OCHA: Despite Israeli announcement, Israel’s siege on Palestinian towns has not eased

Palestinian child watching the streets behind the door of his home in Nablus (Photo: Nasser Ishtaye, 2003)

On 2 and 5 November, Israel announced that with the exception of Jenin and Nablus, its blockade of Palestinian towns in the West Bank will be relaxed. The IDF said that Palestinians with permits will be able to travel in cars and buses between towns. They also stated that 3,000 West Bank traders will be issued with permits to work in Israel.

OCHA has received a number of requests for information from embassies and consulates about the situation in the West Bank following Israel’s announcement that closure will be eased. Information from OCHA Field Offices collected during the week indicates that despite some limited improvements in the Southern West Bank, the blockade of Palestinian towns has not eased since Israel’s announcement.

This week, no permits to work in Israel have been issued in Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarm, Qalqiliya, Hebron and Bethlehem. With the exception of more than 450 trade permits issued in Hebron, Tulkarm and Qalqiliya, no districts had received new trade permits.

Back-to-back commercial checkpoints have seen no change.

Buses have been allowed to travel between districts and there has been some easing of restrictions on their movement in Hebron, but to our knowledge, no new permits for buses have been issued.

Southern West Bank

Physical barriers: On 6 November, Container checkpoint, which links the Southern and Northern West Bank, is closed to Palestinian green-plated vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

In Bethlehem, Israeli military forces announced on 5 November that Gilo checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem will be completely closed for three days. Traffic through the Beit Jala DCO that operates in its place has been slow and was closed to all traffic leaving Bethlehem on the morning of 6 November. This DCO checkpoint is being used for travel to surrounding villages but still very few Palestinians use Route 60 to travel southwards because of the need to apply for permits and the checkpoint at Gush Etsyon, bordering Hebron district.

On 6 November, for the first time in more than one week, there were no soldiers at Al Khadr checkpoint, en route from Bethlehem city southwards to Halhul. For the first time in several months, cars have been able to pass through a gate preventing traffic across Route 60 from Halhul to Sa’ir.

Public and private transport: There have been no new issuances of permits for buses that continue to be delayed by flying checkpoints on Route 60 between Bethlehem and Hebron. In Hebron, on 6 November, more green-plated Palestinian cars are visible on the Southern part of Route 60 (from Halhul to Gush Etsyon). There are more Palestinian buses on Route 60 between Al Kadr and Halhul and they are facing less checks and delays.

Traders’ permits: Since the announcement, Israeli forces have issued 250 of the promised 500 permits to Hebron traders travelling to Israel to purchase inputs. Bethlehem traders have not been promised any such permits.

Northern West Bank

Public and private transport: The IDF said it would provide the Nablus bus company that serves the Northern West Bank with new permits to cross Tappuah checkpoint although the company has received none to date.

Physical barriers: With the exception of the few Palestinians who have permits to enter Israel, it is still not possible to leave Qalqiliya or Tulkarm cities by car. In Tulkarm city, curfew was lifted on Tuesday pm. After the closure of Kafriat checkpoint between Tulkarm and the south of the district between 3 - 4 November, the checkpoint was opened to pedestrian traffic on 5 November. A new manned checkpoint has been established on Road 55 in Qalqiliya approximately 1 km further east to the Kfar Saba checkpoint. This new checkpoint became operational in the morning of 6 November. Agricultural gates in the Wall were opened on 3 - 4 November in Qalqilia and Tulkarm.

In Nablus, Jenin and Tubas, closure has not eased. If anything, the situation in Nablus has deteriorated with old barriers being reinforced. Earth mounds along the Badhan road between Nablus city and the Jordan Valley, the main trade route for the city, were made higher on 5 November. On 6 November, there are more flying checkpoints than usual on Route 60 between Qalqiliya and Nablus and within Nablus.

OCHA, P.O. Box 38712 East Jerusalem, Phone: (972) 2 - 5829962 / 5825853, Fax: (972) 2 - 5825841