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Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
30 July 2007
The Humanitarian Impact of the West Bank Barrier on Palestinian Communities
Update No. 7
A report to the Humanitarian Emergency Policy Group (HEPG),
compiled by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and
the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in the occupied Palestinian territory.
This report examines the humanitarian, social and economic consequences of the Barrier on East Jerusalem. The construction of the Barrier, in
conjunction with other restrictions, has meant that Palestinians living in the West Bank can no longer travel freely into East Jerusalem, the city that has been the religious, social and economic centre of their lives for centuries.
A 168 km long, concrete and wire section of the Barrier separates East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. The Government of Israel (GOI) states that the purpose of this barrier is to protect Israeli citizens from terrorist attacks, mostly in the form of suicide bombings.
In 1967, the GOI annexed East Jerusalem and 64 square kilometres of surrounding West Bank land, unilaterally defining this area as the expanded Jerusalem municipality. Almost immediately, the GOI began building settlements in this area, despite these actions being illegal under international law.
While the Barrier provides physical security for Israel, it also encircles these settlements, connecting them to Israel, and ensuring that Israeli settlers have free, unimpeded access to Jerusalem. At the same time, the Barrier weaves around and between East Jerusalem and West Bank towns and villages. In some cases it cuts through Palestinian communities, dividing neighbourhoods from each other. In other cases, villages that
were once closely connected to Jerusalem now lie on the West Bank side of the Barrier, physically separated from the city.
The report’s findings demonstrate how the Barrier has significantly affected Palestinian life:
• Palestinians from the West Bank require permits to visit the six specialist hospitals inside Jerusalem. The time and difficulty this entails has resulted in an up to 50% drop in the number of patients visiting these hospitals.
• Entire families have been divided by the Barrier. Husbands and wives are separated from each other, their children and other relatives.
• Palestinian Muslims and Christians can no longer freely visit religious sites in Jerusalem. Permits are needed and are increasingly difficult to obtain.
• School and university students struggle each day through checkpoints to reach institutions that are located on the other side of the Barrier.
• Entire communities, such as the 15,000 people in the villages of the Bir Nabala enclave, are totally surrounded by the Barrier. Movement in and out is through a tunnel to Ramallah which passes under a motorway restricted for Israeli vehicles only.
Complete document in PDF format