Israel restricts Palestinian movement within the occupied Palestinian territory through a combination of physical obstacles, including the Barrier and checkpoints, bureaucratic constraints, such as permit requirements, and the designation of areas as restricted or closed. This multi-layered system impacts the flow of people and goods between the Gaza Strip and the outside world, including the West Bank; into farming and fishing areas within Gaza; and within the West Bank, in particular into East Jerusalem, in areas isolated by the Barrier, ‘firing zones’, the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron city (H2), and land around or within Israeli settlements. Combined, these restrictions impede access to services and resources, disrupt family and social life, undermine livelihoods and compound the fragmentation of the occupied Palestinian territory.
In July, humanitarian agencies in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) appealed to the international community to provide US$25 million in humanitarian funding for urgent lifesaving interventions to stabilize the situation in the Gaza Strip.
During the month of Ramadan (27 May-26 June), Israeli authorities reported that around 348,000 Palestinians holding West Bank ID cards entered East Jerusalem for Friday prayers and Laylat al Qadr (the night of destiny) at Al Aqsa Mosque in relaxed measures to mark the month of Ramadan. This represents an increase of 15 per cent over the equivalent figures in 2016. Additionally, 453 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip were allowed access to East Jerusalem for these events. While arrangements at checkpoints to facilitate travel to Al Aqsa Mosque, were put in place, vulnerable groups including elderly, children, and people with disabilities faced several challenges. During the month, one major Palestinian attack resulted in the death of an Israeli police officer and led to the partial suspension of the relaxation measures.
Since September 2000, Israel has tightened restrictions on Palestinian access to the sea, citing security concerns. These restrictions have been enforced through the firing of live ammunition, arrests and the confiscation of equipment. While sea restrictions have varied, since 2006 fishermen have generally been allowed to access less than one third of the fishing areas allocated to them under the Oslo Accords: six out of 20 nautical miles (NM), although this has temporarily been extended to nine NM during the sardine season in recent years.
As part of the blockade imposed in 2007 following the takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas, Israel completely banned exports. This resulted in a dramatic decline in manufacturing activities and a rise in unemployment. In 2010, the export ban was eased slightly to allow the exit of minimal quantities of goods, primarily cut flowers and strawberries to overseas markets only. Following the 2014 conflict, commercial transfers from Gaza to the West Bank resumed, first for agricultural produce and later for textiles and furniture; after March 2015, limited exports were also permitted from Gaza to Israel.
Following a wave of Palestinian attacks, including suicide bombings, Israel began building a Barrier in 2002 with the stated aim of preventing such attacks. The Barrier’s deviation from the Israeli-declared municipal boundary of Jerusalem has resulted in some Palestinian localities in East Jerusalem, especially Kafr Aqab and Shufat camp area, becoming separated from the urban centre. Although residents retain their permanent residency status and continue to pay municipal taxes, these areas have effectively been abandoned by the municipality.
In June 2007, following the takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas and citing security concerns, Israel imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Gaza that intensified previous access restrictions. Along with the closure of the Rafah crossing by Egypt, the blockade ‘locked in’ nearly two million Palestinians in Gaza, unable to access the remainder of the oPt and the outside world. Exceptions are made for certain categories, including medical patients and their companions who must apply for a permit from the Israeli authorities to cross via the Erez crossing.