Israeli obstacles to free movement in Palestinian territories mount, UN reports

An Israeli soldiers watches Palestinians cross Huwwara checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus after a Palestinian man was shot dead there, 9 October 2006. (MaanImages/Rami Swidan)

Not only has there not been any significant improvement in Palestinian movement in recent months but the number of Israeli checkpoints and other obstacles has actually increased, hindering access to essential services, according to the latest United Nations update published today.

“The closure system is a primary cause of the humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned. “It restricts Palestinian access not only to basic services such as health and education, but divides communities from their land and one another, places of work and sites of religious worship.”

Obstacles include permanent and partially manned checkpoints, roadblocks consisting of rows of one-metre concrete blocks, metal gates, earth mounds, earth walls, trenches, road barriers and an elaborate system of permits.

“The purpose of these obstacles, as the Israeli Government states, is to protect Israeli citizens from Palestinian militant attacks that have killed around 1,000 Israelis since September 2000,” OCHA noted.

The closures continue to carve up the West Bank, leading to the isolation of communities, in particular the cities of Nablus, Jerusalem as well as the Jordan Valley.

As of 20 September, the West Bank closure system comprised 528 checkpoints and physical obstacles – an increase of almost 2 per cent on the 518 obstacles reported in June, an 11 per cent rise since the start of 2006, and almost 40 per cent since August 2005 when the total was 376.

To download the full report click here.

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