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Al Mezan Center refutes the Israeli occupation forces’ claims to have lightened the siege and closure imposed on the Occupied Palestinian Territories

17-06-2001 00:00

The Israeli occupation army is claiming to have taken measures to lighten the siege and the closure of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
This siege had been intensified on 2 June 2001.
Al Mezan Center, which monitors and documents the situation on the ground, especially in the Gaza Strip, would like to call attention to the outright falsity of such assertions.
We point to the following facts on the ground, which prove that the Israeli army’s claims are more than lies and fabrications: 1.
Freedom of movement between Palestinian towns and villages The siege continues on the Gaza Strip’s internal roads, particularly Salah ad-Din Road, which connects the different provinces of the Gaza Strip to each other.
The occupation army remains deployed and its tanks mobilized at two main focal points: Ash-Suhada Crossing south of Gaza City and al-Matahin Crossing north of Khan Yunis.
These roads continue to be closed intermittently.
At the same time, the cement blocks and artificial road bumps positioned by the occupation army continue to block and impede the passage of cars and trucks.
Moreover, occupation forces continue to wield control over the section of the Karama Road extending from Deir al-Balah to al-Matahin Crossing.
They continue to prevent citizens from crossing, forcing them to travel on side and secondary roads.
Similarly blocked is the section of the road that begins at the waste disposal site and passes through ash-Shuhada Crossing before reaching the Netzarim settlement southwest of Gaza City.
This is the section of the road that connects the settlement to the armistice line east of Gaza City.
Furthermore, Israeli occupation forces continue to maintain total closure of the western road linking the Khan Yunis and Rafah governorates at the intersection that leads to the Moraj settlement.
Such closure also remains in effect on the road that leads to al-Mawasi in Rafah and the coast near the Rafih Yam Settlement located west of the Tel as-Sultan area, west of Rafah.
Furthermore, people continue to suffer whenever they attempt to enter or exit the at-Tufah Crossing to the west of Khan Yunis, where Israeli forces separate the al-Mawasi area from the rest of the Palestinian Territories.
The occupation army prevents those who have not been given continuous numbers in their identity cards from entering the area.
The entry of fuel and goods likewise remains forbidden.
With reference to the freedom to travel and move between Gaza Strip governorates and the West Bank, the Bait Hanun (Erez) Crossing north of the Gaza Strip, the only point of contact between the two regions, has been completely closed since 2 June 2001.
Palestinian civilians are likewise forbidden from traveling between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip via the Safe Passage road, which has been closed since the beginning of the current uprising.
Lastly, the crossing remains closed before the 3,500 workers who were permitted to enter Israel before 2 June 2001.
Before the beginning of the Intifada, 25,000 workers had permission to work in Israel.
Freedom of travel and movement between the Palestinian Territories and the outside world.
Among the claims announced by the Israeli occupation forces was the pledge to permit the freedom to travel abroad.
This announcement refers to both the Gaza International Airport and the al-Auda Crossing (the Rafah land crossing), which are the only two points of arrival from which Gaza residents can travel to the outside world.
Nevertheless, the airport remains completely closed, as it has been since 2 June 2001.
It was opened partially only once, during the period from 12-14 June 2001, in order to allow a limited number of pilgrims to travel.
Since that time the airport has been completely closed, and has remained as such until the present moment.
The Karama Crossing was reopened to travelers coming from Egypt to the Palestinian territories on 7 June 2001.
After being closed for nine days, however, such vast crowds descended upon the crossing that passage became difficult again.
A number of traveling families were forced to sleep at the crossing for several days as they waited for it to be reopened.
Furthermore, despite the crossing’s reopening, the occupation army and its employees continued to treat Palestinian travelers in a degrading, humiliating, and inhumane manner.
At the same time, the crossing was void of any Palestinian employees, except for a limited number of cleaning personnel and three bus drivers.
Some of the Palestinian travelers returning to Gaza informed Al Mezan Center that their goods and personal belongings were seized as a part of Israeli soldiers’ sweeping confiscation of some of the goods and personal items that travelers were bringing with them from abroad.
In addition, travelers had to deal with ill treatment, slow work, and delays in their passage.
On 14 June 2001 it was announced that departing travelers would be permitted to use the crossing.
On Friday 15 June 2001, however, only 170 travelers were allowed to use the crossing.
The following day 250 travelers crossed, with approximately 20 travelers being delayed and then forbidden to travel because they had not completed the required travel procedures.
A number of travelers were interrogated and searched at the hands of Israeli intelligence officers, and some were even arrested.
Such was the case of Ghanim Mahmud Salim Dardash, a 40-year-old resident of ad-Daraj neighborhood in Gaza, who was arrested on 11 June 2001 upon his return to the Gaza Strip.
Commercial Crossing Al-Muntar (Karny) Crossing, east of Gaza City, is the main commercial crossing connecting the Palestinian territories and Israel.
As foodstuffs, construction materials, and fuels come into the Gaza Strip through al-Muntar, this crossing serves as a significant site of commercial exchange.
Al-Muntar was completely closed on 2 June 2001.
Although it was announced that it would be partially opened on 6 June 2001 to allow the entry of basic provisions, on the same day it was closed again without any such provisions being allowed to pass.
On 10 June 2001 the crossing was partially opened and a limited amount of fuel and foodstuffs were allowed to enter.
This situation persisted until Thursday, 14 June 2001, when commodities and products were permitted to pass.
Meanwhile the Sufa Crossing east of Rafah City, which is designated for the passage of construction materials and some workers, has been closed since 2 June 2001.
Not once since 9 October 2001 has this crossing been completely open.
Gaza Sea Fishermen On 14 June 2001 the Israeli army announced that it would lift the coastal closure that had been tightened on 2 June 2001.
As this closure prevented fishermen from working, it effectively deprived hundreds of families of their only source of income.
In contrast to the army’s announcement, however, occupation forces continued to forbid fishermen in Rafah and Khan Yunis from working, except in a narrow corridor of the Khan Yunis beach.
Fisherman therefore had to go northward, from the Deir al-Balah beach to the Bait Lahia beach.
Even there, their boats were permitted access to only a limited stretch of the coast no more than three miles long.
On 16 June 2001, after a closure of nearly four months, the occupation army allowed the fishermen to return to their work in the southern area of Rafah and Khan Yunis.
The area in which they are allowed to fish was extended to six miles.
It is noted that before the current uprising, however, fishermen were allowed access to a distance of 20 nautical miles.
On the basis of the above, Al Mezan Center believes that the occupation army leadership’s claims to have lightened the siege and closure are outright falsehoods and deceptions aiming to mislead the international community and world public opinion.
  Al Mezan Center for Human Rights considers the continuation of the collective punishment of the residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territories to be extremely dangerous.
It warns of the possibility that theses crimes will only escalate.

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