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.
On 16 April, 40-year-old Issa Qattash and his brother were severely beaten and injured by a group of Israeli settlers, while having a picnic with their families in a forest outside of Jibya village (north of Ramallah). “One of the settlers carried a rifle and another an axe”, Issa explained. “My brother Moussa managed to escape to call for help… I laid some time injured on the ground and then the settlers began dragging me out of the area… but then Israeli soldiers arrived and released me, while letting the settlers go.” Fatima Qattash, Issa’s 70-year-old mother, who witnessed the event added: “we were all shocked and scared… the children are still having nightmares!”
To contain the spread of COVID-19, governments around the world have imposed sweeping restrictions on the freedom of movement of people, severely disrupting their lives. While the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) is no exception, with measures being imposed by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities, these have served to exacerbate longstanding access restrictions that are imposed by the Israeli authorities.
Ahmed, a 50-year-old father of six from Gaza City, was diagnosed in 2018 with advanced colon cancer. Since then, he has been regularly referred to the August Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem for chemotherapy treatment. The suffering related to his disease has been amplified by the uncertainty of the process required to obtain an Israeli-issued exit permit and the hardships of the travel. “It took me about five hours to reach the hospital. It’s physically and mentally exhausting,” Ahmed explains.
Mohammed, 35 and father of three, from Beit Hanoun, was shot with a live bullet in the leg during the first “Great March of Return” (GMR) demonstration on 30 March 2018. “I went through 25 surgeries, but I’m still in pain,” he told OCHA. As a result of his disability, Mohammed lost his job as a construction worker and the economic situation of his family began to deteriorate. “My wife couldn’t bear with my situation and with the poverty, so we got divorced. My life is nothing, but a misery.”
Akkaba, (population 345), is a village in the Tulkarm governorate in the northern West Bank. About 88 per cent of the community’s 2,200 dunums of land is located in the closed area between the Barrier and the Green Line, the “Seam Zone”. In 2002, following a wave of Palestinian attacks, including suicide bombings, Israel began building the Barrier with the stated aim of preventing these attacks. The vast majority of the Barrier’s route is located within the West Bank, isolating Palestinian communities and farming land, and contributing to the fragmentation of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).
The Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip imposed in 2007, citing security concerns, as well as the access restrictions imposed by Egypt, were eased in some ways during 2019. However, the movement of people and goods to, from, and within Gaza remained severely constrained.