The military has been blocking car traffic at the main entrance to al-Fawwar Refugee Camp for four days
Update: The military removed the obstacle only nine days later, on 28 February.
On Monday, 19 February 2018, at around 5:00 P.M., the military blocked off the main entrance to al-Fawwar Refugee Camp, located south of Hebron, to car traffic. No official explanation was given for the closure that has blocked access from the camp to Road 60. The military sealed the entrance by closing the metal gate it installed there during the second intifada, and the soldiers posted at the site told local residents that the gate had been closed as punishment for the theft of a security camera but provided no further details. The roughly 10,000 residents of Al-Fawwr Refugee Camp live in conditions of severe overcrowding in an area spanning only one square kilometer. In early January 2018, the military closed the gate for five consecutive days and has since closed it for short durations on several different occasions. In July 2016, the military closed the gate for a month.
The impact of the gate’s closure goes beyond al-Fawwar itself, affecting tens of thousands of people who live in nearby villages and in the western part of the town of Yatta. The blockage is particularly disruptive for residents in the communities of Hadab al-Fawwar, population 4,000, south of the camp; the village of a-Rihiya, population 5,000, east of the camp, and residents of western Yatta, as they must take alternative routes that increase travel times and distances.
The travel restrictions imposed by the military on residents of the camp constitute collective punishment, which is prohibited under international law. Such measures primarily hurt disempowered groups and disrupt the lives of residents of the camp and of nearby communities. This is yet another example of life under the occupation and the military’s arbitrary use of its power and authority.
Ahmad Abu Wardeh, 51, married and father of six, who lives in al-Fawwar R.C. and works at the Polytechnic University of Hebron in an administrative capacity, spoke of the difficulties caused by the closure of the main entrance to the camp in a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash on 20 February 2018:
I heard the gate closed last night, but they usually open it again in the morning. I leave the house at 7:30 A.M. every morning and catch a cab to get to work in Hebron. That morning, I left at the same time and waited for a taxi, but none came. Finally, I decided to walk to the gate, which is a kilometer away, and then I discovered it was closed. I left the camp on foot and took a taxi to work. I was late.
In a testimony given to B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash on 20 February 2018, Ibrahim al-Maqadsi , a 36-year-old taxi driver from al-Fawwar, married and father of two, spoke about how his livelihood has suffered as a result of the gate closure:
Ever since the military closed the metal gate at the main entrance to the camp yesterday evening, I haven’t been able to drive people from the camp out. I usually drive to Hebron, Bethlehem and Ramallah, but I haven’t been able to get to Road 60 since yesterday. All I can do now is wait by the gate for people who are returning to the camp and don’t want to continue on foot.
I can only charge two shekels for these short rides. I usually make 200-300 shekels a day, but when the gate is closed I make less than 50. There is an alternate route in and out of the camp, but it’s an unpaved mountain road that’s only suitable for four-by-fours. It’s not the first time the military has closed the gate in recent weeks. Not a week goes by without the military closing the gate. A month ago, they closed the gate for five days straight.
* Video filmed by Musa Abu Hashhash, B’Tselem