The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) petitioned the Supreme Court this week (26.3.03) against the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) demanding that the IDF remove the physical barriers preventing the entry and exit of residents from three Palestinian villages in the area of Nablus: Salim, Deir el-Hatab, and Izmut.
For the past year the IDF has prevented access to these villages, where over 10,000 residents have been held in complete closure. The results of this closure have been devastating for the local population. A resident of the village of Izmut, Hassan Maaruf Rhateb Alowna, joined as an additional petitioner.
In the petition, ACRI attorney Noa Stein describes how the physical obstructions erected by the IDF prevent both vehicles and pedestrians from entering or exiting the villages. The residents are therefore prevented from accessing basic public services, and medical services, which has even led to the death of some residents. It is noted in the petition that until the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, the three villages were connected to the road leading to Nablus by three dirt roads, and were also linked to one another by additional dirt roads.
During the course of the Intifada, the IDF blocked all access roads to the villages and between them with hills of dirt and deep channels. Over the length of the road and near the villages, mounds of dirt were piled up that prevented travelers from descending from the road, and the road is continually monitored by military patrols who, according to the reports of residents, fire at anyone attempting to cross the fields on foot. As a result, the village residents have been under complete closure for over one year.
The petition sets forth the situation in which the absolute closure of the villages prohibits access for the residents to public services, thereby violating their basic rights to education, health, livelihood and family life. The infringement of the right to education is manifested in the inability of hundreds of schoolchildren, who normally attend school outside of the three villages, to attend school for months now because of their impossibility of entering and exiting their villages. In addition, students pursuing higher education have also been blocked from their studies.
Classes within the blocked villages have also been disrupted since the teachers who come from Nablus are prevented from entering the villages.
Adv. Stein also cites in the petition that the villages rely on the medical services in Nablus, due to their proximity to this city. Only the village of Salim has a medical center, which provides just the most basic of medical services. Residents requiring more complicated medical treatment are forced to travel on foot to Nablus in order to receive treatment such as insulin shots, and individuals with heart problems and high blood pressure are also forced to make their way on foot over fields in all weather to receive the attention of a medical specialist. Due to the physical barriers, there is no way for ambulances to reach the villages, and the ill must reach the ambulances waiting for them on the main road by foot. At times the ambulances cannot even reach the main road since it has to pass a minimum of two manned roadblocks. The reports of the doctor of Salim indicate that two deaths resulted from a delay in medical evacuation: one 45 year old resident suffered a heart attack and died when his evacuation was delayed by the IDF, and the death of a baby whose mother was forced to give birth by the side of the road when the IDF prevented her evacuation.
The petition also details how the blockading of the villages has resulted in a severe violation of the right to pursue a livelihood. For over one year, many of the residents, who work outside of the villages, have been unable to reach their places of employment and are forcibly unemployed. The complete closure has paralyzed daily life in the villages and destroyed their economy, and as a result thousands of individuals live in a state of poverty and deprivation. The closure also infringes the right to family life, as village residents are prevented from being with family members who live outside of the confines of the villages.
In the petition, Adv. Stein notes that ACRI and PHR have appealed several times in the past to the IDF and legal representatives demanding the removal of the physical barriers surrounding the villages. Only after an appeal to the State Prosecutor did the IDF announce that they intend to pave a bypass road for use by the village residents. However, the response of the IDF did not include any details about the future location of this road or the anticipated date of its completion. The petitioners brought to the attention of the court that no work has begun on any road in the area to date, and that the residents continue to live under conditions of complete closure of their villages.
ACRI and PHR emphasize that the total closure of the three villages represents a severe infringement of the villagers’ right to freedom of movement, which leads to the breach of other fundamental human rights: the right to life, health services, education, family life, and human dignity, all of which endangers their lives.
Violating the rights of the village residents contravenes international law and violates the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, and therefore the physical barriers surrounding the villages must be removed. Due the egregious living conditions of the residents of these villages that result from the complete closure, the petitioners seek a hearing on the petition as soon as possible.