27 May 2009 Israeli obstacles continue to constrain the freedom of movement for Palestinians living in the West Bank, according to a new report by the United Nations humanitarian arm.
Despite several measures implemented by Israel which have eased traffic flow on some routes into the four main cities of Nablus, Hebron, Tulkarm and Ramallah, other actions have further controlled Palestinian access while easing the movement of Israeli settlers, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report noted.
The combination of physical obstacles, including checkpoints, roadblocks and the separation Barrier, as well as administrative and legal restrictions, such as prohibited roads, affect Palestinians’ vehicular and pedestrian access throughout the West Bank.
“The Israeli authorities have justified this system as a temporary measure to contain violent confrontations with Palestinians and to protect Israeli citizens, both in Israel and in the West Bank settlements, from Palestinians,” the new publication said.
During the reporting period – September 2008-March 2009 – OCHA field teams said they documented 634 physical obstacles.
The expansion of checkpoints, which often entails the seizure of Palestinian land in the vicinity of an existing checkpoint, as well as the replacing of rudimentary obstacles with more permanent ones, are among the measures which are entrenching a system of restrictions which “diminishes the prospects for a genuine improvement in the degree of control that Palestinians have over the physical space of the West Bank,” the report said.
“Without such improvement, the possibilities available for the Palestinian population to address its own needs will necessarily remain limited,” it added.
Israeli settlements erected in the West Bank since 1967, according to the report, are perhaps the most important factor driving the restrictions. The areas within the boundaries of the nearly 150 settlements, comprising 3 per cent of the West Bank, are inaccessible to Palestinians and further fragment the territory.
The OCHA report concluded that the movement and access restrictions “have resulted in a contraction of the overall space available for Palestinian development and a decrease in the degree of control that Palestinians have over that space.
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