Israeli occupation authorities have intensified the restrictions imposed on Palestinian residents of Hebron, according to an update by UN OCHA.
A new fence installed by Israeli occupation forces around two Palestinian neighbourhoods in the so-called “H2” area of the city, As Salaymeh and Gheith, has further separated up to 1,800 Palestinians from the rest of the city.
According to UN OCHA, this latest measure “is in addition to the recent reinforcement (including the instalment of turnstiles) of two pre-existing checkpoints controlling access to the area where the new fence was installed”.
Such developments “disrupt the livelihoods and family life of Palestinians living in the two neighbourhoods and limit access to basic services like health and education”.
In May 2017, UN OCHA relates, Israel installed an approximately 50 metre-long and 1.5-metre-high metal bar fence on top of concrete slabs, with a gate, next to a metal fence initially installed in 2012 to surround As Salaymeh and Gheith. “According to residents, Israeli Border Police manning the gate close it irregularly, without prior notice, leaving residents in a state of constant uncertainty”.
Meanwhile, the main street behind the fence is used by Israeli settlers from Kiryat Arba settlement to access the Ibrahimi Mosque on foot or by car; however, “Palestinian vehicular movement along this street is prohibited”.
Some 600 children enrolled in schools outside the restricted area regularly use alternative routes between houses and alleys. This can add 1.5km to their journey “and exposes them to friction with Israeli settlers and soldiers”.
One 13-year-old boy cited by UN OCHA, 13-year-old Farhat al Rajabi, said: “My journey to school has become more difficult. I hate the gate. A few weeks ago I was arrested by the police after kicking the gate with my foot when the soldiers refused to open it for me”.
The fortification of two checkpoints in mid-2016 already hampered the entry of commodities into the As Salaymeh and Gheith neighbourhoods, and to other neighbourhoods in the settlement-affected area of the city.
“Other measures have been imposed at these checkpoints”, reports UN OCHA, “such as prohibiting men under 40 from entering on Fridays: a measure which was first implemented in 2015 and has become systematic since May 2016”.
The H2 area includes four Israeli settlement compounds, home to a few hundred Israeli settlers and a population of over 40,000 Palestinians. 30 per cent of the Palestinians living in H2 reside in neighbourhoods adjacent to the settlement compounds and are affected by strict access restrictions.
Currently, there are over 100 physical obstacles, including 20 permanently staffed checkpoints and 14 partial checkpoints that separate the settlement area from the rest of the city. Several streets within this area are designated for the exclusive use of settlers and are restricted for Palestinian traffic. In some streets, Palestinian pedestrians are banned.
The coercive environment generated by access restrictions, along with systematic harassment by Israeli settlers, has resulted in the forcible transfer of thousands of Palestinians and a deterioration in living conditions of those who remain.
A recent survey indicates that a third of Palestinian homes in the restricted area (1,105 housing units) are currently abandoned. Over 500 commercial establishments have been shut down by military order, and at least 1,100 others have been closed by their owners because of closures and restricted access for customers and suppliers.