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Enduring occupation: Palestinians under siege in the West Bank

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Amnesty International (AI) is an independent worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights to be respected and protected. It has more than 1.8 million members and supporters in over 150 countries and territories.

1. INTRODUCTION

Khaled Daud Faqih was just six months old when he died on 8 March 2007 at an Israeli army checkpoint. His parents, from the village of Kafr 'Ain, had been trying to rush their baby to the nearby hospital in Ramallah in theWest Bank, but were forced to wait at the checkpoint by Israeli soldiers. His father Daud, a teacher, told Amnesty International:

"My son Khaled was having difficulty breathing. I called a neighbour who has a car and with my wife and the baby we set off immediately for the hospital in Ramallah. It was quicker than waiting for an ambulance to come all the way to the village. It was just before half past midnight. Khaled had previously had attacks like this and we took him to hospital and there he was put under the oxygen tent and he always got better.

"We arrived at the Atara checkpoint at 12.45am. From there it was another 10 minutes to the hospital. The soldiers stopped us. There were five soldiers. I told them that my baby was sick and urgently needed to get to the hospital in Ramallah. I spoke to them in Hebrew. They asked for our IDs. The driver and I gave ours but my wife had left hers at home in the hurry. I told the soldiers and they said we could not pass without her ID. I begged them to let us pass. They looked in the car and saw that there was nothing and that the baby had problems breathing and his limbs were trembling. I told the soldiers that every minute, every second mattered; that the baby needed oxygen urgently. They told us to wait and I kept pleading with them. Then the baby died. It was 1.05am. I told the soldiers. They shone a torch into the car and saw that the baby was not moving any more and told us that we could pass. We drove to the hospital anyway. There it was confirmed that Khaled had died."

Such cases are neither new nor rare. The hundreds of checkpoints and blockades which every day force long detours and delays on Palestinians trying to get to work, school or hospital, have for years limited their access to essential health services and caused medical complications, births at checkpoints and even death.

The West Bank, the focus of this report, is a relatively small territory - 130 kilometres from north to south and 65 kilometres from east to west at its widest point; 5,600 square kilometres in total. It is criss-crossed by a web of Israeli military checkpoints and blockades - some 550 - and a winding 700-kilometre fence/wall which runs from north to south, encircling Palestinian villages as well as whole neighbourhoods in and around East Jerusalem.

The Israeli authorities contend that this regime of closures and restrictions is necessary to prevent Palestinians from entering Israel to carry out suicide bombings and other attacks. However, virtually all the checkpoints, gates, blocked roads and most of the fence/wall are located inside the West Bank - not between Israel and the West Bank. They curtail or prevent movement between Palestinian towns and villages, splitting and isolating Palestinian communities, separating Palestinians from their agricultural land, hampering access to work, schools, health facilities and relatives, and destroying the Palestinian economy. The fence/wall itself, located as it is inside occupied territory, is unlawful, according to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The stringent restrictions on movement imposed for years by the Israeli authorities on more than two million Palestinians who live in the West Bank are unlawful as they are disproportionate, discriminatory and violate the right to freedom of movement. The restrictions are imposed on all Palestinians because they are Palestinians and in order to benefit the Israeli settlers whose presence in the occupied West Bank violates international law. They should be lifted now.