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UDP implementation has confirmed that Israel never intended to alter the legal status of the Gaza Strip. Seven months on, the UDP emerges as a project to leave Gaza in ruin under complete Israeli military deployment along its borders. The UDP has converted the Strip into a big prison with collective punishment by closure and blockade, perpetuating disastrous human consequences. Gaza Strip remains occupied territory according to the Fourth Geneva Convention criteria2 . By the end of 2005, envoy Mr. James Wolfenson’s reported to the Quartet foreign ministers that Israel is “acting as if there was no withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.”3
Israel’s human rights violations have decreased from the widespread and systematic destruction of the past five years. That legacy has left 28,882 dunams of agricultural land razed, impoverishing 60,101 Palestinians.4 Of these, IDF razed 8,000 dunams more than once, and razed approximately 26 dunams in 2005. Since 2000, Israeli forces have destroyed 244 wells in Gaza, including two drinking water sources, and one in 2005. In late October 2005, the IOF occupied a wide area of agricultural land in the north of Gaza, following their unilateral decision to convert it into a closed military area. This now extends over a 6,350m-long and 2,100–2,700m-wide swath along the north Gaza border, stretching from the sea, to the west, to the former industrial zone, in the east. From there, the IOF regularly launch their rockets and tank fire.
IOF have demolished 6,395 Palestinian homes housing 58,460 Gazans, over half of them children. Of those, 2,684 homes are completely destroyed, including 50 in 2005. Israeli forces also have destroyed 807 commercial and industrial establishments, including 503 completely, and seven in 2005. Israel also has destroyed 255 public structures, including the bombing of 76 schools, nine hospitals and clinics. The IOF targeted 10 such structures in 2005. Additionally, Israeli forces have destroyed 4,365 boats, 169 completely.
The recent abatement of the crimes of destroying homes, industries, trade establishments, public facilities and lands does not augur improvement of human rights conditions for Gaza Strip residents, particularly in view of the strict blockade, closure and troop deployment that the IOF have imposed. Those violations continue to afflict many aspects of Palestinian life. While the IOF checkpoints isolating Mawasi, Sifa, Ma`ani and Abu Nahia districts have been removed, the Gaza Strip effectively remains behind a prison wall. The following table depicts the pattern of closures.
The closures have provoked harsh social and economic consequences across the Gaza Strip:
267,000 persons currently participate in the workforce, representing only 37% of potential workers;
Currently unemployed job seekers number 114,000, or 42.9% of the workforce (those unemployed who have given up looking for work form the remainder);
Gaza poverty rates have increased since 2000: reaching 37.2% (calculated by expenditure) and 65% (by income);
Gaza’s 19 hospitals (2004) have 2,129 beds, representing 1.6 beds for every 1,000 persons;
Physicians number 2.4 for every 1,000 persons;
Three nurses for every 1,000 persons;
Health insurance holders: 93.8 per 1,000 (2004);
Natural breast feeding rate: 95.7% (2004);
Children suffering form malnutrition: 1.8%;
Low-weight children represent 4.9%.
Curfews and closure obstruct many reconstruction projects for homes of forcefully evicted families. It also exacerbates the economic situation, low standard of living, inflation and the decline in purchasing power. Losses arising from increased material costs and failure to meet production deadlines have bankrupted many contractors. In the West Bank, the Wall also impedes local and international aid organizations, as they need permits to reach any required destination.
The following table shows the number of days during which Israeli forces closed terminals connecting Gaza with the outside world:
Israeli forces ignored the ICJ Advisory Opinion confirming that the Separation Wall breaches international law and must be stopped and removed immediately. Instead of heeding international law, Israel altered the Wall’s route and lengthened it from 622 to 670 meters.5
Currently, 570,726 dunams are enclaved between the Wall and the Green Line. Additionally, foreclosed East Jerusalem lands total 697,440 dunams. The route bars 60,000 Palestinians outside the Wall dividing East Jerusalem, and has created 38 enclaves elsewhere in the West Bank, affecting 49,400 inhabitants.
The Wall deprives tens of thousands of Palestinians living outside its path but barred from their own lands, or who inhabit enclaves and own lands outside. It also forecloses access to services and prevents people from communicating with their families and friends across the West Bank. Palestinians living in these areas must subject to a permit system and pass IOF gates that operate arbitrarily, at Israeli soldiers’ discretion. In areas between the Wall and the Green Line (e.g., Qalqilyah and Tulkarem) 5,000 inhabitants are forced to seek permits even to stay in their houses.
HIC and Al-Mezan confirm that, by the Wall construction:
Both Habitat International Coalition and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights confirm and stress that the range of Israeli practices and consequences continue the pattern of international criminal, humanitarian and human rights breaches preceding the UDP. Some forms have changed, but the practice forms a continuum.
We also remind the CHR that Israel is treaty bound to reports on its implementation of these norms in the occupied territories as well as in its recognized jurisdiction. To date, Israel has refused to do so. The international community and the members of the CHR assume the parallel and equal responsibility, in light of international cooperation, to sanction the offending State for its systematic violations. Failing to do so encourages Israel to continue depriving Palestinians from their basic rights, and threatens the peace process and the security of the whole region.
In light of the information in this report, both HIC and AL Mezan announce the “deep need to end occupation and necessity of the presence of international force to protect the inhabitants. The 2 organizations urge the international community to take definite steps for the protection of Palestinians through quick and immediate procedures to stop Israel. Failing to comply with this goal will give Israel enough security to continue its practices paying no attention to the consequences which in turn spreads hatred in the region and destroys confidence in the international law and human rights”