Raid West Bank City." (Yahoo! News) http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070225/ap_on_re_mi_ea/israel_palestinians_6 [Accessed 26 Feb. 2007]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 25 February 2007. "Israelis Put Nablus Under Curfew." http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6394295.stm [Accessed 28 Feb. 2007]

B'Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. N.d.a. "Separation Barrier." http://www.btselem.org/english/Separation_Barrier/index.asp [Accessed 30 Jan. 2007]

_____. N.d.b. "Siege: Statistics on Checkpoints and Roadblocks." http://www.btselem.org/english/Freedom_of_Movement/Statistics.asp [Accessed 30 Jan. 2007]

_____. N.d.c. "Restrictions on Movement: Forbidden Checkpoints and Roads." http://www.btselem.org/english/Freedom_of_Movement/Checkpoints_and_Forbidden_Roads.asp [Accessed 30 Jan. 2007]

_____. N.d.d. "Closure." http://www.btselem.org/English/Freedom_of_Movement/Closure.asp [Accessed 30 Jan. 2007]

_____. N.d.e. "Closure: Figures on Comprehensive Closure Days." http://www.btselem.org/english/Freedom_of_Movement/Siege_figures.asp [Accessed 30 Jan. 2007]

_____. N.d.f. "Curfew." http://www.btselem.org/english/Freedom_of_Movement/Curfew.asp [Accessed 30 Jan. 2007]

_____. N.d.g. "Restrictions on Movement." http://www.btselem.org/english/Freedom_of_Movement/Index.asp [Accessed 30 Jan. 2007]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 11 January 2007. "Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)." World Report 2007. http://hrw.org/englishwr2k7/docs/2007/01/11/isrlpa14707.htm [Accessed 2 Feb. 2007]

Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). 21 June 2006. "Occupied Palestinian Territories: West Bank Wall Main Cause of New Displacement Amid Worsening Humanitarian Situation." http://www.internal-displacement.org/8025708F004BE3B1/(httpInfoFiles)/7559D1859DCFDA14C1257194003809FB/$file/OPT_overview_june06.pdf [Accessed 30 Jan. 2007]

United Nations (UN). January 2007. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). OCHA-oPt Protection of Civilians: Summary Data Tables. http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/OCHA_oPt_PoC_MonthlyTablesDec06.pdf [Accessed 21 Feb. 2007]

_____. 30 November 2006. Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). "Israel - OPT: For Farmers, Much of Their Land Remains Out of Reach." http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=56581 [Accessed 30 Jan. 2007]

_____. September 2006. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). West Bank Closure Count and Analysis: Occupied Palestinian Territory. http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/Closure_count_analysis_sept06.pdf [Accessed 27 Feb. 2007]

_____. May 2006. Office for the Coordination of Humaintarian Affairs (OCHA). Territorial Fragmentation of the West Bank. http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/TerritorialFrag_18May06_web.pdf [Accessed 27 Feb. 2007]

United States (US). 8 March 2006. Department of State. "Israel and the Occupied Territories." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2005/61690.htm [Accessed 29 Jan. 2007]

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI). 2006. "Israeli Occupied Territories." World Refugee Survey 2006. http://www.refugees.org/countryreports.aspx?subm=&ssm=&cid=1591 [Accessed 30 Jan. 2007]

Additional Sources Consulted


Internet sites, including: Asylum Law, Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, Council on Foreign Relations, Gisha: Center for the Legal Protection of Freedom of Movement, International Crisis Group (ICG), Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel Police, Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG), Palestinian Refugee Research Net, Refugees International, ReliefWeb, The Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research (TSC), United Kingdom (UK) Home Office, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), United States Agency for International Development (USAID).