86% of Checkpoints Separate Communities within the West Bank  

The majority of the staffed checkpoints in the West Bank do not separate between the West Bank and Israel, but rather block passage between Palestinian villages and cities, according to statistics published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

OCHA's figures indicate that there are 65 staffed checkpoints, of which only nine separate the West Bank from Israel, while the remaining 56 prevent traffic between West Bank communities. In addition there are 607 physical roadblocks that prevent the passage of vehicles - 457 mounds of dirt, 94 concrete blocks, and 56 trenches.

Dirt Roadblock in the West Bank
   Dirt roadblock in the West
   Bank. Photo: B'Tselem

Siege Policy
Siege Statistics
   IDF Violates the Right of Palestinians to Medical Treatment  

According to a new report released this week by B'Tselem and Physicians for Human Rights - Israel, the IDF violates the right of residents of the Occupied Territories to obtain medical treatment. The security claims cited to justify this violation are dubious.

Dozens of staffed checkpoints and some six hundred physical roadblocks have been set up within the West Bank as part of Israel's siege policy. These obstacles to movement restrict the access of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to medical treatment. As a result of the restrictions on movement, the number of hospital births has decreased by approximately 50% since September 2000, and in 70% of calls to the Red Crescent, ambulances are unable to reach the patient's house. In total, 72.3% of the Palestinian population report that they face difficulties in reaching medical clinics and hospitals.

The physical roadblocks make passage for ambulances difficult. As a result, sick people are forced to make their own way across the roadblocks and then spend hours traveling on winding, makeshift roads. In addition, soldiers at checkpoints within the Occupied Territories frequently delay sick people and medical personnel, and sometimes humiliate or abuse them. In some cases, IDF soldiers have even used Red Crescent ambulances for military purposes.

International law is unequivocal on matters relating to the protection of medical teams. Medical personnel are not to be unnecessarily delayed or harmed, unless they participate in military activity. In effect, the IDF is collectively punishing hundreds of thousands of civilians by preventing access to basic medical treatment.

Any use of ambulances for non-medical purposes is a grave violation of international law. While the IDF justifies routine delays of ambulances based on the claim that Palestinians use them for military purposes, they have only presented one such incident. Regardless, individual cases of misuse of ambulances do not justify the sweeping policy described in this report.

B'Tselem and Physicians for Human Rights - Israel call on the security forces to remove all the siege checkpoints; allow Palestinians to receive medical treatment quickly and without delay; and refrain from humiliating or abusing medical personnel.

Soldiers pointing their guns at a Palestinian ambulance in Nablus
   Soldiers pointing their guns
   at a Palestinian ambulance in
   Nablus. Photo: Reuters

Report Summary
Full Report (Word 97)
Full Report (RTF)
PHR - Israel
   Shackled for Refusing to Clean a Checkpoint  

On November 23, soldiers at the Huwwara checkpoint handcuffed and blindfolded two Palestinians and forced them to sit on the ground for hours. Witnesses told B'Tselem fieldworkers there that soldiers had ordered a group of Palestinians to clean the checkpoint. When the two men refused, the soldiers shackled them. The soldiers admitted that they had forced Palestinian civilians to clean the checkpoint, claiming that the order had come from their superiors.

Following B'Tselem's request, a Civil Administration official who had been in the area spoke with the soldiers. The official assured B'Tselem's fieldworkers that the soldiers had acted improperly and promised that such a situation would not happen again.

Another officer who came to the checkpoint contended that he did not know anything about the specific incident, but mentioned that it might have occurred because the soldiers suspected that an object near the checkpoint was booby-trapped.

Ordering Palestinians to clean a checkpoint and punishing them after they refuse to do so is illegal. Furthermore, if the order was given because the soldiers suspected that the checkpoint was booby-trapped, it is especially grave because it endangered human life. B'Tselem requested that the Military Investigation Unit investigate the incident and punish the soldiers involved, including those who gave the order.

The two Palestinians detained by IDF soldiers at the Huwwara Checkpoint
   The two Palestinians detained
   by IDF soldiers at the Huwwara
   checkpoint. Photo: B'Tselem

Testimonies related to Restrictions on Movement