Total siege of Palestinian towns within the Occupied Territories

New Israeli government imposing more restrictive collective punishments on Palestinian civilians

7 March 2001

At 1 a.m. this morning Israeli soldiers imposed a total siege of Palestinian villages within the Occupied Territories. They have dug a trench and installed a blockade, starting from Sorda village near Ramallah, from Ein Sheikh Yusef, up to the town of Bir Zeit. The trench and blockade is 2 metres into the earth, and it is about 150 metres in length. This total siege prevents any access to or out of the areas by vehicle. 25 Palestinian villages, and their 65,000 residents, have been affected by this closure, in particular El Mizra'a el Qiblia, and Abu Qash, Kobar, and Abu Shkhedim. The Israeli soldiers, in the course of digging up the trenches and installing the blockade have destroyed the water pipes (the only water supply outlets) and telephone cables of these villages. The residents are left without any water or telephone access. Students of Bir Zeit University are meant to start the new University term on 17 March 2001. However, the five thousand students attending the University will be unable to gain access as all access roads and routes to Bir Zeit University from other Palestinian villages or towns have been closed off by Israeli soldiers. Other than Bir Zeit, these villages will also suffer from lack of access to medical treatment or care, as there are no hospitals or medical clinics in these villages. The residents would usually go to Ramallah for medical treatment, however all movement by vehicle out of the villages is prohibited. Furthermore, the Israeli forces are also stopping the delivery of any crucial supplies into the villages, including medical supplies. According to Dr. Albert Aghazarian of the Public Relations department of Bir Zeit University, and other residents of the 25 villages affected, there have been no recent clashes or demonstrations in the area. Furthermore, there have been no shootings from these villages at Israeli soldiers or settlers. There are no genuine security or military reasons for taking these measures. The total siege is being imposed by the Israeli government as a repressive form of collective punishment, which is prohibited by international humanitarian law. LAW demands that the Israeli government stops its violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by ending the total siege imposed on these Palestinian villages. LAW demands that the residents of the 25 villages be immediately granted access to essential supplies (including water supplies and telephone) and medical care and treatment. LAW asks the International community to intervene to take measures to stop Israel's on going and escalating violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and to urgently intervene before the humanitarian crisis deepens within the Occupied Palestinian territories.

LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to preserving human rights through legal advocacy. LAW is affiliate to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Fédération Internationale des Ligues de Droits de l'Homme (FIDH), World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and Member of the Euro- Mediterranean Human Rights Network.


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