Civilians Under Siege
BTselem Publishes New Report:
Restrictions on Freedom of Movement as Collective Punishment
Since the beginning of the recent uprising on 29 September 2000, Israel has placed a series of sweeping restrictions on movement of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. These restrictions severely impair the right to work and earn a living, the right to proper medical treatment, the right to education, and the right to maintain family life. Israels restrictions on freedom of movement disrupt all aspects of daily life for some three million people. This policy is one of the primary reasons for the increasing destitution and despair in the Occupied Territories and has made the lives of the population unbearable.
Israel uses three primary forms of punishment:
Total closure: Israel imposed a sweeping prohibition on entry into Israel for any purpose; the safe passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is closed; the international border crossings (Rafiah border crossing, the Palestinian airport in Rafiah and the Allenby bridge) have been closed intermittently.
Internal closure: A siege, enforced through road blocks, prevents entry and exit from areas, towns and villages. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are under siege: they do not receive shipments of basic supplies, and they cannot leave their communities, even to travel to neighboring areas for medical care, or to go to work or school.
Curfew: The most sweeping and extreme restriction on movement imposed on Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, curfew imprisons an entire population in their homes. For example, Palestinians in the H2 area of Hebron have been under curfew almost continuously for three months. The curfew is imposed for the convenience of settlers in the area, and of course does not apply to them.
The report concludes that the character and timing of Israels restrictions on freedom of movement challenge the contention that these restrictions are dictated purely by security considerations: Israel imposes sweeping closure, curfew and siege on millions of people rather than on individuals who pose a security threat. In many cases, Israel imposes restrictions in response to Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians or soldiers, with no connection between the type of restrictions imposed and their effectiveness in preventing similar attacks in the future. The decision to ease restrictions on movement is usually taken as a gesture in the context of political developments, frequently with no connection to the security threat which ostensibly justified the restrictions.
In addition, Israels policy of restrictions on movement is based on blatant discrimination between the two populations living in the Occupied Territories - Palestinians and Jews - solely on the basis of nationality. The restrictions are imposed exclusively on the Palestinian population. Furthermore, in many cases, the explicit aim of the restrictions is to ensure freedom of movement for the Jewish settler population at the expense of the growing desperation of the local population.
A recent testimony is attached which illustrates the human suffering caused by the months of siege. The entire report can be obtained at www.btselem.org <http://www.btselem.org/> .
Death of a newborn girl after refusal to let an ambulance cross an IDF checkpoint
The story of Insaf Sadeq Suliman al-Abeisi, 31 years old, and Mahmud Asad Daud al-Abeisi, 39 years old, parents to four children and residents of Beit Dajan, Nablus District, married
Testimony of the Father:
I have been teaching in the Beit Dajan primary school for 16 years. I have four children, the eldest is eight and the youngest three. The fetus that died was a girl. All of my children were born in the hospital, in the Obstetrics Department of Rafidiyeh Hospital, in Nablus.
Yesterday morning (7 January 2001), I drove my wife, Insaf, who was in her last month of pregnancy, to the Mother and Child Clinic in Nablus. All the tests were normal and they saw a healthy fetus. Everything was all right. Throughout the pregnancy, everything was fine and all the test results were good. In the evening, around 8 oclock, my wife went into labor. At the time, the whole village was involved with the death of Fatma Abu Jish, who died earlier in the day after being shot near the checkpoint, and there was an increased presence of soldiers at the checkpoint at the entrance to the village and at the bypass road leading to Elon Moreh. Because of the situation, my wife tried to wait and suffer the pain, but the pain increased all the time. I went to look for someone to take my wife to the hospital in Nablus. Everyone was afraid because of the army in the area and because it was very dangerous to travel along the dirt roads, since a girl from the village had been killed a few hours earlier.
I went back home and saw that my wife was in worse pain. I called the hotline of the Red Crescent in Nablus and pressured them to come and treat my wife. They told me that they cannot travel along the dirt road because of the situation in the area, and that soldiers at the entrance to Beit Furiq and Beit Dajan do not allow Red Crescent ambulances to enter. After pressuring them, they said that they would come to the checkpoint and try to convince the soldiers there to let the ambulance enter the village. They suggested that, if the soldiers do not consent, we would meet at the checkpoint and they would take my wife to the hospital. We agreed that we would be in touch. I took my wife, stopped a taxi, and requested the driver to take us to the checkpoint. My wife began to bleed and the pain was increasing. The residents warned me not to approach the checkpoint because it was dangerous there. They said there was a reinforced complement of soldiers and that the soldiers would shoot anything that moves. When my wife heard that, her emotional state deteriorated; her screams and cries could be heard from far away.
I stood firm and got into the taxi despite the warnings. We started to drive and all along the way people warned me to go back because the soldiers are liable to shoot at us. My wife was crying and shouting in pain and from fear that the soldiers would shoot at us. After we drove about two-thirds of the way to the checkpoint, the ambulance driver called and said that the soldiers at the checkpoint did not let him enter Beit Dajan, and he told me to stay away from the checkpoint. I decided to go back home and look for a midwife or a nurse to care for my wife. All this time, my wife was crying out and the bleeding increased.
Around 9:30, we got home. When we arrived, my wife gave birth (a girl) and bled profusely. I saw the newborn was stillborn, and drove immediately (at 10 oclock) to Beit Furiq to look for a midwife or nurse so that at least my wife could be saved. It was 11 oclock before I got to Beit Furiq because I drove along dirt roads to bypass the checkpoint. I took a nurse from there, her name is Umm Ramiyeh, and she works in a hospital in Nablus. We arrived at my house at midnight, and the nurse took care of my wife and the bleeding stopped.
My four children saw the birth and the death of the newborn. They were crying all the time because they feared that something bad had happened to their mother. The great amount of bleeding frightened them a lot and they are in great emotional distress now. My wifes physical health is ok now, but she is in terrible condition emotionally. I hope that she quickly gets over what she went through, and that the children will overcome what happened, because they saw something very disturbing and suffered through a very difficult night.
B'Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories is the leading Israeli organization monitoring, documenting and advocating to improve human rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Founded in 1989, B'Tselem publishes reports, engages in advocacy and serves as a resource center.
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