The present report provides data and analysis on the main trends concerning the system of West Bank internal movement and access restrictions implemented by the Israeli authorities between April 2009 and the end of March 2010, when OCHA concluded its comprehensive closure survey.
During the period covered by this report the Israeli authorities implemented a series of measures that improved the freedom of movement of Palestinians between most urban centres, particularly in the north. These measures included the removal of obstacles; the transformation of six key checkpoints into “partial” checkpoints staffed on an ad hoc basis; the relaxation of controls at some permanent checkpoints; the lifting of permit requirements for vehicles driving to and from Nablus City; and the opening of three sections of roads for Palestinian use. These measures, along with similar ones implemented since early 2008, have signiﬁcantly reduced the travel time between many cities and towns, as well as the level of friction between Palestinians and Israeli forces at checkpoints. As a result, large segments of the Palestinian population enjoy better access to services, places of work and markets.
The total number of closure obstacles documented by OCHA at the end of the reporting period stood at 505, down from 626 on March 2009 (a 19 percent decrease).
On 24 May 2010, the Israeli authorities announced a package of measures which included, among others, the opening of a key route east of Jerusalem for Palestinian traffic and the removal of 60 roadblocks. Once implemented, these measures are likely to further improve Palestinian movement between urban centers and reduce the total number of obstacles to its lowest level since 2005.
However, no signiﬁcant improvement took place in the access of Palestinians to areas behind the Barrier, including East Jerusalem, and to land and rural communities in the Jordan Valley. Moreover, the ability of Palestinians to use and develop land resources in these areas, as well as in other areas designated as Area C has remained extremely limited.
Access to East Jerusalem for Palestinians holding West Bank IDs, who obtained an entry permit, remained limited to three of the 16 checkpoints along the Barrier. As has been the case in the last few years, overcrowding, along with the multiple layers 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 willing to access Jerusalem’s holy sites.
As of the end of the reporting period, approximately 60 percent of the Barrier was complete; 85 percent of its entire route runs inside the West Bank, contrary to the Advisory Opinion issued by the International Court of Justice in July 2004. While Barrier construction came to a halt in most areas, its associated permit regime restricting access to the closed areas behind the Barrier (the “Seam Zone”) was expanded to the Ramallah, Hebron and parts of the Salﬁt, Bethlehem and Jerusalem governorates. In the northern West Bank this regime was in place since 2003. Farmers, who were previously able to access agricultural areas behind the Barrier on the basis of a relatively-simple coordination procedure, have gradually been required to apply for visitors’ permits. The onerous demands of the permit system, coupled with the poor yield of the 2009 olive season, resulted in a sharp decrease in the number of people accessing land in the newly declared “Seam Zone”, compared with the previous year.
During the reporting period, the Israeli military removed some 80 roadblocks that impeded vehicular access for limited numbers of farmers to agricultural land in Area C. However, no improvement was observed regarding access to much larger agricultural areas in the Jordan Valley. The routes leading to the latter have remained tightly controlled by four permanently staffed checkpoints, which prohibit access of Palestinian private vehicles, with the exception of Jordan Valley residents. The resulting detours and delays have continued to undermine the livelihoods of farmers, who face higher transportation costs and reduced quality and value of their fresh produce. Additionally, the Israeli authorities have intensiﬁed the enforcement of access restrictions to areas designated as “ﬁring zones” and “nature reserves”, which cover approximately 26 percent of the West Bank. Measures adopted in this context targeted primarily vulnerable herder communities who reside in such areas or who use them to graze their livestock.
Lack of improvement also characterized access to agricultural land in the vicinity of Israeli settlements, due to fences erected around such land by settlers, as well as due to settler intimidation. For the past few years, the Israeli authorities have implemented a “prior coordination” system, which allows limited access to these areas for Palestinian farmers, primarily during the olive harvest season. Information collected by OCHA indicates that such a system is currently in place in 57 Israeli settlements and settlement outposts.
Israeli settlements and their continuous expansion have the single largest impact on the conﬁguration of the system of access restrictions applied to the Palestinian population. For example, one of the frequent justiﬁcations given by the Israeli military for maintaining the closure of key roads into Palestinian towns and villages is that, if opened, these roads may serve as rapid “escape routes” for perpetrators of attacks against nearby settlements, or against Israelis travelling along the adjacent roads. Regardless of the security considerations that led to their imposition, these restrictions have reduced or eliminated Palestinian traffic along certain routes, which, as a result, have been transformed into rapid “corridors” easing the commute of Israeli citizens between the settlements and Israel, and, in some cases, between various areas within Israel via the West Bank.
This phenomenon has led to the gradual funneling of Palestinian traffic onto a secondary road network. During the reporting period, new roads have been paved and poor quality ones upgraded in the process of developing this secondary network. These roads have created or reinforced alternative routes that “compensate” for the loss of access to main routes. As such, they have complemented other measures that improved access to services and livelihoods. At the same time, by creating or reinforcing an alternative, this secondary network entrenches the exclusion of Palestinians from signiﬁcant sections of the primary road network, now utilized mainly by Israelis and Israeli settlers.
The facilitation of Palestinian movement between urban centres is a welcome step. However, further measures are required to restore to Palestinians their right to freedom of movement, as well as their control over West Bank space. Initial steps must include the removal of additional obstacles blocking key routes into urban centers, the revocation of the permit regime associated with the Barrier, the opening up of “ﬁring zones” and “nature reserves” for Palestinian use, the lifting of the access restrictions to the Jordan Valley and within Hebron City, and the permanent freeze of all settlement activity.
Following the beginning of the second Intifada (September 2000), the Israeli authorities began implementing a comprehensive system of restrictions to the freedom of movement of Palestinians within the West Bank. This system is comprised of physical obstacles (e.g. checkpoints, roadblocks, the Barrier) and administrative restrictions (e.g. prohibited roads, permit requirements, age restrictions). The Israeli authorities have justiﬁed it as a temporary measure to contain violent confrontations with its military and to protect Israeli citizens, both in Israel and in the West Bank, from attacks by Palestinians.
This system came in addition to pre-existing policies implemented by the Israeli authorities in the context of its prolonged occupation, which included restrictions on the access of Palestinians to large and important areas, such as East Jerusalem, areas designated as “closed military zones” and land allocated to Israeli settlements. The term “access” is used here in its broadest sense, which includes reference not only to the ability of people to reach a given area, but also to use and develop available resources there, primarily land.
This report provides data and analysis on the main developments and trends in the system of movement and access restrictions for the year between 1 April 2009 and 30 March 2010. It is based on the regular monitoring carried out by OCHA ﬁeld teams, culminating in a comprehensive survey documenting and mapping all closure obstacles. Signiﬁcant developments that took place between the end of the reporting period and the publication of this report are mentioned in the relevant sections.
The report comprises seven sections. The ﬁrst presents the ﬁndings of the comprehensive obstacle survey. The following four sections focus on developments and trends regarding movement and access between urban centers (section 2); to East Jerusalem (section 3); to other areas isolated by the Barrier (section 4); and to land and rural communities in Area C (section 5). Section 6 addresses the phenomenon of the alternative roads, which are aimed at “compensating” for some of the movement restrictions applied to Palestinians. The last section discusses the planning regimes, which constraint the ability of Palestinians to build in East Jerusalem and in Area C.
The report does not address the access constraints affecting people at risk of deportation form the West Bank by the Israeli authorities, on the grounds that their registered address is in the Gaza Strip, or that their entry visas expired.1
I. SIGNIFICANT DROP IN THE NUMBER OF OBSTACLES
In the comprehensive closure survey completed by the end of March 2010, OCHA ﬁeld teams documented and mapped 505 obstacles blocking internal Palestinian movement and access throughout the West Bank. These include 65 permanently staffed checkpoints, 22 partial checkpoints (staffed on an ad-hoc basis) and 418 unstaffed obstacles, including roadblocks, earthmounds, earth walls, road gates, road barriers, and trenches.2
While this ﬁgure includes 11 checkpoints within the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron City (H2), it excludes approximately 80 other obstacles in this area, which were not counted in the past and therefore are not aggregated here to preserve the continuity of the data. This ﬁgure also excludes 63 crossing points along the Barrier, also known as “Barrier gates”, leading into isolated agricultural areas.
The ﬁndings of the closure survey were submitted to the IDF Central Command for review. Of the total, the IDF conﬁrmed the location and status of 366 obstacles or 72 percent of those identiﬁed by OCHA. The difference is mainly due to discrepancies in deﬁnitions, as the IDF does not consider certain types of infrastructures as internal movement obstacles, including permanent checkpoints with ad hoc checks only, checkpoints in the H2 area of Hebron, partial checkpoints, road barriers, trenches, and road gates that are usually open. By contrast, In the comprehensive closure survey completed by the end of March 2010, OCHA ﬁeld teams documented and mapped 505 obstacles blocking internal Palestinian movement and access throughout the West Bank. These include 65 permanently staffed checkpoints, 22 partial checkpoints (staffed on an ad-hoc basis) and 418 unstaffed obstacles, including roadblocks, earthmounds, earth walls, road gates, road barriers, and trenches.2
The ﬁndings of the closure survey were submitted to the IDF Central Command for review. Of the total, the IDF conﬁrmed the location and status of 366 obstacles or 72 percent of those identiﬁed by OCHA. The difference is mainly due to discrepancies in deﬁnitions, as the IDF does not consider certain types of infrastructures as internal movement obstacles, including permanent checkpoints with ad hoc checks only, checkpoints in the H2 area of Hebron, partial checkpoints, road barriers, trenches, and road gates that are usually open. By contrast, the IDF does count 50 obstacles that were not included in OCHA’s ﬁndings, as they do not meet OCHA’s criteria for “obstacles” (mostly those leading into settlements and military bases, which do not impede access to communities or agricultural land).
The total of 505 obstacles represents a net reduction of 121 obstacles (19 percent), compared to the equivalent ﬁgure at the end of the previous reporting period in March 2009 (626).3 This decrease occurred as the result of the removal of 246 obstacles, alongside the installation of 125 new ones at other locations.
Nearly 70 percent of the net decrease (84 obstacles)occurred in the southern West Bank (Bethlehem and Hebron governorates), the bulk of which affected access to agricultural land. However, in terms of impact, the most significant improvement during the reporting period affected movement between urban centers, rather than access to land, and took place in the northern areas following the implementation of measures not reﬂected in the total number of obstacles (see Section 2).
The frequency of the staffing and performance of checks at these checkpoints varies and is usually linked to military operations being carried out in this area, or a “security alert” being declared by the Israeli military. For example, since it became a partial checkpoint in June 2009, ‘Atara, which controls the main route into Ramallah City from the north, operated on at least 45 days, or about 15 percent of the relevant period, according to OCHA’s ﬁeld records.
A relaxation of checking procedures and a reduction in delays was also observed at two key checkpoints, one controlling the single route between the south and center of the West Bank available for Palestinians holding West Bank IDs (Wadi Nar checkpoint) and another controlling the main route between the central and northern areas (Tappuah / Za’atra checkpoint).
Although of smaller signiﬁcance compared to the northern areas, the Israeli authorities implemented a number of steps that eased the movement of Palestinians between some of the main cities and towns in the southern West Bank. These included the removal of roadblocks and earthmounds that blocked direct access from eight communities south of Hebron City, with a total population of 7,500, to Road 60, the main traffic artery in the area. Overall, some 25 unstaffed obstacles blocking access to and from communities in the southern West Bank were removed during this period. In addition, three partial checkpoints in the Hebron and Bethlehem governorates (Umm Salamuna, Ras Al Joura and Halhul Bridge) were dismantled, while most of the remaining partial checkpoints were staffed less frequently.
A major exception to the widespread relaxation trend taking place in the northern areas, affected the main route (Road 60) between the Jenin governorate and the central West Bank, following the closure of the checkpoint controlling this route (Shave Shomron) for all traffic since December 2009. This measure obliges a large segment of the population to make a 25 kilometer-long detour to bypass the inaccessible portion of the road. According to the Israeli military, this closure is due to the ongoing upgrading of a section of this road; however, according to the company implementing the project on the ground, such a measure is not required to carry out the rehabilitation.
b. Three prohibited roads opened up; additional opening expected soon
During this period the Israeli military opened up for Palestinian use two road segments in the northern and southern West Bank that were previously restricted for Palestinian-plated cars and reserved for the exclusive use of Israeli settlers.
The ﬁrst opening occurred in November 2009 allowing Palestinian access to a six kilometer-long section of Road 585, the main traffic artery connecting the governorates of Jenin and Tulkarm. This section, which allowed Israeli settlers from the Mevo Dotan and Hermesh settlements (about 520 residents) to commute with Israel, was closed for Palestinian-plated cars (with limited exceptions) in 2005, forcing the Palestinian population of Jenin and Tulkarm areas to make detours along inferior routes.7
The second opening took place in January 2010 allowing access to a three kilometer-long segment of Road 3265 in the western Hebron governorate, which prior to the prohibition was used by the residents of 12 villages (approx. 25,000 people) to reach service centres in Hebron and Dura. According to the Israeli army, the prohibition was imposed to protect Israeli settlers living in the nearby settlement outpost of Negohot (approx. 200 people). The opening was the result of an Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ) ruling, which found that the harm stemming from the travel ban on the Palestinian population was “disproportionate” compared to the relevant security considerations.8
In December 2009, the Israeli HCJ issued a similar ruling, declaring unlawful the prohibition on the use by Palestinians of a 25 kilometer-long segment of Road 443.9 This road is the main east-west traffic artery in the Ramallah area and has been used since the Israeli military banned Palestinian-plated cars in 2002, almost exclusively by Israelis commuting between Jerusalem and the coastal area of Israel, as well as by settlers living in settlements along the road.
The Israeli authorities have carried out a number of works towards the expected opening of the Road 443, including the deployment of razor wire along the road; the installation of infrastructure for two new checkpoints controlling access to the road; and initial steps for the construction of a new checkpoint at the eastern end of the road (next to the ‘Ofer’ prison) that will control access into East Jerusalem. More than 170 dunums of private Palestinian land were so far requisitioned for the performance of these works. While the ban has affected the access of nearly 30,000 Palestinians living in eight nearby villages to Ramallah city, its negative impact was mitigated in the past two years by the opening of three alternative roads “compensating” for the loss of access to the main road (see also Section 6). Additionally, as access to Ramallah or East Jerusalem through this road will not be allowed, the impact of the expected opening is likely to be minimal, improving mainly the vehicular movement between the villages.
This increase can be attributed to two main factors. One is the attempt to continue controlling Palestinian movement in areas previously controlled by a removed checkpoint or roadblock. On the southern route leading to Jericho City, for example, the number of ﬂying checkpoints recorded between January and March 2010, following the removal of the DCO checkpoint was 20 percent higher that during the previous nine months. The other factor is the attempt to disrupt or control regular protests in Jerusalem and Ramallah governorates.
For example, following the launching of the weekly demonstrations against the expansion of the Hallamish settlement (Ramallah) in December 2009, the number of ﬂying checkpoints recorded next to An Nabi Salah village reached 26 between January and March 2010, up from zero during the previous three months.
Another location where ﬂying checkpoints were frequently recorded is on sections of roads experiencing frequent stone-throwing incidents at Israeli vehicles. In Qalqilyia governorate, for example, approximately one third of the ﬂying checkpoints recorded during this period were deployed on Road 55, on the section next to ‘Azzun village, where incidents of stone throwing occur on a weekly basis.10
d. Israeli settlements: the key factor behind the remaining restrictions
Despite the overall improvement in the movement of Palestinians between urban centers, this ability continued to be impeded by hundreds of obstacles and other restrictions. These movement impediments channel Palestinian traffic into longer and lower quality routes, through areas that are often built-up, resulting in longer travel times, increased transportation costs and poorer access to services, markets and places of work.
Currently, the protection of Israeli settlements and of Israelis travelling along West Bank roads is the main justiﬁcation given by the Israeli military for maintaining some of the key obstacles and restrictions impeding movement between Palestinian urban centers. One of the frequent arguments cited in this regard is that the blocked roads leading to Palestinian towns in the vicinity of settlements may serve, if opened for Palestinian use, as quick “escape routes” for perpetrators of attacks against these settlements, or against Israelis travelling along the adjacent roads.
Overall, parallel to the general decrease in Israeli-Palestinian violence, the frequency of armed attacks against Israeli settlers and Israeli security forces within the West Bank has sharply decreased, compared to the ﬁrst years of the second Intifada, when the obstacles were originally installed (see Graph 3).
Regardless of the considerations that led to their original imposition and their current maintenance, the access restrictions have resulted in a signiﬁcant reduction and in some cases a total elimination, of Palestinian traffic along key routes used by Israeli citizens. As a result, these routes were transformed into rapid “corridors” easing the commute of Israeli citizens between the settlements and Israel, and in some cases between various areas within Israel via the West Bank.
Southern access to Hebron
Road 60 is the principal north-south traffic artery through the West Bank. The volume of Palestinian traffic along the section running from Hebron City southwards is, despite the removal of some roadblocks during the last two years, only a fraction of what it used to be before the breakout of the second Intifada. This situation is largely due to the maintenance of two key closure obstacles blocking access to it. One blocks the entrance to the town of Adh Dahariya and adjacent villages (approximately 50,000 people), directing the traffic to and from Hebron City to a longer and lower quality road through a densely populated area. The Israeli army has justiﬁed this closure as a measure needed to protect the settlement of ‘Otniel (pop. 760), located opposite the entrance of Adh Dahariya. This closure operates in conjunction with another one (a road gate) blocking the southern entrance to Hebron City, which directs an additional 70,000 Palestinians living in the villages adjacent to Hebron to the city through the alternative and longer route from the east. In this case, the security needs of the Bet Haggai settlement (pop. 550), located next to the blocked entrance, had been given as a justiﬁcation for this closure. This section of Road 60 is one the main routes connecting settlements in the Hebron governorate to Israel and to each other.
b. Longer closures and delays in accessing East Jerusalem
Access of permit holders into East Jerusalem is affected by additional factors. Over the course of the reporting period, the Israeli authorities imposed a “general closure” on the West Bank for a total of 50 days, three days more than the previous year, due to Israeli holidays (43 days) and “security alerts” (7). During “general closures”, permit holders are not allowed to access East Jerusalem or Israel, except for some categories of people, including urgent medical cases and staff of international organizations.
In addition, and similarly to elsewhere in the West Bank, checkpoints into East Jerusalem can be closed on an ad hoc basis during, or in the aftermath of, a violent incident at that checkpoint. While precise and comprehensive data is unavailable, ﬁeld observations by OCHA suggest that interruption of movement due to this type of closure signiﬁcantly increased compared to the previous year. This was particularly evident at Qalandiya checkpoint, which controls the main access route into East Jerusalem through the Barrier from the north. For example, during the last quarter of 2009, OCHA recorded the ad-hoc closure of this checkpoint for a total of 47 hours (excluding general closures) compared to none in the ﬁrst quarter of 2009. The main triggers for these closures were clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian youth throwing stones at, or in the vicinity of, the checkpoint; the checking of suspect objects; and incidents involving the stabbing of Israeli soldiers staffing the checkpoint by Palestinians. Most of these incidents were linked to a general rise in tension, following a series of decisions, reports and statements concerning the expansion of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, the Israeli cabinet’s decision to add two sites in Hebron and Bethlehem to a list of Israeli “national heritage sites”, and calls by some Palestinian leaders to defend Al Aqsa Mosque.17
Regular ﬁeld observations also indicate that during the reporting period there was a general increase in delays and queues at the three Barrier checkpoints accessible to Palestinian permit holders, Qalandiya in particular. A signiﬁcant factor in the case of the latter, contributing to longer delays and queues for vehicles leaving the city, was the closure of an opening in the Barrier used as an alternative route from East Jerusalem to Ramallah (via Ar Ram), in February 2009, which increased the number of vehicles crossing Qalandiya checkpoint northwards.
Expansion works at Qalandiya checkpoint, carried out during the reporting period, included the paving of two additional vehicular lanes that, once open, will serve Jerusalem ID holders travelling on public buses. According to the Israeli DCL (District Coordination Liason), since the latter will be allowed to cross in buses instead of by foot, the new lanes will reduce pressure at the existing pedestrian lanes that will primarily serve permit holders and potentially reduce crossing times.
c. Access to hospitals in East Jerusalem continue to be impeded
A lack of signiﬁcant improvement characterized also the access to the six East Jerusalem non-government hospitals, which are critical for the entire West Bank population, particularly in regard to tertiary care, including dialysis and oncology, open-heart surgery, neurosurgery and eye surgery, and neonatal intensive care. Patients continue to require permits and have their entry limited to the three most crowded checkpoints, on foot. The process of obtaining a permit and crossing one of these checkpoints adds signiﬁcant stress to people already vulnerable due to illness or disability.
Permission for emergency cases can be obtained the same day through the auspices of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS). However, this involves coordination with the Israeli DCL, the authorizing of a speciﬁc checkpoint for the patient to cross, and a back-to-back ambulance procedure (the transfer of the patient from one vehicle to another), as West Bank license-plated ambulances are not allowed to enter Jerusalem. Patients and staff have raised concern about the impact of this procedure on the dignity of patients. In 2009, PRCS recorded a total of 289 incidents of delay or denial of access to East Jerusalem by its ambulances, representing a 27 percent decrease in such incidents compared to 2008 (397 incidents).18
The limitation of entry to the three most crowded checkpoints continued to apply to staff of East Jerusalem hospitals who hold West Bank identity cards, excluding doctors. This restriction has been implemented since mid-2008 and has resulted in chronic lateness and absence of staff, which makes managing consultations and operations - already a delicate task for any hospital - additionally difficult. Following extensive follow up by the World Health Organization and hospitals’ representatives, in November 2009 the Israeli authorities agreed to allow hospital staff to use any of the checkpoints; however this improvement was short lived and two months later, the previous situation was reinstated.
Additionally, during the reporting period the Israeli authorities began implementing a decision adopted in February 2009 prohibiting East Jerusalem hospitals from importing medical equipment from the West Bank, which, according to these authorities, does not meet Israeli standards. This has created logistical problems for the hospitals and has also led to higher costs for equipment purchased through Israeli dealers. This followed a similar decision implemented a year before regarding pharmaceuticals.19
d. Access to Holy Sites in East Jerusalem
The Barrier and permit system have also impeded the access of Muslims and Christians holding West Bank IDs to places of worship in East Jerusalem. As in previous years, during the month of Ramadan (22 August - 19 September 2009) the Israeli authorities only allowed men over 50 and women over 45, as well as boys and girls under the age of 12 and 16 respectively, to access the Friday prayers at Al Aqsa Mosque without permits; married men between 45 and 50 years of age and married women between 30 and 45 years of age need to apply for an entry permit.
Overall, the movement of eligible people during these Fridays proved more difficult than the previous year, particularly at Qalandiya checkpoint, due to inadequate arrangements made by the relevant authorities, such as the lack of “humanitarian lines” outside the checkpoint and the shortage of space at the women’s side of the checkpoint; at least 100 Palestinians, predominantly women and children, were injured at Qalandiya checkpoint due to the crowding, compared to two injuries in the equivalent period in 2008.
The access of Christian worshipers to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher during the week preceding the Easter holiday (March 2010) was also severely disrupted. This occurred despite the fact that the Israeli authorities issued thousands of “special permits” for this population, which were valid even though a “general closure” was declared that week due to the Jewish Passover.20 Factors contributing to this disruption included the arrest of worshipers marching from Bethlehem to the Holy Sepulcher on Palm Sunday without permits, after a Barrier gate was left unstaffed; the complete closure of the checkpoints on the ﬁrst two days of the Jewish Passover; and the deployment of ﬂying checkpoints within and around the Old City. As a result, many families with special permits opted to attend Easter celebrations in Ramallah or elsewhere in the West Bank. Moreover, as under the current regime, a person can be issued only one permit at a given time, Christian workers, businessmen and patients, with valid permits were not eligible for the “special permits” and were therefore denied access to East Jerusalem due to the general closure.
4. THE EXPANSION OF THE BARRIER PERMIT REGIME
The Barrier, in conjunction with its gate and permit regime, continues to be the single largest obstacle to Palestinian movement within the West Bank, including to and from East Jerusalem. Approximately 60 percent of the Barrier’s route is currently complete. During the reporting period, however, with a few exceptions, construction of new sections came to an almost complete halt as a result of a number of factors, including ﬁnancial constraints, concerns raised by the international community and lack of demand by Israeli society. Most of the construction that took place during this period was rerouting ordered by the Israel HCJ, in addition to a few sections in northern Jerusalem. Following changes in the route, the total number of people living in the closed areas behind the Barrier (the “Seam Zone”) experienced a slight decrease. By contrast, the permit regime restricting access to farming land expanded to areas where the Barrier was complete, further undermining the livelihoods of farmers living on the eastern, “West Bank side” of the Barrier.
The 2002 decision to construct the Barrier came following a deadly campaign of suicide bombings perpetrated within Israel by Palestinians from the West Bank. However, the route of the Barrier does not follow the Green Line, and approximately 85 percent of the current route runs inside the West Bank, leaving some 9.5 percent of the West Bank territory on the western, “Israeli”, side of the Barrier (the No Man’s Land). The protection of Israeli settlements, including areas planned for their future expansion, constituted the major factor for the deviation of the Barrier’s route from the Green Line.21 The area left on the western side of the Barrier includes 80 of the 149 settlements and over 85 percent of the total settler population in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem).
In an Advisory Opinion issued in July 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) established that the sections of the Barrier, which ran inside the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, together with the associated gate and permit regime, violated Israel’s obligations under international law.22 The ICJ called on Israel to: cease construction of the Barrier ‘including in and around East Jerusalem’; dismantle the sections already completed; and ‘repeal or render ineffective forthwith all legislative and regulatory acts relating thereto.23
a. Access to farm land behind the Barrier further restricted
In the northern West Bank, since October 2003, Palestinians have been obliged to obtain ‘visitor’ permits to access farming land between the Barrier and the Green Line, which was declared a “closed military area” or “Seam Zone”. To obtain a permit, applicants must satisfy the security considerations necessary for all Israeli-issued permits and to submit land documents to prove a ‘connection to the land.’ The majority of the Barrier gates providing access to this area only open during the olive harvest season and usually only for a limited amount of time during the day. This is insufficient to allow farmers to carry out essential year-round agricultural activities, such as ploughing, pruning, fertilizing, and pest and weed management, which improve the quantity and quality of the olive oil yield. UN monitoring in the northern West Bank has revealed that the combination of the restricted allocation of ‘visitor’ permits and the limited number and opening times of the Barrier gates have severely curtailed agricultural practice and undermined rural livelihoods. Data submitted by the Israeli State Attorney to the HCJ indicated that the number of permits issued to Palestinians farmers to access the “Seam Zone” in the northern West Bank between 2006 and mid-2009 has sharply decreased.24
In January 2009, the “closed area” designation was extended to the Ramallah, Hebron and parts of the Salﬁt, Bethlehem and Jerusalem governorates, and Palestinians wishing to access these areas have gradually been required to apply for visitors’ permits. Prior to that, farmers were only required to register with the Israeli authorities and show their IDs at the relevant gate (also known as the “prior coordination” system). In the Hebron district, for example, 470 farmers applied for permits to access their land through the Khirbet Al Dier gate during the 2009 olive harvest, of which 370 (79 percent) were granted. By contrast during the 2008 olive harvest, under the “prior coordination” system, an estimated 1,500 farmers accessed their olive groves through the same gate. The sharp decrease in the number of applicants (nearly 70 percent decrease) is partly attributable to the poor harvest in 2009,25 but also due to the onerous demands of the permit system. In the Ramallah governorate most farmers have refused to apply for permits. As a result, six of the ten Barrier gates and checkpoints now requiring permits have remained virtually deserted due to this refusal. A similar situation has evolved in those areas of the Jerusalem governorate where the “seam zone” regime has been implemented.26
Also during the reporting period, the Israeli authorities completed the rerouting of a ﬁve kilometer long section of the Barrier to the northeast of Qalqiliya city and the removal of the old Barrier, including the asphalt of the military patrol road. This development, which follows an HCJ decision issued three years ago, has restored the access of farmers from nearby villages to some 1,500 dunums of land; the new route, however, runs up to ﬁve kilometers from the Green Line, encircling the settlement of Zuﬁn (1,000 people) and isolating thousands of dunums of fertile agricultural land belonging to local Palestinian villages.
By the end of 2009, following another HCJ ruling, the Israeli authorities began work (currently ongoing) in the Ramallah governorate aimed at rerouting the Barrier next to Bil’in village. Once complete, this rerouting will restore Palestinian access to about 650 dunums of land, while still leaving 1,300 dunums isolated by the Barrier. Since 2006, residents of Bil’in, along with Israeli and international peace activists, have been holding weekly demonstrations protesting the Barrier’s route, which usually evolve into violent confrontations with Israeli forces. In this context, in February 2010 the Israeli military declared the area between the Barrier and the built-up area of the village (and the nearby Ni’lin village) as closed military areas on Fridays, from 8 am until 8 pm, for a period of six months; the orders place nonresidents who enter the area without permission from the Israeli military at risk of arrest.
b. Slight decrease in number of Palestinians living in closed areas
In the northern areas, since 2003, some 10,000 Palestinians residing in the closed area are required to obtain permanent resident permits to continue to live in their own homes. As their centre of life is located on the ‘Palestinian’ side of the Barrier, children, patients and workers have to pass through checkpoints to reach schools, medical facilities and workplaces and to maintain family and social relations. Relatives and service providers living elsewhere must obtain ‘visitor’ permits to access these communities.
The new areas declared as “Seam Zone” in February 2009 included only a limited number of people: a few areas between the Barrier and the municipal boundary of Jerusalem with a total population of approximately 500, and a community of three families in southern Hebron, beyond the Beit Yattir Barrier checkpoint (around 100 people).
Conversely, most of ‘Azzun ‘Atma (population 2,000) in the Qalqiliya governorate was “released” from the “Seam Zone”, as the checkpoint controlling access between it and the rest of the West Bank was transformed in March 2010 into a partial checkpoint, allowing unrestricted access to the village. Previously, and during more than six years, the checkpoint was closed daily from 22:00 to 06:00, effectively conﬁning the entire community during night hours. This proved especially problematic for expectant mothers in labour, as the only medical facility available was a basic primary health care clinic which operates for two hours a day, twice a week.27 This development follows the completion of a secondary barrier around the village during the reporting period, which prevents access from the village to other “Seam Zone” areas or to Israel, de-facto constituting a rerouting. The new route isolates nine families from the rest of the village; a checkpoint along this secondary barrier, which closes between 22:00 and 05:00, remains fully staffed.
Also in the Qalqiliya governorate, following another HCJ ruling dating from September 2005, the Israeli authorities completed the rerouting of a section of the Barrier around the settlement of Alfe Menashe. This rerouting, and the subsequent removal of the former Barrier and Barrier checkpoint controlling access to the enclave (the Ras Atiya checkpoint), “released” three communities (pop. 800) from the “Seam Zone”. However, under the new route, vital agricultural land from these communities, as well as two Bedouin communities (pop. 400), will remain in the “Seam Zone”, within the Alfe Menashe enclave.28
Therefore, despite the expansion of the “Seam Zone” further south, the total number of people living in the closed areas behind the Barrier saw a net decrease of 22 percent, from approximately 10,000 to 7,800.
c. Concerns about Barrier expansion in the western Bethlehem governorate
In late February 2010, following a freeze of over three years, the Israeli authorities resumed land leveling for Barrier construction on two small sections of the Barrier’s route in the northwest area of Bethlehem governorate.29 This development has raised concerns about an overall resumption of Barrier construction in the remaining sections across western Bethlehem governorate.
The officially-approved route of the Barrier in western Bethlehem governorate surrounds ten Israeli settlements in an area known as the “Gush Etzion block”, separating approximately 64,000 dunums from the rest of the West Bank (see Map 2). This area includes some of the most fertile land in the governorate, as well as nine Palestinian communities with approximately 21,000 residents. If the Barrier is complete and the “Seam Zone” regime is expanded to this area, this will constitute the largest such area in the West Bank in terms of land size and the number of residents.
Residents of the nine communities in this area, whose livelihoods have been gradually decimated during the past decades due to settlement expansion, are likely to face reduced access to Bethlehem City, the major service centre for health, education, markets and trade. The closed area designation, if and when implemented will also affect Bethlehem residents from Al Khader, Artas and nearby communities residing on the eastern, “Palestinian” side of the Barrier, who will require ‘visitor’ permits to access their land on the other side. If completed, the Barrier will also prevent any development of the main urban block in Bethlehem westwards, after the constructed sections have prevented urban expansion towards the north.
Additionally, completion of the Barrier in this area is expected to result in the loss of access by Palestinians to the section of Road 60 on the western, “Israeli”, side of the route. Works carried 6) have reinforced the concern about an overall out during the reporting period on roads providing resumption of Barrier construction in this area. Alternatives to this section of Road 60 (see Section 6 ) have reinforced the concern about an overall resumption of Barrier construction in this area.
5. ACCESS TO LAND AND RURAL COMMUNITIES IN AREA C REMAINS HIGHLY CONSTRAINED
Area C covers approximately 60 percent of the West Bank and is the only contiguous area within this territory; unlike areas A and B, in Area C the Israeli authorities exercise exclusive and direct control on security and law enforcement matters, as well as over planning and construction. The Area C population, estimated at 150,000, has been identiﬁed by the humanitarian community as a priority area for humanitarian assistance, due to a high level of hardship stemming from the access restrictions, compounded by years of neglect and isolation from other areas of the oPt.30 As with other access restrictions addressed in this report, Israeli settlements are a key factor shaping the restrictions on Palestinian access to land and communities in Area C.
During the reporting period the Israeli authorities removed approximately 80 closure obstacles along main roads in the southern and northern West Bank, which blocked vehicular access to dirt roads leading to farming land, mostly in Area C. These removals have had a positive, albeit limited, impact on the livelihoods of previously affected farmers.
With that exception, no signiﬁcant improvement was observed in regard to Palestinian access to agricultural land and rural communities in Area C, the bulk of which are located along the Jordan Valley (including the eastern sections of Bethlehem and Hebron governorates). The main components of the system restricting access to these areas include: checkpoints and permit requirements for crossing them; the designation of large tracks of land as “ﬁring zones” and “nature reserves”; and the obstruction of access to agricultural land in the vicinity of Israeli settlements by means of fences and intimidation.
a. Access to and from the Jordan Valley
All movement to and from the section of the Jordan Valley north of Jericho remains tightly controlled by four permanently staffed IDF checkpoints, Tayasir, Hamra, Ma’ale Efraim and Yitav. With the exception of around 56,000 people who are registered in their IDs as residents of the Jordan Valley (including Jericho), the majority of Palestinians remained prohibited from crossing these checkpoints with their private vehicles, unless they have obtained a special permit. Moreover, those who obtain these permits are required to have the vehicles licensed in their names before being able to drive them through the checkpoints, further constraining the ability to move. Only Israelis and foreign nationals are allowed to cross the Ma’ale Efrayim checkpoint.31 The single positive development regarding access to the Jordan Valley took place in June 2009, when the IDF extended the opening hours of Tayasir and Hamra checkpoints to 24 hours a day, compared to 15-17 hours prior to that.
Despite the above restrictions, Palestinians can access the Jordan Valley with their private vehicles via Road 1, south of Jericho City, and then Road 90, without having to cross any checkpoint. However, due to the long detour required to take this route, it is of little beneﬁt for the bulk of the population. For example, while the distance between the town of Tubas and the Jordan Valley village of Bardala through the restricted Tayasir checkpoint is 24 km, the distance through the alternative route along Roads 1 and 90 is more than seven times longer - 176 km (see Map 2).
While the precise scope of the phenomenon of restrictions on access to farming land within or in the vicinity of settlements is unknown, it is clear that these ﬁgures provide an only partial picture. As indicated in the petition to the HCJ ﬁled by farmers from Jaba’, there are many other farmers who own land next to settlements where no access coordination system is in place, and therefore are totally prevented from accessing their land.
6. FUNNELING TRAFFIC TOAN ALTERNATIVE ROAD NETWORK
The restrictions on access to certain key roads throughout the West Bank have gradually funneled Palestinian traffic into a secondary road network. During the reporting period, new roads have been paved and poor quality ones upgraded in the process of developing this secondary network. These roads have created or reinforced alternative routes that “compensate” for the loss of, or reduced access to, main routes that were totally or partially blocked. As such, these roads have complemented other measures discussed in Section 2 above, improving access to services, markets and places of work. At the same time, by creating or reinforcing an alternative, these roads entrench the exclusion of Palestinians from signiﬁcant sections of the primary road network, now utilized mainly, and sometimes exclusively, by Israelis and Israeli settlers.
a. “Fabric of life” roads
One category of alternative routes comprises new roads opened and paved across agricultural areas, usually including tunnels and underpasses built under the Barrier or under a main road restricted for Palestinians. Construction of this type of roads, which often requires the seizure of private Palestinian land, has been undertaken exclusively by the Israeli authorities, who have labeled them “fabric of life” roads. The quality and route of these roads is, at least in some cases, inferior to that of the original restricted road due to lower building standards and the need to cross built up areas in order to reach the entrance of the new road. For example, during the reporting period, one “fabric of life” road linking the villages located south of Road 443 with Ramallah (Beit Ur Al Fauqa – Beituniya) collapsed twice as a result of heavy rains; since the second collapse (March 2010) the road has remained closed for repair, while Palestinian traffic is diverted through a longer detour.
In November 2009 the Israeli military opened for Palestinian traffic an underpass it had constructed two years before under Road 60, connecting the villages in the western section of Bethlehem governorate with the urban area of Bethlehem. As of the end of the reporting period, the road was being paved. Upon completion of the Barrier along Road 60, this “fabric of life” road is expected to be the sole route linking these villages with their service center in Bethlehem area (see Section 4).
Also during this period, the Israeli authorities completed a road connecting Ni’lin village (Ramallah) with the nearby Ni’lin checkpoint, used primarily by workers employed in the nearby settlement block (Modi’in Illit) and Israel. This road, in conjunction with two underpasses built earlier further north, has minimized the volume of Palestinian traffic on Road 446, which now serves almost exclusively Israeli settlers commuting between the settlements of Nili and Na’ale, and Israel. To date, the Israeli authorities have paved and opened throughout the West Bank approximately 50 kilometers of such roads, including 44 tunnels and underpasses.
Because of the difficulties Palestinians encounter trying to obtain building permits from the Israeli authorities and the lack of feasible alternatives, many Palestinians risk building on their land without a permit. At least 28 percent of all Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem have been built in violation of Israeli zoning requirements. Based on population ﬁgures, this percentage is equivalent to some 60,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem, who are at risk of having their homes demolished by the Israeli authorities.
In the ﬁrst eight months of the reporting period (April- November 2009) a total of 60 structures were demolished in East Jerusalem, displacing 178 people; in the remaining four months, following concerns raised by the international community and the intervention of Israel’s Premier, demolitions came to an almost complete halt.
The demolition of houses causes signiﬁcant hardship for the people affected. Not only must displaced families overcome the psychological distress of losing their homes, they are usually burdened with debt after the loss of their primary asset, the demolished house, and, if they have retained a lawyer, the payment of legal fees.
b. Area C38
Similar to the situation in East Jerusalem, the ability of Palestinians to build on their own land located in Area C has remained largely constrained due to the restrictive planning regime implemented by the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA). Under this regime, Palestinian construction is effectively prohibited in some 70 percent of Area C, given these areas’ allocation for use by Israeli settlements or the Israeli military, including the “ﬁring zones” mentioned above.
In the remaining 30 percent of Area C (approximately 18 percent of the West Bank), there are a range of other restrictions that greatly reduce the possibility of obtaining a building permit. In order to obtain a building permit, a proposed construction must be consistent with an approved planning scheme - regional, outline or detailed. In practice, however, the Israeli authorities generally allow Palestinian construction only within the boundaries of a detailed or special plan of the ICA, which cover less than one percent of Area C, much of which is already built-up. Such plans have been approved for only a minority of Palestinian villages in Area C and these fail to meet the needs of Palestinian communities. In addition, most private or community-owned lands located on the margins of these communities, which are needed for their development, are excluded.
In the majority of Area C villages, which have no ICA plans, limited Palestinian construction is theoretically permitted, but must conform to the narrow building possibilities allowed by the Mandatory Regional plans of the 1940s. These plans designate the majority of lands today in Area C as an ‘agricultural’ zone and are inadequate to deal with current needs. The Israeli authorities’ restrictive interpretation of these plans makes it virtually impossible for a Palestinian to obtain a permit.
As a result of this restrictive planning regime, tens of thousands of Palestinians wishing to build in most parts of Area C are left with no choice other than to carry out unauthorized construction on their land to meet their housing needs and risk demolition of their structures and subsequent displacement. During the reporting period, OCHA oPt has recorded the demolition of 223 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C, displacing 381 people, a 54 and 124 percent increase respectively, compared to the ﬁgures during the preceding 12 months.
In addition to the difficulties faced by those displaced by home demolitions, the inability to carry out legal construction has a direct impact on the provision of basic services as well as livelihoods. For example, while the responsibility for the provision of education and health services to Palestinians in Area C was transferred in the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement to the PA, the difficulties in obtaining building permits from the ICA for the construction or expansion of schools and clinics signiﬁcantly impede the fulﬁllment of this responsibility. For herders and farmers, livelihoods are undermined by the inability to construct animal shelters and agricultural infrastructure, along with restricted access to land designated as military training zones and nature reserves. For the international community, difficulties in obtaining building permits, including for very basic infrastructure projects, impede attempts to provide basic humanitarian assistance to some of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank.
The series of measures implemented by the Israeli authorities during the reporting period have continued to improve the ability of Palestinians to move between urban centers. These measures included the removal of dozens of obstacles; the transformation of some key permanent checkpoints into partial checkpoints; the relaxation of controls at other checkpoints; the lifting of permit requirements to and from Nablus City; and the opening of two sections of road for Palestinian use. Yet, key routes into some of the Palestinian cities and towns are still blocked. Moreover, in large areas of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Barrier’s “Seam Zone”, the Old City of Hebron, and extensive rural areas in Area C (mainly in the Jordan Valley and around settlements), Palestinian access has remained highly restricted.
Over the past few years, a secondary road network, which “compensates” for the loss or reduced access by Palestinians to the main road network, has gradually emerged. The further development of this secondary network has contributed to the easing of Palestinian movement between urban centers. However, despite the immediate respite they provide to the affected populations, these alternative roads entrench the exclusion of Palestinians from main roads and contribute to the fragmentation of the West Bank.
The Israeli settlements established in the West Bank are illegal under international humanitarian law.39 Their continued presence and expansion is the single largest factor shaping the system of access restrictions applied to the Palestinian population. Over the course of 2009, the settler population continued to grow and reached approximately half a million; in settlements outside East Jerusalem the rate of growth was more than 2.7 times higher than the equivalent growth rate among the general Israeli population, 4.9 compared to 1.8 percent respectively. In 2009, more than 1,700 housing units began to be built in settlements outside East Jerusalem, while nearly 2,800 other housing units were under active construction and over 2,000 were completed.40 While in November 2009 the Israeli Cabinet announced a 10 month partial freeze on new settlement construction, excluding East Jerusalem, according to official sources there have been widespread breaches of this decision.41
Israel is responsible under international humanitarian and human rights law for ensuring that the humanitarian needs of people under its occupation are met, and that these people are able to exercise their human rights, including the right to freedom of movement, work, housing, health, education, and to be free from discrimination, among others. The easing of Palestinian movement between urban centres is a welcome step. However, further measures aimed at restoring Palestinian control over West Bank space are required in order to make progress towards the fulﬁllment of the above obligations. Initial steps must include the removal of obstacles blocking key routes into urban centers; the revocation of the permit regime associated with the Barrier; the opening up of closed military zones and nature reserves for Palestinian use; the lifting of the access restrictions to the Jordan Valley and within the Old City of Hebron; the enforcement of the law on violent settlers; and the permanent freeze of all settlement activity.
OCHA monitors and maps closure obstacles in the West Bank on a regular basis. Teams of experienced staff, with extensive and detailed knowledge of the West Bank travel along every paved road, all signiﬁcant unpaved roads and the majority of minor tracks in their area of operations. The monitoring survey takes approximately ten full working days for three teams. Each team is equipped with a GPS (global positioning system) unit and a camera.
Each time a signiﬁcant obstruction is located, the team records its position with the GPS unit for future mapping and takes a photograph of it. The obstacle is then categorized according to pre-determined deﬁnitions as described below and given a unique identifying name based on a combination of the nearest main road, nearest village or town, and the governorate and the ﬁeld office identifying it. Next, the type of access blocked is described, e.g. access of a village to main road, connection between two towns or access from an agricultural road to an olive grove. Records, including the code of the photograph, are entered on a ﬁle in the GPS, relying on pull-down menus to reduce the risk of error.
Only obstacles that effectively block vehicular access along a clear paved or unpaved road are counted. Obstacles within 50 metres of another obstacle on the same route are recorded as one.
The GPS ﬁles are down-loaded on a daily basis into a computer using geographic information system (GIS) software to render the information into maps. Maps are printed and crosschecked against other ﬁeld data jointly by the GIS specialist and a member of the ﬁeld team. If there is any query, further ﬁeld checks are carried out to ensure a complete and accurate data set.
It should be noted that the OCHA survey is extensive, but not necessarily exhaustive, as some of the smaller routes may be missed. Thus, the ﬁgures produced by OCHA should be considered a minimum number and not reﬂective of the total number of obstacles.
Checkpoints: are composed of two elements - an infrastructure which inhibits vehicular and pedestrian traffic and permanent presence of Israeli security personnel (e.g. the IDF, the Border Police, the civil Police, a private security company). Security personnel usually check the documentation of persons crossing the checkpoint and conduct searches on their vehicles and their belongings.
Partial Checkpoints: are made up of similar infrastructure as checkpoints but are not permanently staffed. Frequently, the partial checkpoint infrastructure is installed on roadsides and, therefore, does not directly obstruct the traffic. When staffed, partial checkpoints function as the full checkpoints described above. When unstaffed, the traffic may ﬂow relatively freely along the route.
Earthmounds: are mounds of rubble, dirt and/ or rocks put in place by IDF bulldozers to prevent vehicular movement along a road or track. Several mounds less than 50 meters apart, blocking the same route, are only counted as one closure. If a mound is pushed to the side (by IDF or Palestinians) or if a route around it is created and vehicle access is possible, the mound is not recorded as an obstacle. Earth mounds are often removed or circumvented and then re-built and/or enlarged. Therefore, some of them appear on one map, disappear from the next and then subsequently reappear.
Roadblocks: are constructed from one or more concrete blocks about one cubic meter and, like earthmounds, are used to prevent vehicle access to land or roads. In all other respects, they are the same as earthmounds.
Trenches: (or ditches) are dug across ﬂat land or along the side of a road to prevent vehicles from going around a closure obstacle on the road.
Road Gates: are metal gates used to block access to a route. All road gates are marked on the maps as closures, including those which were open when recorded by OCHA, until the infrastructure is removed.
Road Barriers: may be composed of a continuous earth wall, a fence or a concrete barrier running along the side of a road. To be classiﬁed as a road barrier, this type of infrastructure should be at least 100 metres long and obstruct free passage of people, vehicles or livestock, onto, off or across the road.
Earthwalls: are Road Barriers, as deﬁned above, composed of a series of earthmounds.
ANNEX II: PALESTINIAN LAND IN THE VICINITY OF SETTLEMENT REQUIRING “PRIOR COORDINATION” FOR PALESTINIAN ACCESS