oPt + 1 more

OPT: Continuation of total closure of the Gaza Strip

Ref: 83/2005

Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) separate the Gaza Strip into three isolated areas; prevent 16-35 year olds from traveling through Rafah International Crossing Point; close Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing Point into Israel; and six Palestinians are injured when they tried to pass through the closed Abu Houli and El Matahen checkpoints.

PCHR condemns the IOF's total closure of the Gaza Strip which has increased the daily suffering of Gaza residents and violates their civil and political and economic and social rights. PCHR urges the international community to pressure the IOF to respect international humanitarian law (IHL) and human rights instruments and for an immediate lifting of the total closure policy. Such a policy has isolated cities in the Gaza Strip, closed commercial crossing points and prevented Palestinian between the ages of 16-35 years old from traveling out of the Gaza Strip through Rafah International Crossing Point. Internal and external closures result in the cutting off of cities; the isolation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank; and the segregation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) from the outside world. A comprehensive external closure policy already implemented by the IOF throughout the recent second Intifida has already had catastrophic results on civilian living conditions and increased poverty and unemployment.

According to PCHR Fieldworkers, IOF on Thursday morning, 14 July 2005, closed El Matahen and Abu Houli checkpoints (on Salah el Deen Street to the north of Khan Yunis city). This closure allows the IOF to separate southern Gaza Strip from the middle and northern areas. At the same time the IDF closed the coastal road in front of Netzarim settlement to the south of Gaza city. These closures have allowed the IOF to separate the Gaza Strip into three isolated areas. Such closures violates an individual's right to freedom of movement and has resulted in thousands of people including women, children, the elderly and sick, students and Palestinian National Authority (PNA) employees waiting in difficult conditions under the hot sun for the reopening the two checkpoints. On Saturday, 16 July 2005, a group of Palestinians tried of waiting and suffering in the heat tried to pass through Abu Houli checkpoint from north to south. The IOF started shooting live bullets and tear gas bombs at them which resulted in the injury of six people. Two of them were transferred Shohdaa Al Aqsa hospital in Deir Al Bala and the others were transferred to Naser Hospital in Khan Yunis.

IOF also closed on Wednesday, 13 July 2005, Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing Point after the bombing in Netanya. This closure prevents 6,825 Gaza workers from accessing their places of work inside Israel. In addition, 843 workers were prevented entry to their workplaces in Erez Industrial Zone. Hundreds of sick people were also prevented access to health services inside Israel and West Bank hospitals. Erez Crossing Point was reopened for Gaza workers in January 2005 after total closure for more than six months.

Furthermore, the IOF reverted to their policy of preventing 16-35 year olds from traveling abroad through Rafah International Crossing Point on 16 July 2005. The IOF had announced resumed passage for this demographic on the 20 February 2005 after approximately one year of blanket closure.

PCHR demands the IOF stop this policy of closures and collective punishment against the approximately 1.4 million Gaza residents. Foreign governments and international bodies, including the United Nations must demand the immediate lifting of this policy. The international community must ensure the implementation of IHL, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 which protects civilians during times of war.

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