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Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
16 June 2010

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
occupied Palestinian territory

JUNE 2010

During the reporting period, no improvement has taken place on the freedom of movement of Palestinians within the Old City of Hebron, which remains under full Israeli control (part of H2 area). The Israeli authorities have justified the access restrictions on Palestinians as a means of protecting three Israeli settlements established in the heart of this area. Currently, there are over 90 closure obstacles, including 11 permanently staffed checkpoints, impeding movement within this area. Palestinian traffic, and on one section also pedestrian movement, is prohibited along the main street of this area (Ash Shuhada); many shops along this street are closed by military order. The severe access restrictions, compounded by years of systematic harassment by Israeli settlers, forced a significant part of the Palestinian population to relocate in other areas of the city.13 While the situation in the Old City did not change, in early August 2009 a minor easing was implemented on a street leading into this area (the Kiriat Arba street), which entailed allowing Palestinians living along this street to travel in their vehicles after obtaining a special permit. To implement this measure, two new permanently staffed checkpoints were installed at both ends of the street.14


In contrast to the trend regarding movement between other West Bank urban centers, no improvement has taken place regarding access of Palestinians holding West Bank IDs to East Jerusalem, which continued being severely restricted by the Barrier, the checkpoints and the permit system in place. This situation has had a particularly negative impact regarding access to specialized hospitals by patients and staff, as well as to places of worship.

a. The Barrier, the checkpoints and the ‘dislocated’ communities in East Jerusalem

For West Bank ID holders, entry into East Jerusalem has been prohibited since 1993, unless they possess an entry permit issued by the Israeli authorities. Access to East Jerusalem for this population has been further restricted following Barrier construction around the city, the majority of which was complete by 2007. Since then, access of permit holders has been limited to three of the 16 checkpoints functioning along the Barrier, which have become increasingly crowded as a result. Permit holders are allowed to cross these checkpoints only on foot. The remaining 13 checkpoints are used by Israelis, internationals and Palestinians holding Jerusalem IDs.15

As a rule at these checkpoints, after waiting in line for their turn, permit holders must cross a remotely controlled revolving gate, scan all their belongings through an x-ray machine, pass through a metal detector, show their ID and permit to the Israeli security staff standing behind a bullet-proof glass, swipe their magnetic card, and, if cleared, cross another revolving gate and exit the checkpoint. In addition, since the beginning of the reporting period, permit holders are required to have their fingerprints scanned. The entire process may consume up to two hours during the rush hours in the morning and is widely perceived by the affected people as a long and difficult experience.

In addition to separating large parts of East Jerusalem and its population from the rest of the West Bank, the Barrier compounds the already difficult situation of the communities left on the “wrong side” of the Barrier. People living in these “dislocated” communities include:

• Approximately 1,500 West Bank ID holders on over ten different sites on the “Jerusalem” side of the Barrier, many of whom face challenges to their residency status, as well as access restrictions to services on the “Palestinian” side of the Barrier (see the Surkhi-Qunbar case below).

• Approximately 50,000 Jerusalem ID holders living within the municipal boundaries but left on the “West Bank” side of the Barrier. They have to cross through checkpoints to access services in other areas of the city and fear that an eventual redrawing of the municipal boundary in future would threaten their residency status (e.g. Kafr ‘Aqab and Shu’fat Refugee Camp).

Over 140,000 people living in the Jerusalem governorate in communities historically connected to Jerusalem, which are now physically separated by the Barrier. As a result they face economic decline and restricted access to services and places of work in East Jerusalem, among others (e.g. Abu Dis and Ar Ram). These areas have also seen a sharp fall in the number of Jersualem ID holders who have re-located to areas within the Israeli-defined municipal boundary.

During the reporting period, one Barrier checkpoint (Lazarus) used by Palestinians dislocated on both sides of the Barrier was removed and the remaining gap in the Barrier closed (see case study below). In addition, a partial checkpoint located on an incomplete section of the Barrier in the northwest of the city (Beit Iksa checkpoint) became a permanent checkpoint, further restricting access to three dislocated communities on the “Jerusalem” side of the Barrier.16

The Surkhi-Qunbar community is located in the vicinity of the Ras al Amud neighborhood, within the Israeli-defined municipal boundary of Jerusalem, and comprises approximately 300 people, 40 of whom hold West Bank IDs and the rest Jerusalem IDs. Due to the topography of the area, following the completion of the Barrier in 2005, the community became an enclave isolated from the rest of the city and from other areas of the West Bank. Only those registered as residents of this community are automatically allowed through the checkpoint controlling access to other parts of the city. Visitors are allowed entry but only if transported by one of the enclave residents with a yellow-plated vehicle. Service providers need to coordinate their entry with the Border Police in advance, in order to access the enclave with their vehicles. Since the removal of the “Lazarus” checkpoint in September 2009, which controlled access to the “West Bank side” of the Barrier, West Bank ID holders must use another more distant Barrier checkpoint (Al Sawahira Al Sharqiya), part of the way only on foot, creating a particularly difficult hurdle for the most vulnerable members of this community. Israeli settlers are currently occupying two structures in this enclave, while a larger settlement (“Kidmat Zion”) is at a planning stage.

Finally, following the expansion of the “Seam Zone” regime to include some areas located between the Barrier and the municipal boundary of Jerusalem in February 2009, West Bank ID holders residing in these areas are obliged to obtain permits to continue living in their homes (see also Section 4).

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.


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.


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).

Similarly to other geographical areas (see Section 2), the Israeli military has justified the restrictions on the checkpoints along the Jordan Valley by reference to the security needs of the Israeli population living in the settlements established in this area (approximately 9,000) or travelling on Road 90. As a result of these restrictions, Road 90 is used mostly by Israeli settlers commuting with Israel, as well as other Israelis travelling between the area of Jerusalem and northern Israel, as an alternative to Highway 6 inside Israel, which is a toll road.

The checkpoints and permit requirements have had a significant impact on the livelihoods of farmers living in the Jordan Valley, as well as in nearby towns in the Tubas, Nablus and Jericho governorates, who own and cultivate land in this area. This is primarily due to the higher transportation costs incurred by farmers and traders to market their agricultural produce in the rest of the West Bank, due the long detours they are forced to make and the limited number of authorized transporters. In addition, the quality and price of fresh produce is often reduced, when marketed after long delays at the checkpoints. Finally, farmers are also affected by restrictions imposed at checkpoints on the entry of agricultural inputs, primarily fertilizers and metal pipes.

Access restrictions are also affecting many residents of small rural communities across the Jordan Valley, primarily Bedouins, whose ID cards indicate an address elsewhere in the West Bank and who, therefore, are not allowed to drive their vehicles in and out of that area. The impact of this restriction on some of these communities was further compounded in the course of the reporting period, following its stricter enforcement by the Israeli military. For example, since November 2009, most members of Al Ka’abneh Bedouin clan living in various sites in Al ‘Auja area (Jericho governorate), who are registered as Hebron and Ramallah residents, have been denied vehicular access northwards through the Yitav checkpoint. This checkpoint controls the direct route into Jericho City, on which they totally depend for their health, water, education and shopping needs. Prior to that, they were allowed to use the checkpoint following regular coordination between the Palestinian and Israeli DCLs.

b. “Firing zones” and “nature reserves”

Since 1967, Israel has designated some 18 percent of the West Bank as a closed military zone for the purposes of military training. The bulk of such areas are located in the Jordan Valley and southeast Hebron governorate. While Palestinian access to these areas is prohibited by military order, except for those recognized by the Israeli military as “permanent residents”, the exact boundaries of the closed areas are not clearly demarcated on the ground and the enforcement of this prohibition is irregular. In addition, approximately 13 percent of the West Bank is designated as “nature reserves”, in which any Palestinian land use, including for herding, is prohibited. These areas include land in the Bethlehem governorate that was intended to be handed over to the Palestinian Authority (PA), under the Wye River Memorandum of 1998. Accounting for overlaps between the categories, “closed military areas” and “nature reserves” cover some 26 percent of West Bank land.

On 24 January 2010, a Palestinian shepherd from the community of Khirbet Samra (Jordan Valley) was approached by an Israeli Environmental Authority inspector while he was grazing his flock in an area ostensibly declared a “nature reserve” and was requested to leave. The shepherd objected arguing that he has been using that area for years, and that there are no signs on the ground indicating an access restriction. Following a verbal confrontation, the shepherd was hand-cuffed and taken to an Israeli police station in a nearby settlement for questioning. Later on, the shepherd was forced to pay a 1,700 NIS fine and summoned to appear before a military court.

While difficult to quantify, there are consistent indications that during the reporting period the Israeli authorities have invested more efforts to enforce restrictions on Palestinian access to these areas. In May 2009, for example, the Israeli military installed dozens of cement slabs across the Jordan Valley and southeast Hebron with a “Danger, Firing Zone, Entrance Forbidden” warning in Arabic, English and Hebrew. Moreover, approximately 80 percent of the Area C structures demolished in 2009 due to lack of building permits (see Section 7) were located in such areas. This trend continued in January 2010, when the Israeli authorities demolished 16 structures in the community of Khirbet Tana, entirely located within a “firing zone”.

In addition, inspectors from the Israeli Environmental Authority have informed the Palestinian DCL Office in Jericho that herders grazing their animals in areas designated as nature reserves will be subject to fines. According to Palestinian residents, however, most such areas lack clear demarcation making it extremely difficult to comply.

The increasing enforcement of the access restrictions to closed “firing” zones and nature reserves has exacerbated the hardship of small herding communities, already affected by ongoing water scarcity. In some cases, these restrictions have obstructed the implementation of emergency programs by humanitarian agencies, aimed at alleviating this hardship. For example, in August 2009, an international NGO was prevented from distributing water and fodder to three communities located in a “firing” zone in south Hebron (the “Massafer Yatta” area) due to a series of earthmounds blocking the access of water trucks to these communities.32

c. Access to private land next to settlements

Similarly, the reporting period recorded no significant change regarding access of Palestinian farmers to agricultural land within, or in the vicinity of, Israeli settlements. Such access has remained restricted due to physical barriers and settler intimidation, and continues to undermine the livelihoods of many families.

The outer limits of Israeli settlements are physically demarcated by electronic fences and/or patrol roads; some were erected by the Israeli authorities, while others were set up by the settlers, with or without the formal approval of the authorities. A large number of the settlements include within their outer limits “islands” of private Palestinian land, which have not been expropriated or seized for the construction of the settlement or its expansion. The area within the municipal boundaries of settlements, which in most cases does not coincide with the outer limits, was declared as a “closed military area” for Palestinians (the order does not apply to Israelis and foreign nationals).33

Access of Palestinian farmers to their private land “locked in” within the settlements’ fences and patrol roads has been conditioned for the last few years on the performance of “prior coordination” with the Israeli DCL offices. Farmers included in the “coordination list” for a given settlements must usually show their ID cards to the security personnel staffing the settlement entrance or gate. This regime is also implemented by the Israeli authorities in cases where the Palestinian land was fenced in by Israeli settlers without authorization and lies outside the official boundaries of the settlements, despite the fact that the military order banning Palestinian access does not apply.

In November and December 2009, farmers from the villages of Jaba’ and Silwad (Ramallah) filed two separate petitions with the Israeli HCJ requesting the removal of the fences installed by Israeli settlers around the Geva Binyamin and Ofra settlements respectively, which prevent them from accessing their private land.34 While the fencing of these areas was carried out, in both cases, without any authorization, the Israeli authorities have refrained from taking any measure to remove the fences. The affected area in the case of Ofra covers, according to the petitioners, over 3,000 dunums planted with olive and fig trees. During past years, limited numbers of farmers were allowed access to this area only twice a year, following “prior coordination” with the Israeli DCL. In the case of Geva Binyamin, the area addressed in the petition, which covers nearly 400 dunums out of some 1,000 dunums fenced in the settlement, was used in the past to grow seasonal crops (mostly vegetables, wheat and barley); however, unlike land in Ofra, no “coordination system” is in place for farmers to access this land, resulting in a halt to cultivation.

In its response to the court, the Israeli State Attorney explained that following the filing of a large number of complaints about similar illegal fencing in other settlements throughout the West Bank, the authorities have decided to carry out a comprehensive examination of the phenomenon, before any action is taken. On these grounds the State Attorney called on the court to reject the petition.35

In a larger number of cases, Palestinian access to agricultural land in the vicinity of Israeli settlements is prevented or restricted not by physical barriers but by means of systematic intimidation by Israeli settlers. Following a landmark judgment issued by the Israeli HCJ in 2006, the Israeli authorities began to gradually expand the “prior coordination” regime to agricultural areas where settler intimidation was recurrent. This type of coordination, which is designed to allow the deployment of Israeli forces in the relevant areas in advance of any violent incident, is implemented almost exclusively during the olive harvest season (October-November). Access to land during other times of the year has therefore remained limited due to the risk of settler violence.

Since early December 2009, villagers from An Nabi Saleh and Deir Nidham (Ramallah), together with Israeli and international activists, have held weekly protests against the persistent restrictions by Israeli settlers from Hallamish settlement on their access to farming land. Since 2000, Israeli settlers have taken over approximately 3,000 dunums of land privately owned by 20-25 Palestinian farmers from these villages by planting various crops and trees and continuously obstructing the access of Palestinian farmers. As in similar cases elsewhere, the Israeli DCL requires that farmers coordinate every access in advance, a requirement that the farmers have rejected. Most demonstrations have evolved into clashes with the Israeli army, which, as of the end of the reporting period, resulted in the injury of nearly 80 Palestinians, mostly with rubber-coated metal bullets, and the injury of two Israeli soldiers with stones.
According to information collected by OCHA from the different Israeli and Palestinian DCL offices, a “prior coordination” system is currently in place regarding access to land within, or in the vicinity of, 57 Israeli settlements and settlement outposts, for farmers residing in some Palestinian communities (for a detailed list see Annex II). The top three governorates in terms of the number of villages and towns with such a system in place are Nablus (32), Ramallah (18) and Hebron (15). In 26 of the 57 settlements (46 percent) the Palestinian land is fenced and requires farmers to cross a gate or checkpoint, while in the remaining 31 (54 percent) access is affected exclusively by settler intimidation.

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.


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.

b. Upgrading of existing routes

This category of alternative routes includes pre­existing but poor quality roads rehabilitated and upgraded at the request of the Palestinian Authority and, in most cases, with the approval of the Israeli authorities.36 Most of them had functioned in the past as local routes connecting communities to a main road or to each other, serving a limited number of people. Following the access restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities, these roads were transformed into regional traffic arteries handling a significantly larger volume of traffic; their upgrading is aimed at adapting the road infrastructure to its new function. Unlike the “fabric of life” roads, this type of road usually does not require land expropriation.

The following are just some examples of roads whose upgrade was completed or ongoing during the reporting period, and which compensate for the current or expected lack of access to Road 60, the main north-south traffic artery:

1. South Hebron: the southern portion of Road 60 (the original route) runs from the town of Adh Dhahariya to the Meitar checkpoint located on the Green Line. The latter checkpoint is the main access point for thousands of Palestinian workers, as well as other permit holders, commuting between the southern West Bank and Israel. Following the blocking of this road next to the settlement of Tene, all Palestinian traffic was diverted to a dirt road through the village of Ar Ramadin, whose upgrading was complete during the reporting period.

2. North Hebron/Bethlehem (see Map 3): the upgraded road may serve as an alternative to Road 60, if and when the latter is blocked by the Barrier around the Gush Etzion settlement block. The alternative road links Road 60, next to the eastern entrance to the town of Halhul (Hebron), with the Wadi Nar road east of Jerusalem (see next item). The northern section of this alternative road (also known as Road 356) was upgraded in the past by the Israeli authorities and is currently used mainly by Israeli settlers to commute to Israel. The Palestinian Authority is currently upgrading the southern section of this alternative route (from Road 60 to the Sa’ir village), while the middle section will be upgraded in the future.

3. Jerusalem: also known as the ‘Wadi Nar road’, this alternative road bypasses the traditional route between the southern and central West Bank, which runs through East Jerusalem and has been prohibited for West Bank ID holders (see Section 3). The widening and renovation of a section of this alternative route, from the Wadi Nar checkpoint to the town of Abu Dis, began during the reporting period and is currently ongoing.

4. East Ramallah: this alternative road connects the city center of Ramallah to the ‘Atara (now-partial) checkpoint and the town of Birzeit (See Map 1). Following the blockade of most access points into Road 60 through the Ramallah governorate, including the main entrance into Ramallah from the east (see Section 2), the alternative road became the main route to and from Ramallah for the whole northern, and part of the central, West Bank.


The ability to use and develop available land resources is a key dimension to be considered when assessing the degree of access to a given area. In East Jerusalem and in Area C, where planning and building powers lie entirely with the Israeli authorities, such ability has remained largely blocked due to the restrictive planning regimes implemented in those areas. These regimes have particularly undermined the ability of the affected populations to address their housing needs.

a. East Jerusalem37

Since its annexation to Israel in 1967, over one third of East Jerusalem has been expropriated for the construction of Israeli settlements. Only 13 percent of the annexed area is currently zoned by the Israeli authorities for Palestinian construction, within which Palestinians have the possibility of obtaining a building permit. However, much of this land is already built-up, the permitted construction density is limited and the application process is complicated and expensive.

Moreover, the number of permits granted per year to Palestinians does not meet the existing demand for housing. The gap between housing needs based on population growth and the legally permitted construction is estimated to be at least 1,100 housing units per year. As a result, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem find themselves confronting a serious housing shortage caused by Israel’s failure to provide Palestinian neighborhoods with adequate planning. This shortage has been exacerbated in recent years by the reported influx of Palestinian Jerusalemites into the city due to Barrier construction and the threat of losing residency status in the city if they move outside the Israeli-defined municipal borders of Jerusalem.

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.


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