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From the field

Easing of restrictions on Palestinians’ movement in the West Bank, 2012 of road linking ‘Ein Yabrud to Route 60 opened to Palestinian traffic. Photo: Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem, 7 May 2012

In 2012, the military and the Civil Administration removed several restrictions that had been imposed on Palestinians’ movement in various areas of the West Bank.

During the second intifada, the militaryestablished dozens of checkpoints in the West Bank and placed hundreds of physical obstacles to movement of Palestinians throughout the area — mounds of earth, massive cement blocks, and ditches. In addition, Israel began construction of the Separation Barrier. These restrictions on movement were unprecedented in the history of the Israeli occupation, both in their scope and duration and in the severity of their impact on the daily routines of Palestinians in the West Bank.

In recent years, Israel has scaled back these restrictions, and Palestinians can now travel relatively freely within the West Bank.

However, the military continues to treat Palestinians’ freedom of movement as a privilege rather than as a right. While many checkpoints are now open for free passage, the infrastructure has been left in place in some of them, allowing for their reactivation on short notice. In addition to these checkpoints, which are intermittently manned, there are still about 16 permanently manned checkpoints scattered throughout the West Bank, as well as 16 checkpoints restricting Palestinian movement in the center of Hebron. Likewise, hundreds of physical obstacles are still standing, and the military also periodically erects ‘flying checkpoints’ at locations where there is no checkpoint infrastructure. The random activation of checkpoints across the West Bank makes it impossible for Palestinians wishing to travel between towns and villages to predict where they may come across a checkpoint and how long the trip could take.

In addition, Israel denies all Palestinians, except those who hold special permits, access to specific areas of the West Bank such as East Jerusalem and the land west of the Separation Barrier, and severely restricts their access to other areas, such as the center of Hebron.

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Removal of the restrictions on access to the Jordan Valley, October 2012

On 15 October 2012, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) reported that, as of 3 October 2012, the military had decided to cancel the restrictions on Palestinians’ movement between the Jordan Valley and the rest of the West Bank. 

The military began restricting movement in the Jordan Valley in the late 1990s and imposed much harsher limitations in 2005, when Israel began implementing its policy to isolate the area from the rest of the West Bank and to limit Palestinians’ ability to be in the area. For several years, Israel allowed entry to the Jordan Valley only to Palestinians who were registered as residents of the area on their ID cards, were owners of land there, or were employed there. In recent years, Israel has gradually eased the terms of these restrictions. According to the military’s notification to ACRI, it has now decided to remove them entirely. (View map legend)

The primary means of restriction was two checkpoints: Hamra and Tayasir. B’Tselem has found that the instructions to lift restrictions were already being implemented at the Hamra checkpoint in October 2012, whereas soldiers at the Tayasir checkpoint did not begin implementation until December 2012. Furthermore, passengers are still required to exit their vehicles and undergo a physical security check before the vehicle may cross the Hamra checkpoint.

Northern entrance to Jericho, opened in July 2012

In July 2012, in honor of Ramadan, the military removed concrete blocks that it had placed north of Jericho at the beginning of the second intifada. For twelve years, this roadblock had prevented entrance to Jericho from the north, forcing Palestinians wishing to move between Jericho and the central and northern West Bank to use the city’s southern entrance, which added about 15 km to their journey. (View map legend)

Salfit-Ariel road, opened partially in April 2012

In 2000, a 1.7 km-long section of road stretching from the western entrance to the Ariel settlement to the northern entrance to the town of Salfit was closed to Palestinian traffic and barricaded on either side by concrete blocks and earth mounds.(View map legend)

In September 2011, the Civil Administration removed the roadblocks in coordination with the Palestinian DCO and opened the road to some Palestinian traffic, allowing passage of buses and taxis registered in advance between the hours of 6 A.M. and 10 P.M. only, and ambulances. In April 2012, the restrictions were further reduced: public transportation vehicles, ambulances, firefighting vehicles and vehicles belonging to the Salfit City Council and the Palestinian DCO are now permitted to use the road, without prior registration. The Civil Administration has stated its intention to open the road to all traffic at a later date.

A section of the old Nablus Road (Route 466, linking al-Jalazun and Ramallah), from Beit El to al-Jalazun, opened in April 2012

On Monday, 31 April 2012, the military opened the northern section of Route 466 – some two kilometers – to Palestinian traffic. The section runs close to the western fence of the Beit El settlement. The southern part of the road – approximately 800 meters long – was opened to Palestinian traffic about a year ago. This part begins in northern al-Bireh (next to the City Inn Hotel) and runs some 30 meters away from the old, southwestern entrance to Beit El. The entire road, which the military closed at the beginning of the second intifada, is now open to Palestinian traffic. (View map legend)

This road serves some 10,000 people living in the villages east of Ramallah and in ‘Ein Siniya, Jifna and the al-Jalazun refugee camp. Closing the road forced residents to take a roundabout route at least 5 km long, instead of traveling 2.5 km on Route 466.

Zawata-Ajnisinya road, 2 km long, opened in March 2012

This road is an old route that connects the villages of Zawata and Ajnisinya and is used by Zawata residents to access their farmland. At the beginning of the second intifada, the military blocked entrance to the road with an earth mound, claiming that it was supposed to serve military purposes only: linking the military camp on Mount Ebal, north of Nablus, with the settlement of Shavei Shomeron. Palestinians were thereby forced to detour 8 km via ‘Asirah a-Shamaliyah to reach the small village of Ajnisinya (pop. 500).

In 1998, the Palestinian nonprofit organization al-‘Ofoq began building 200 housing units for teachers from Nablus on Zawata land lying north of the village. The project was scheduled for completion in 2003 but, following closure of the road in 2000, construction was halted. Now, the reopened road requires extensive repair to enable vehicles to use it, particularly the heavy trucks needed to resume construction of the housing project. (View map legend)

Main entrance to Beit Dajan (Route 557), opened in March 2012

Route 557 (known also as the “Madison Route”), which leads from the Hawara checkpoint to the settlements of Itamar and Elon Moreh, was closed to Palestinian traffic at the beginning of the second intifada. Apparently, the military designated it for exclusive use by settlers and their guests. Palestinians were forbidden even to cross the road by car.

This prohibition isolated over 14,000 Palestinians living in Beit Furik and Beit Dajan, and forced them to cross checkpoints within Nablus in order to reach villages lying west of Route 557. When traveling to the central or southern West Bank, they had to cross Route 557 on foot, go through the Beit Furik checkpoint at the entrance to Nablus and then cross the Hawara checkpoint (opened to Palestinian traffic in June 2009) to go south, or alternatively take a long detour via the adjacent villages of Salem, Deir al-Hatab and ‘Azmut. On 10 February 2011, the military began allowing Palestinian vehicles through the Beit Furik checkpoint, which eased access to Nablus and to the villages west of the road. On 20 March 2012, two sections of the road were opened to Palestinian traffic: from the entrance to Beit Dajan to the Beit Furik checkpoint, and from the Hawara checkpoint to the ‘Awarta checkpoint, which made movement somewhat easier for Palestinians. However, two other parts of the road – from the entrance to Beit Dajan to the Elon Moreh settlement, and from the ‘Awarta checkpoint to the Beit Furik checkpoint – are still closed to Palestinians. (View map legend)

The Shufa-Tulkarm road (5615), opened in March 2012

The village of Shufa, in the Tulkarm district, is home to 2,000 people living in two distinct sections — the southeast and the northwest, the latter known as ‘Izbat Shufa. The two parts of the village are linked by a short road (Route 5615), which is crossed by the road that leads to the Avne Hefetz settlement. This road used to be the main route from Shufa to Tulkarm. (View map legend)

In 2001, when the second intifada began, the military placed roadblocks at all four exits from the village: (1) at the exit leading to ‘Izbat Shufa (Route 5615), (2) at the entrance to ‘Izbat Shufa, (3) at the exit to the main road (Route 557), and (4) at the northeast exit leading to the residents’ agricultural lands and to Kafr al-Labad. The village was completely surrounded, with no exit for vehicles. The roadblocks even separated members of the same family living in different sections of the village. To reach their farmland and the urban hub at Tulkarm, where most of the residents work and where they receive health, education, and commercial services, residents in the southeastern part of the village were forced to surreptitiously remove the blockade on the dirt road leading to Kafr al-Labad. After residents had done so several times, with the military rebuilding it each time, the military gave in, halfway through the previous decade, and allowed this dirt road to remain open. Thus residents could reach their district capital via a long, roundabout route, through Kafr al-Labad and the ‘Anabta checkpoint.

In 2006, the military removed the roadblock at the exit to Route 557 and replaced it with an iron gate, left open for traffic. However, village residents were still unable to use the road to reach Tulkarm as the al-Kafriyat checkpoint is located on it, prohibiting Palestinians from crossing.

In 2010, HaMoked-Center for the Defence of the Individual petitioned the High Court, demanding removal of the remaining roadblocks. The High Court decision of February 2012 accepted the military's proposal to permit only a limited number of vehicles, based on a list, to cross the al-Kafriyat checkpoint and reach Tulkarm via Route 557, without removing the roadblocks on Route 5615. However, this decision was never implemented. On 28 March 2012, on its own initiative and without prior notice, the military removed two of the roadblocks on Route 5615, which had divided Shufa from ‘Izbat Shufa and had prevented travel on this road from Shufa to Tulkarm.

Gate in the a-Tur checkpoint/Shomronim roadblock, opened in March 2012 2012

This gate, separating Mount Gerizim from Nablus, was placed on the road linking the Samaritan community of Kiryat Luza with the city of Nablus. When the second intifada began, the gate was installed to prevent Palestinian access to the Har Bracha settlement. The road continued to serve Samaritans, who were permitted to cross the gate at any hour, as were the members of 13 Palestinian families also living in Kiryat Luza, who were permitted to cross between 6 A.M. and 10 P.M.

Opening the gate has enabled residents of Nablus to travel to the Samaritan community for employment or for other reasons, which they have been unable to do since the start of the second intifada. Meanwhile, Palestinians today still avoid using the rest of the road because they are afraid to pass by the Har Bracha settlement. (View map legend)

Section of road linking ‘Ein Yabrud to Route 60 (Route 449), opened in January 2012

In January 2012, a 100-meter section was opened to Palestinian traffic on the road connecting Palestinian communities in the Ramallah area located east and west of Route 60. This section of the road was closed at the start of the second intifada, and since then has been opened to Palestinian traffic several times and closed again following a few occasions of stone-throwing and shooting at settlers. The road serves some 38,000 residents of 13 villages and the residents of Ramallah itself. It enables people living in communities to the west of it to travel to the northern West Bank, the Jordan Valley and Jericho, and allows residents of the villages east of it to reach their urban center in Ramallah. The communities directly affected by the closing of the road are: Dura al-Qar’, Rammun, al-Mazra’ah a-Sharqiyah, ‘Ein Yabrud, Deir Jarir, Kfar Malik, Silwad, Silwad refugee camp, a-Taybah, Burqah, Yabrud, Beitin, Deir Dobwan. (View map legend)

The road is also the only access for residents of ‘Ein Yabrud and Silwad to c. 1,000 hectares of the agricultural land they own along the eastern side of Route 60. Adjacent to these lands, the Ofra settlement was built (some of it on land belonging to Silwad and ‘Ein Yabrud). Although the road is now open to traffic, Palestinian farmers are still not permitted to reach their land without advance coordination with the Civil Administration, which maintains a list of names of landowners and allows them access only during the olive harvest and in plowing season.