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Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
19 September 2008





United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
occupied Palestinian territory
                                  Sept 2008


Closure Update : Main Findings and Analysis
(30 April - 11 September 2008)

I . During the reporting period, the Government of Israel took more steps aimed at easing internal movement for Palestinians in the West Bank than it had during the prior reporting period.These steps included the removal of one staffed checkpoint and the easing of movement through four routes in the northern West Bank and in Hebron. It also announced the removal of another 100 obstacles, of which only 25 were significant and counted by OCHA.1 These actions are positive and welcomed yet the impact is limited geographically. Overall, the freedom of movement of Palestinians within the West Bank and East Jerusalem remained highly constrained and neither territorial contiguity nor the pre-2000 status quo was restored.

2. In its latest survey of the West Bank and East Jerusalem on September 2008, OCHA observed 630 obstacles blocking Palestinian movement, including 93 staffed checkpoints and 537 unstaffed obstacles (earthmounds, roadblocks, barriers, etc). This figure represents a net increase of 3.3%, or 20 obstacles, compared to the figure reported at the end of the previous reporting period (29 April 2008).2 This total does not include 69 obstacles in the Israeli-controlled section of Hebron City (H-2), nor eight checkpoints located on the Green Line. The net increase resulted from the installation of 115 new obstacles alongside the removal of 95 obstacles.3 Additionally, the weekly average of random (flying') checkpoints increased by about 10% compared to the first four months of 2008 (85 vs. 77).

3. This survey also found that approximately 65% of the main routes leading into the 18 most populated Palestinian areas in the West Bank are blocked or controlled by an IDF checkpoint (47 out of 72 routes). Excluding Hebron, which has most of its routes opened, this figure rises to 75%. Moreover, more than half of the secondary routes into these areas, used for some time as alternatives to the blocked main routes, are also closed (24 out of 42 routes). Some of the open alternative routes were built by Israel as "fabric of life" roads, i.e. as new permanent routes (see paragraph 6 below).

4. The number of obstacles at any one time is indicative of the access situation, but does not capture the full picture of the system of obstacles and restrictions. There is a whole range of measures including the Barrier, restricted roads, permit system, age and gender restrictions, and closed areas, which layered upon each other, consolidate into a comprehensive system fragmenting the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

5. The Barrier places a very significant role in this system.Approximately 57% (415 km) of the Barrier's final route has been completed with 79% (329 km) of it running inside the West Bank, separating Palestinians from their land and creating enclaves isolated to some degree from the rest of the West Bank. Nine percent of the Barrier is under construction - almost entirely inside the West Bank.There are 56 gates that control Palestinian movement to West Bank areas on both sides of the Barrier. According to a UN survey conducted in 2007, in the northern West Bank less than 20% of those who used to farm their lands in these areas before completion of the Barrier, are now granted `visitor' permits to cross these gates at the Barrier to reach their farms and wells,4

6. During the reporting period the GOI continued investing in transportation infrastructure throughout the West Bank. To date, about 50 kilometres of "fabric of life" roads, including 42 tunnels and underpasses, were constructed in this context over the past years, and more than 40 additional kilometres and 18 tunnels are planned.An Israeli military expert estimated the cost of constructed and planned "fabric of life roads" and Barrier gates at two billion NIS.5 Extensive works were also being carried out to expand and renovate key checkpoints. While some of this infrastructure is expected to ease the movement of Palestinians, it comes at the price of further entrenching the system of restrictions and the fragmentation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

7. Incidents of blocked humanitarian access continued, in particular at the `Tunnels' checkpoint - the main route between the southern West Bank and East Jerusalem. Most incidents involved demands by Israeli security personnel to search UN vehicles (busses in particular) forcing UN staff to reroute and causing hundreds of lost staff hours and additional costs.

8. In reflecting on more than seven years of restrictions, what was once a short-term Israeli military response to violent confrontations and attacks on Israeli civilians has developed into an entrenched multi-layered system of obstacles and restrictions, fragmenting the West Bank territory and affecting the freedom of movement of the entire Palestinian population and its economy. This system is transforming the geographical reality of the West Bank and Jerusalem towards a more permanent territorial fragmentation.



Endnotes

1 The removal of 61 of the 100 was announced in April 2008, during the previous reporting period. See OCHA, Closure Update, May 2008, available at:http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/UpdateMay2008.pdf.

2 While the total number of closures reported in the previous Closure Update was 607, a later review revealed that three checkpoints were mistakenly classified as Barrier gates and not included in the count.Therefore the updated figure as of the end of the previous reporting period is 610 and not 607.

3 The figure on "removals" includes obstacles removed by the IDF and by Palestinians, as well as obstacles taken out of OCHA's map following their classification as insignificant.

4 The Humanitarian Impact of the Barrier, July 2008, Update No. 8.

5 Interview with Shaul Arieli, Ha'aretz, 25 May 08.

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