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UN: Greater restrictions on Palestinian movement in 2016

December 30, 2016 at 8:17 am

Palestinians wait to cross the Hawara checkpoint near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus [Apaimages]

There has been an increase in restrictions to movement in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip in 2016, according to UN report.

The UN agency, OCHA, documented a five per cent increase in Israeli military obstacles across the occupied West Bank compared to 2015, though it recorded 15 fewer permanently staffed checkpoints that became partially staffed in 2016.

As of mid-December 2016, there were 472 movement obstacles in the West Bank, including 44 permanently staffed checkpoints – 31 of them along Israel’s illegal Separation Wall, 52 partially staffed checkpoints, 180 earth mounds, 72 roadblocks, and 124 road gates – half of which are normally closed.

The report noted that West Bank closure figures excluded eight checkpoints placed on the Green Line, as well as ad-hoc, so-called “flying” checkpoints that lack permanent infrastructure, but nonetheless impede Palestinian freedom of movement on a daily basis.

According to OCHA, there were also 110 obstacles deployed within the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron city (H2) in the southern occupied West Bank by the end of 2016.

Meanwhile, the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing in the besieged Gaza Strip – the only land crossing between Gaza and Israel – recorded a daily average of 531 exits of Palestinians during 2016, down from 602 daily exits in 2015.

By contrast, approximately 26,000 Palestinians exited the Gaza Strip through Erez daily before the Second Intifada started in September 2000.

The report highlighted that “only certain categories of people, mainly medical and other humanitarian cases, merchants and aid workers, are eligible for exit permits, [and are] subject to security checks.”

Between January and October 2016, 66 per cent of the permit applications by Palestinian patients to travel via Erez for medical treatment outside the Gaza Strip were approved on time, down from 78 per cent during the same period in 2015.

OCHA noted that as Egypt has meanwhile upheld the Israeli military blockade on the Gaza Strip for the majority of the past three years, since the ousting of former President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and the rise to power of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in Egypt.

The UN agency recorded a monthly average of 3,306 crossings in both directions at Egypt’s Rafah crossing, down from a monthly average of 25,186 in 2013, before its closure, which was imposed in October 2014.

The report also highlighted that a staggering 51,000 Palestinians remain displaced after their homes were destroyed in Israel’s devastating 51-day offensive on the small Palestinian territory in 2014.

“Most displaced families are dependent on temporary shelter assistance provided by humanitarian organisations,” the report said.