Current Issues  
Settlements, Jerusalem, the Security Barrier,
the Right of Return, and more

Occupation: Checkpoints & Closed Roads

The Occupation
   Taking Control of Land
   Dispossession, Exploitation
   Splitting the West Bank
   Restriction of Movement
      Checkpoints, Closed Rds

   Imposition of Siege
   Beatings & Abuse
   Home Demolitions
   Destruction of olive trees
   Medical Care
   Water Crisis

The Settlements
The Settlements, p2
   Settlers' Violence
   Settlers' Violence, p2

The Separation Wall
Israel enforces severe restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement in the West Bank, using a system of permanent and temporary checkpoints which are staffed and physical obstructions which are unmanned.

The number of permanent checkpoints barely changed in 2007, averaging 102 a month.  A December 2007 count found 99. Of these, 36 permanent checkpoints are the last control point between the West Bank and Israeli sovereign property, although most are actually located several kilometers from the Green Line.  They are run by the army, the Border Police, or civilian security companies. The other 63 permanent checkpoints are located deep within the West Bank (16 of them inside the city of Hebron). These “internal” checkpoints are run by the army, 47 of them staffed around the clock and the rest intermittently. In addition to the permanent checkpoints, the army sets up dozens of temporary “flying” checkpoints every week.

At times, Israel prevents men of a certain age group, usually 16-35, from crossing. At other times, Israel places a sweeping restriction prohibiting residents of a particular district from crossing staffed checkpoints by foot, or, alternatively, from crossing by vehicle. At certain checkpoints, vehicles are allowed to cross only if they have special permits, which are generally given only to public-transportation and commercial vehicles.

In addition, Israel has closed off access roads to main roads with a variety of physical means, among them dirt mounds, concrete blocks, boulders, fences, trenches, and iron gates. The number of obstructions in place changes frequently, depending on political and security considerations; in 2007, they averaged 459 a month. Unlike staffed checkpoints, physical obstructions leave no room for flexibility in permitting crossing, as there is no one present to remove the obstruction in cases of emergency. In addition to blocking vehicle access, they also bar access from many pedestrians who cannot climb over or go around them – the elderly, ill persons, pregnant women, and small children.

This system of restrictions enables Israel to designate some of the roads in the West Bank for primary or exclusive use by Israelis, mainly settlers living in the West Bank. Israel prohibits Palestinian vehicles from even crossing certain roads. As a result of this prohibition, Palestinian traffic is restricted to those roads that remain open to use. Upon reaching a prohibited road, Palestinian drivers and passengers have to leave their vehicles by the side of the road, cross it by foot, and then find alternate transportation on the other side. Palestinians are forbidden to use, or are restricted in their use of, more than 300 kilometers of roads in the West Bank; Israelis are free to use these roads with no restriction whatsoever.

Prolonged checks and searches carried out by soldiers at some of the staffed checkpoints, and the accompanying degradation and long lines that result, deter Palestinians from using even some roads that are open to them.

One of the main purposes of the policy to restrict Palestinian movement is to protect Israeli settlers. Given that the settlements are illegal, the policy only aggravates the situation: it comprehensively and disproportionately impedes the freedom of movement of an entire population in order to perpetuate an illegal enterprise. If the restrictions were intended to prevent attacks inside Israel, and not in the settlements, the policy would still be illegal because it is sweeping and disproportionate, giving it a semblance of collective punishment which is forbidden.

Furthermore, Israel’s policy is based on the assumption that every single Palestinian is a security threat, thereby justifying restrictions on his or her freedom of movement. This assumption is racist and leads to the sweeping violation of the human rights of an entire population on the basis of national origin. As such, the policy flagrantly violates international law.

Data on checkpoints and roadblocks

Permanent internal checkpoints:
As of 31 August 2009, the Israeli army had 60 permanent checkpoints inside the West Bank, 18 of them in the city of Hebron. 28 are regularly staffed - some around the clock, some only during the day, and some only a few hours a day. Permanent checkpoints form the most severe restriction on movement of Palestinians, who are subjected to checks that often cause prolonged delays. At some checkpoints, soldiers bar all Palestinians from crossing except those who have special permits.

Also, spread throughout the West Bank are roads on which the army restricts or entirely prohibits Palestinian movement (except for East Jerusalem residents), while Israelis are allowed to travel freely.

Checkpoints along the Green Line:
The army operates 39 permanent, staffed, around-the-clock checkpoints that are the last control points between the West Bank and Israeli sovereign territory. Most of these checkpoints are located well inside the West Bank, up to several kilometers from the Green Line.

As of March 2009, there are 63 gates in the Separation Barrier. Only half of them are open to Palestinian use, provided those wanting to cross have a permit. The gates available for Palestinian use are open only part of the day.

Surprise [flying] checkpoints:
According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there was an average of 65 flying checkpoints in the West Bank each week between September 2008 and the end of March 2009.

Physical obstructions:
In addition to staffed checkpoints, the army has erected hundreds of physical obstructions (dirt piles, concrete blocks, boulders, trenches, fences, and iron gates) to block access to main roads and channel Palestinian traffic to staffed checkpoints. In recent years, the number of these obstructions has gradually risen. In March 2009, there were 541 obstructions in the West Bank. Unlike staffed checkpoints, security forces are not present at the obstruction to exercise discretion, even in emergency cases, on whether to permit passage.

See sources for all topics in this section, The Occupation.