Israeli occupation forces blocked access roads to four Palestinian villages in the West Bank over the course of March and April, human rights organisation B’Tselem reported yesterday.
According to the NGO, the army closed gates it had placed at the entrances to the villages for periods of between five and 20 days at a time.
The affected communities were ‘Azzun, east of Qalqiliya, Kifl Hares, northwest of Salfit, Deir Istiya, east of Salfit and Tuqu’, southeast of Bethlehem.
The measures were taken, the army claimed, following various allegations that Palestinian residents from the villages had “thrown stones or Molotov cocktails” at settler vehicles on local roads.
In response – and in what B’Tselem described as a “a routine method of oppression” – the army “punishes the entire population of that and nearby villages by closing the gates it had installed at their entrances over the years”.
B’Tselem added that
even when open, the very fact that the gates are there serves as a constant reminder that Palestinians’ freedom of movement is entirely subject to arbitrary Israeli decisions made in complete disregard for the needs of the residents.
As documented by the organisation, “the road closures severely disrupt residents’ lives, undercuts their ability to make a living, get to school, farm their land, receive medical treatment, or simply maintain a reasonable routine.”
Such policies constitute prohibited “collective punishment”, B’Tselem stated, “forcing residents to live in a state of uncertainty, causing frustration, wasting precious time, and depriving thousands of Palestinians of their freedom of movement.”
“The road closures constitute arbitrary abuse of power by the military. There is absolutely no moral or legal justification for inflicting this harm.”