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From the field

6.7.08: Israel severs a-Nabi Samwil Village from rest of the West Bank

The army recently severed the Palestinian village a-Nabi Samwil, and its 220 residents, from the rest of the West Bank, isolating it almost completely. The action is part of Israel's policy to separate Israeli and Palestinian traffic in the West Bank.

The village lies on the route between the Ramot and Givat Ze'ev settlements and on the road linking Beit Hanina and the Bir Nabala enclave with the villages west of the enclave. Until recently, this was the only road that provided residents of Nabi Samwil access to the Bir Nabala enclave, where they received most of their services.

Houses in the village of a-Nabi Samwil. Photos: Kareem Jubran, B'Tselem, 30.6.08.
Houses in the village of a-Nabi Samwil. Photos: Kareem Jubran, B'Tselem, 30 June 2008.

In March 2008, Israel closed this road to Palestinians, with the aim of separating Palestinian traffic from Israeli traffic between the two settlements and Jerusalem. At the same time, it opened a new road, which passes through a tunnel under Route 436 and links the Bir Nabala enclave and the village of Bidu. This is now the only road linking residents of the villages in the area with the Bir Nabala enclave, but residents of Nabi Samwil who want to use the road must first cross the Ramot checkpoint at the entrance to the village.

Map of a-Nabi Samwil area and the restrictions on movement
Map of a-Nabi Samwil area and the restrictions on movement

Since the road was opened, Israel has forbidden entry of Palestinian vehicles into the village, unless their owners are listed as residents of the village on their ID cards. However, soldiers and border policement stationed at the Ramot checkpoint also prevent resident from entering by car if they are carrying “goods”. The distinction between “goods” and basic commodities and household items depends on the discretion of the security personnel on duty at the time. B'Tselem has received many reports by village residents who were not allowed to cross the checkpoint in vehicles containing food and household items.

Since the only way to enter the village is via the checkpoint, residents have to either rent, at great expense, cars with Israeli plates to bring in purchases they made, or carry them in by foot. As most of the villagers cannot afford the car-rental expense, they are left no option but to carry the items in by themselves, including heavy sacks of flour, fodder for their flock, and gas canisters.  Also, the security personnel at the checkpoint often refuse to allow livestock and fodder to cross the checkpoint, thus preventing the villagers from taking their flock out to graze or to bring them back home.

Ramot checkpoint. Photo: Kareem Jubran, B'Tselem, 30 June 2008.
Ramot checkpoint. Photo: Kareem Jubran, B'Tselem, 30 June 2008

The detachment of the village from the rest of the West Bank has other grave consequences on the daily lives of its residents:

  • Residents of the West Bank who are not registered as living in the village, including first-degree relatives of residents, are not allowed to enter the village, even on foot, unless they first coordinate entry with the Civil Administration.
  • The vehicle that used to take children from the villages in the area to school was barred entry to a-Nabi Samwil; as a result, the parents had to arrange transportation in a new vehicle, whose owner is registered as a resident of the village.
  • Residents who do not own a car, the elderly and ill among them, have to call a taxi to come to the checkpoint, at a minimum cost of 50 shekels (about 13 dollars), and must walk to the checkpoint to meet it. 
  • The restrictions on entry of West Bank residents into the village, and the dependence on taxis, make it impossible for the residents to maintain regular family and social relations.

These restrictions are the latest in a series of restrictions that Israel has imposed on the village for years. Since the 1970s, Israel has severely restricted building in the village, forcing dozens of young couples to find housing elsewhere. Also, the villagers were not allowed to build a school for their children, who have to go to school in Beit Iksa, four kilometers away. Now, their journey to school and back also entails crossing the Ramot checkpoint every day.

The movement prohibitions imposed on a-Nabi Samwil illustrate Israel's regime forbidding Palestinian travel on certain roads in the West Bank and its implications on Palestinian lives. Similar prohibitions are imposed on roads such as Route 557, which leads from Route 60 to the villages Furik and Beit Dajan and to the Elon Moreh settlement, in Nablus District, and Route 90 (“The Jordan Valley Road”), which is the Jordan Valley's main north-south artery.

B'Tselem calls on Israel to immediately remove the prohibition on Palestinian traffic on the road leading to Beit Hanina and the Bir Nabala enclave, and to enable residents of the nearby villages, and all Palestinians, open use of the road. Also, Israel must remove the restrictions on a-Nabi Samwil's residents wanting to cross the Ramot checkpoint, and must allow all vehicles with Palestinian license plates to cross the checkpoint to enter or exit the village.