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25 June 2002

The outbreak of the Al Aqsa Intifada / uprising on September 28, 2000 constitutes a turning point in the escalation of Israeli violations of Palestinians, human rights.
Violations have sharply increased, both in quantity and quality, and become of a systematic and almost daily nature.
Most of these violations are Grave Breaches of the international humanitarian law, which is applicable to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) .
The Israeli occupation forces have imposed a comprehensive, tight siege on the OPT since 9 October 2000, ten days after the beginning of the Intifada.
The blockade isolates the OPT from the outside world, the West Bank from the Gaza Strip, and even Palestinian towns and villages from each other.
In certain cases, smaller Palestinian areas inside towns were separated from the main portions.
On 20 November 2000, the Israeli forces blocked the main street in the Gaza Strip, Salah ad-Din Street at a point called Al Hiki r, just south of the town Deir al-Balah in the middle of the Strip.
A permanent Israeli checkpoint exists at this point, called Al-Hikir or Al Matahin Checkpoint.
Consequently, the Strip was divided into two parts.
Salah ad-Din street, at a point between Rafah and Khan Yunis, the southern districts of Gaza, was also closed on 15 December 2002.
Moreover, it was completely blocked in regard to Palestinian vehicular movement on 29 March 2002.
The closure of the three areas with permanent checkpoints is still continuous at present.
Palestinians usually use the beach road to reach Gaza City and Northern Gaza.
However, the Israeli forces frequently close this road, effectively dividing the Gaza Strip into three separate parts.
This report focuses on the Al- Hikir Checkpoint, the major Israeli roadblock in Gaza.
Civilians are usually permitted to go through the checkpoint for an average of an hour.
Although the army allows movement for two hours in the morning and sometimes two hours in the evening,, vehicles are restricted whenever a settler's car appears.
It should be mentioned that thousands of Palestinians use this street, mainly civil service employees, university students, traders, and passengers leaving or returning to Gaza.
Sick people en route to the hospital in Gaza City must also pass through this checkpoint.
There were times when the Israeli forces closed all the checkpoints in Gaza, including Al-Hikir checkpoint for days.
This occurred between 29 March and 2 April 2002.
This report covers the period between 1 January and 25 June 2002.
It contains the Al Mezan Center documentation of closure within the Gaza Strip and the consequences of such collective punishment of civilians.
The report also highlights the effects of closure on the human rights situation in the Gaza Strip, as the consequences go far beyond the restriction of Palestinians, right to free movement.
The report also places the Israeli policy of siege and blockade in its proper context as a collective punishment of civilians.
It is difficult for anyone who has no experience of being at a checkpoint to imagine how it feels to be there.
For many people, especially internationals, the checkpoint imagery could be interpreted as two polite policemen waving for cars, asking for papers, or looking in the trunk for a few moments.
Nationals of free countries do not experience this as an assault on their dignity.
For Palestinians the scene is completely different.
A checkpoint for Palestinians means a place where they are stopped for some time; it could be minutes, hours, or sometimes days.
It is also a place where the military humiliate them, reinforcing feelings of hatred.
In reality, the checkpoint embodies an awful apartheid policy as facts on the ground prove.
Al Mezan has avoided comments and legal analysis of the violations of human rights at checkpoints in this report.
The Center believes that facts alone express the ugliness of Israeli policy in this regard.
Consequently, in most of the anecdotes existing in the report people speak for themselves about their experiences.
Many affidavits were given to the Center by victims, all of which shed light on the reality at checkpoints.
Because most of these people recounting their experiences must use the checkpoint on a daily basis, most requested that the Center not mention their names in the report.
Nonetheless, Al Mezan has documented all names and evidence pertinent to information presented in this report.
Therefore, the Center is ready to cooperate with international human rights organizations, which could participate in efforts to stop Israeli violations of Palestinians, human rights at checkpoints