Human Rights in the Occupied Territories 2011
Segregated roads and checkpoints continue to stifle Palestinian communitiesSeparate lines for Palestinians and Israelis at the Barta’a checkpoint. Photo: Sharon Azran, B’Tselem, 5 March 2011
In 2011, the Israeli military reduced slightly its restrictions on Palestinian movement in the West Bank. This improvement follows the elimination of some of the main checkpoints in 2009, which eased movement on the main roads linking Palestinian cities. But Palestinians are still unable to move about the West Bank freely, and Israel continues to view the Palestinians’ right to free movement as a privilege it may grant or deny at its discretion.
The movement restrictions still in force make it difficult for Palestinians to gain access to areas where Israel is interested in strengthening its control, such as East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, land west of the Separation Barrier, and areas of Israeli settlements in the heart of Hebron. These restrictions prevent Palestinians from using some of the main roads and highways in the West Bank, such as sections of Route 60 and Route 443. Settlers travel on these roads without hindrance, while Palestinian are directed to side roads, which lengthens their journeys.
The military eliminated a significant number of the restrictions on movement in the West Bank, but the checkpoint infrastructure was left in place. Thus, the military can re-staff these checkpoints, channel traffic to them, and close entrances to the principal Palestinian cities when it is deemed necessary.
The existing restrictions on movement severely infringe the right of Palestinians in the West Bank to freedom of movement and as a result violate other basic rights, such as the right to adequate medical treatment, to education, to religious practice, and to work. The restrictions also make it difficult to maintain economic, family, and social ties.Close >>
Current situationPalestinian cars waiting at the Hamra checkpoint. Photo: Rachel Hayut, MachsomWatch, 20 September 2011
At the end of 2011, there were 102 checkpoints inside the West Bank. Of these, 22 are in Area H-2 of Hebron city, where the Israeli settlements are located. Forty of the checkpoints are the last inspection point prior to entering Israel, although most of them are actually located a few kilometers east of the Green Line or from the entrance to Jerusalem. Seventy-six are permanent, regularly staffed checkpoints, and the remaining 26 checkpoints have infrastructure but are staffed sporadically
According to figures of the UN Office for Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), in September 2011, there were also 522 physical obstacles, such as dirt piles, concrete blocks and gates that close off roads to Palestinians. Also, an average of some 495 "flying checkpoints" are set up each month, without any permanent infrastructure, at which soldiers check passing cars for a period of a few hours.
Along the Separation Barrier, there are 66 agricultural gates that enable limited Palestinian access to land west of the Barrier, which is defined as a closed military zone. Twelve of the gates are opened daily for a few hours. The others are opened only during certain agricultural seasons.Close >>
Long and winding roadsWomen waiting to enter East Jerusalem through the Qalandiya checkpoint, during Ramadan. Photo: Oren Ziv, activestills.org, 5 August 2011
The quickest way to travel between the north and the south of the West Bank runs through Jerusalem, mostly on broad, new highways. Since the beginning of the 1990s, Israel has prohibited Palestinians from entering Jerusalem, including parts of the West Bank that Israel annexed to the city. Therefore, Palestinians wanting to make the trip have to use much longer bypass roads that are mostly narrow and subject to traffic jams.
The exhausting trip that Palestinians must take if they want to go from the south to the north of the West Bank entails the following: several kilometers south of Bethlehem they are channeled in a north-easterly direction, to rural roads bypassing Bethlehem and Beit Sahur. These roads lead to the Container checkpoint, through which all Palestinian traffic between the northern and southern sections of the West Bank pass, creating long waits at the checkpoint, primarily in the beginning and end of the week.
After passing through the Container checkpoint, they drive along a road that was only recently re-opened for Palestinians, which runs east of Abu Dis and abuts a road leading to one of the two sections of the Qedar settlement. Alternatively, they continue along the narrow, crowded roads of Abu Dis and al-‘Eizariya. Both routes lead them to the crowded entrance to al-‘Eizariya, next to the intersection at the main entrance to Ma’ale Adummim. The intersection has a stop sign, and Palestinian vehicles have to give right-of-way to vehicles coming from Qedar and to vehicles entering Ma’ale Adummim, although many more Palestinian vehicles come to the intersection than do settler vehicles. In the busy morning traffic, Palestinians sometimes have to wait an hour or more to cross.
From there, they drive east along Route 1, which runs between Jerusalem and Jericho. Near the Mishor Adummim industrial area, they turn north along a narrow road that runs east of the E-1 area. They then turn northwest and head toward the town of Hizma. After going through the town, they drive west to Ramallah, passing through a checkpoint next to Jaba, or north via Route 60. Palestinians wanting to go to the central West Bank – the Qalqiliya and Tulkarm areas – have to pass through another checkpoint, the Za’tara (Tapuah) checkpoint.
On a good day, when there are no traffic jams, Palestinians can negotiate the trip around Jerusalem in 90 minutes. In practice, however, many will have to plod along the roads for much longer than that.Close >>
Who benefits from Jordan Valley checkpoints?Soldiers detain farmers on dirt road leading to the towns Tammun and Tubas, west of the Jordan Valley. Photo: Keren Manor, activestillos.org, 28 April 2011
Four checkpoints restrict Palestinian access to the Jordan Valley – Tayasir, Hamra, Ma’ale Efrayim, and Yitav. The first two are permanently staffed, and the military does not allow Palestinians to cross unless their identity cards indicate they live in the Jordan Valley. The last two have been staffed only occasionally during the past year, however, Israel has not officially stated that they are open to Palestinian movement, so few Palestinian vehicles cross. Israel continues to block the northern entrance to Jericho and to restrict movement at the eastern exit from the city to buses traveling to the Allenby crossing to Jordan.
The security benefits Israel reaps from these restrictions are unclear, since Palestinian vehicles are allowed to enter the Jordan Valley and Jericho via alternative, albeit longer, roads.Close >>
Small improvementsRoad between Kedar and Ma’ale Adumim, reopened this year to Palestinian traffic. Photo: Sarit Michaeli, B’Tselem, 3 November 2011
In 2011, the military allowed Palestinians to use once again the road running north from the Container checkpoint to Abu Dis. The road runs next to the access road to one of the sections of the Qedar settlement. The road shortens, by several minutes, travel to al-‘Eizariya, saving the drivers the need to travel along the crowded streets of Abu Dis.
The road running north to Salfit passes through the Ariel settlement. Closed to Palestinians over the past decade, it was opened in 2011 to Palestinian buses and taxis which register in advance, and to ambulances. Use of this road shortens the trip from 11 villages to the Salfit commercial center by 20 kilometers.Close >>
Hebron – Restrictions only on PalestiniansSoldiers on Shuhadeh Street, in Hebron. Palestinians, including the street’s residents, are generally denied entry by car or by foot. Photo: Anne Paq, activestills.org, 16 November 2011
Inside Hebron city, the Israeli military maintains 22 staffed checkpoints around H-2, the area that remains under complete Israeli control, and includes the Old City, in which the Israeli settlement compounds are located. The checkpoints obstruct Palestinian movement to and from this area. Also, according to OCHA, Israel has placed more than 100 physical obstacles in H-2, including 56 roadblocks.
Shuhada Street, a north-south artery and one of the main roads in the city, was closed to Palestinian pedestrians and vehicles at the end of 2000 and has remained closed for over a decade. In December 2006, the military admitted it had been closed by mistake, and said that an order had been given to allow Palestinians to use it subject to a security check. However, several days later, the military closed the street again. In October 2007, the Military Advocate General informed the Association for Civil Rights in Israel that the military’s position was that the street should remain closed to Palestinians. The street has remained closed to Palestinians since then.Close >>