Since violence erupted in October 2000, Israel has sealed off nearly all Palestinian towns and villages in the West Bank, placing large concrete blocks or high earthen dams on nearly all exit roads, digging deep trenches across the roads, and preventing Palestinian drivers from passing through dozens of permanent and ad-hoc military checkpoints. The only roads regularly open to traffic are "bypass" roads that connect Israeli settlements in the West Bank to Israel and to each other. In many cases, there are no major alternate roads between West Bank cities other than the "bypass" roads restricted to Israeli use. Palestinian drivers, officially prohibited from using these roads, have attempted to circumvent the closures and blockades by using alternate minor roads or by risking travel on bypass roads. The strict closure, referred to as a "siege" by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell during a recent visit to the region,18 has had a severely detrimental impact on all aspects of Palestinian civilian life.
Israel's policy of sharply restricting Palestinian movement has been in place, with varying degrees of severity, since March 1993.19 The restrictions now in place are the most extensive to date. The closure has brought the local economy to a virtual standstill, with dire consequences for most ordinary Palestinians, and has seriously impeded access to education, medical assistance, jobs, and virtually all other aspects of Palestinian civilian life.
The approximately 30,000 Palestinian residents of the Israeli-controlled H2 area of Hebron have additionally been placed under a nearly permanent, twenty-four-hour curfew, requiring them to stay in their homes around the clock. The curfew is normally lifted for only a few hours every three days to allow them to purchase necessities. On several occasions, the Israeli authorities have announced the "permanent" lifting of the curfew, only to impose it again after a few days after new "incidents". With the exception of these few breaks lasting several days, members of the Palestinian community of Hebron have been restricted to their homes nearly continuously since the beginning of the clashes. The curfew applies only to the Palestinian residents of H2; Israeli settlers are allowed to walk and drive around freely at all times.
In addition to restricting Palestinians to their homes during curfew periods, the Israeli authorities have placed many other restrictions on Palestinian life in the H2 area. Palestinian cars have been banned from the H2 area since October 2000, forcing local residents to carry home by hand all essential supplies, including heavy items such as cooking gas canisters. For residents living in hilly neighborhoods such as Tel Rumeida, this restriction is a significant burden. Even Palestinian ambulances are not allowed to enter H2, so wounded or sick Palestinians have to be physically carried to Palestinian-controlled areas to be evacuated in an ambulance.
The Israeli authorities claim that the curfew is imposed only in response to incidents of Palestinian gunfire from H1 into H2, or to specific instances of unrest within H2.20 Hebron commander Col. Noam Tivon has explicitly linked the use of the curfew and other punitive measures to the actions of Palestinian gunmen:
I constantly demand that the Palestinian forces halt the shooting attacks to ease the difficult situation the local Palestinians are faced with-the closure, the blockade, and curfew. They are suffering economic hardships. The curfew is lifted every 48 hours during the day, but not if there was shooting the previous night.21
The vast majority of the Palestinian gunfire clearly originates from the Palestinian-controlled areas surrounding the H2 area, and there is little evidence to suggest that a lifting of the curfew would lead to Palestinian gunfire originating from within the H2 area, an area which until now has not been the source of substantial, if any, Palestinian gunfire. The large number of IDF soldiers in H2 and the ubiquitous IDF checkpoints at the H2-H1 borders effectively prevent infiltration of Palestinian gunmen into H2 even in the absence of the curfew. The Palestinian residents of H2 have no control over gunmen operating in the H1 areas under Palestinian control. Punishing some 30,000 Palestinian residents of H2 for actions they did not commit and cannot influence is a textbook example of collective punishment.
The Israeli government is under pressure from the Hebron settlers to impose even more stringent measures, and whenever the curfew is lifted, settlers often provoke confrontations that lead to a re-imposition of the curfew. Avraham Ben Yusif, director of the Jewish municipal council of Hebron, is unapologetic about the curfew and settler efforts to ensure that the curfew remains in place for as long as the hostilities continue. He told Human Rights Watch: "The curfew is certainly one step which gives stability to this area, and the key to ending the curfew is on the Palestinian side. ... They have control, and it is improper to complain to the Israeli side about the curfew. Within twenty-four hours it can be lifted if the Palestinians stop the violence."22 When asked about a settler protest at the Palestinian market in downtown Hebron which had led to a clash and a re-imposition of the curfew, Ben Yusif stated: "There was a demonstration. If we can't live normally, there is no reason why our [Palestinian] neighbors should live normally. There has to be some kind of symmetry."23 Similarly, Hebron settler spokesperson David Wilder told a journalist: "We've been shot at almost every night. Since we can't live normally, a decision was taken that the rest of the population also shouldn't be able to live normally."24
Settler representatives have advocated that even more stringent measures against the Palestinian community in their meetings with IDF representatives. In a document from "The Jewish Community of Hebron" to the IDF Brigade Commander, dated November 1, the Hebron settlers demanded a complete ban on Palestinian vehicular travel between the H1 and H2 areas; a ban on Palestinian vehicular travel on five main streets in the Hebron area; a ban on Palestinian pedestrian traffic on six Hebron streets; the complete closure of the Friday "flea market"; a prohibition on the opening of the Palestinian-owned gas station on Al-Shuhada' street; a closure of "peddler stalls" in three main Palestinian market areas of Hebron; a restriction of "Arab movement" to half the daytime hours and a nighttime curfew from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m.; the removal of "temporary shelters" in the main H2 Palestinian market; closure of the Palestinian shops located underneath the Beit Hadassah and Avraham Avino settlements; closure of the Waqf (the Islamic authority charged with maintenance of Islamic religious sites) office in the H2 area of Hebron; "total separation" in the Machpela Cave (Ibrahimi Mosque) and refusal of access for Wafq personnel to the "Jewish area of the cave"; and "in case of any attack against Jews when the curfew is opened-reimposition of the curfew on the same day."25
Israeli soldiers systematically abuse Palestinian drivers who attempt to circumvent the closure restrictions, subjecting them to serious beatings and humiliating treatment and causing extensive damage to their vehicles. The vast majority of taxi drivers approached by Human Rights Watch researchers recounted personal incidents of IDF abuse, and many had suffered multiple incidents of abuse.
Israel continues to controls the major road networks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. When Israel imposes a complete closure on the West Bank or Gaza Strip, it becomes virtually impossible for Palestinians to move from one village, town, or city to the other. In most cases, there are no Palestinian-controlled alternative main roads to the "by-pass roads." According to the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq:
In addition to linking together Israeli settlements, one of the purposes of the by-pass road network is to separate Palestinian communities. The road network serves as a military grid in the West Bank, separating and surrounding the Palestinian regions with militarily-controlled roads. Since the military can close the roads to Palestinians at any time, the grid enables the military to seal off the Palestinian regions and maintain control over them.26
The pattern of abuse, particularly shooting out or slashing tires and confiscating of car keys, is remarkably similar throughout checkpoints in the West Bank. Given the pattern of these abuses and the frequency of the attacks, it appears that the Israeli military leadership condones such abuses, or is even actively complicit in them. It is simply not credible that the existence of such widespread abuses would have escaped notice by the well-organized IDF command structure. Yet, no concerted action has been taken by the command to stop such abuses.
At least one Palestinian driver was killed by IDF soldiers apparently while attempting to drive home during a comprehensive closure. The death of Ibrahim al-Alami, a twenty-five-year-old bulldozer operator from Beit Umar, took place under unclear circumstances, and neither his family nor any of the human rights groups active in the Hebron area have been able to locate an eyewitness to the killing. According to his mother, the IDF began closing many of the roads in and around Hebron following the lynching of two Israeli reservists in Ramallah that day. Al-Alami was working in Hebron, and at about 2 p.m. she called his employer who agreed to send al-Alami home because of the road closures. He did not arrive, and at about 5 p.m., a stranger called to say that her son had been shot near the village of Beit `Einun, and had been taken to the hospital. He had been shot once in the back of his head. Ibrahim al-Alami died of his injuries on October 18, 2000.27
Ibrahim's brother-in-law tried to recover Ibrahim's car at about 5:30 a.m. the next day. He found the road near the car closed with an earthen dam, and was prohibited by IDF soldiers from approaching the car, which the IDF said was in a "closed military zone." The IDF soldiers also confiscated the car keys of the vehicle in which the brother-in-law had arrived. He returned four days later to recover Ibrahim's car, and found that a single shot had come in through the back window before striking Ibrahim in the head. It appears that Ibrahim had tried to circumvent a road closure by driving on a small secondary road and was shot by IDF soldiers or settlers. Ibrahim was an unarmed civilian who had no arrest record. The suspicious but mostly unknown circumstances of the killing require a full investigation in order to establish whether the IDF was responsible for the killing, and if so, whether the IDF's own open-fire regulations were violated.
On February 19, 2001, Khaldun S., aged twenty, was traveling in a communal taxi van with nine other Palestinians on their war from Yatta to the city of Bethlehem. IDF soldiers stopped the taxi outside the village of Beit Umar shortly after 8 p.m., and called the Israeli border police to the scene. The border police ordered all of the passengers out of the van, and began slapping the driver in the face and kicking him. The border police ordered the driver to apologize in person to each of the soldiers and border police before one of the border police officers told him: "Now get in your van and go home. I don't want to see you here again. If I see you here again, I will kill you."28 Without explaining why, the border police ordered Khaldun S. to stay behind. After the driver left with the other passengers, the border police ordered Khaldun S. to get in their jeep and drove him to a nearby forest, located near the village of Halhul. When the jeep stopped, the border police ordered Khaldun S. to get out. He recounted what happened next:
I stepped out of the jeep and [the border police officer] was holding my arm. He pulled his fist back and hit me hard on the mouth. He hit me again, now my head hit the police jeep and I became dizzy. He grabbed a hold of me and banged me several times against the jeep. Then he kneed me hard, in my private parts. Finally I fell to the ground. The policeman kept hitting me with the machinegun, while the other was kicking me in the head. I lost consciousness, when they would hit me I would wake up momentarily.29
The police officers left Khaldun S. in the forest, and he made his way to safety by walking to a Palestinian home. A Human Rights Watch researcher who interviewed Khaldun S. saw evidence of injuries consistent with his account, including a split lip, loose teeth and bruises on his back.
Khalid Abu A., a forty-year-old farmer from Yatta, was taking a tractor load of food to his goats at about 11 a.m. on February 20 when he was stopped by IDF soldiers on a small dirt road leading to the main bypass road. After asking him for his identity document (ID), the soldiers began arguing about what to do, with one soldier arguing that they should let the driver go and another stating in Hebrew, "If you don't want to shoot, I will."30 According to Khalid Abu A., the incident quickly escalated:
Immediately, he shot at my radiator. Then the other one who had checked my ID shot at the tires. He shot eight tires, four on the tractor and four on the trolley. ... I asked them why they had shot my tires, and they said there was a curfew there. I told them no, it is an open area. Then they ordered me to drive and said that if I changed the tires there, they would shoot them again. There were thirteen soldiers there, six walking and seven in a jeep.31
Khalid Abu A. showed a Human Rights Watch researcher the recent bullet damage to the radiator of his tractor (the tires had already been replaced). His car was not the only one damaged during the incident: he told Human Rights Watch that he also witnessed the IDF shoot out the tires of a Ford parked nearby on a Palestinian dirt road, ordering the passengers to leave and prohibiting the driver from changing the tires of the car.32
On February 15, 2001, in a small village east of Yatta, Tahir Abu U., aged twenty, and his cousin were approached by a Palestinian man whose car was stuck in the mud. The two cousins took their tractor to the car to pull it out, and met a group of IDF soldiers on a tank at the site. The men were told to take off their jackets and lay down in the mud. The magnetic ID cards that gave them access rights to Israel proper were confiscated, and they were beaten. Tahir Abu U. recalled: "They made us sit in the mud for about one hour, on our knees with our foreheads to the ground, as if we were praying. The soldiers were beating us on our backs with their guns; I was hit hard five or six times."33
The cousins were unable to start the tractor when their ordeal was over, and went home to get another tractor to jumpstart it. When they returned, they found the first tractor heavily damaged by the soldiers, who remained nearby: "When we returned back with the tractor, we found that the soldiers had slashed all of the tires. They also opened the radiator and took the covers of the oil and fuel tanks. The lights were broken, the body was smashed, the windows were broken. The soldiers were still there, about 100 meters away."34 Tahir Abu U. estimated the damage to the tractor at 10,000 shekels (U.S. $2,500), a huge sum for a poor rural farmer.
Mohammed H., a thirty-year-old taxi driver from Yatta, recounted three incidents in which IDF soldiers had attacked him. During the first incident, in November or December 2000, he was traveling from Hebron to Bethlehem and stopped to drop off some passengers near the village of al-Khadr, near Bethlehem. Two soldiers walked towards him and started cursing him, telling him he was not allowed to be there. One of the soldiers pulled out a knife and cut all four of the car's tires before walking away. Mohammed H. said it took 1,500 shekels (U.S. $375) to replace the slashed tires, nearly a month's income.35
On January 18, 2001, Mohammed H. was driving near the entrance of Yatta when he was stopped by an IDF jeep at the bypass road and told to return to Yatta. As he was turning around, the IDF jeep reversed and smashed into his car. Mohammed H. got out of the car to ask why the soldiers had hit his car when he was complying with their orders, and a soldier came to his car and broke his mirror with the butt of his automatic rifle. At that time, an Israeli settler stopped his car on the bypass road, began cursing Mohammed H., and threw a rock at his car. The IDF soldiers politely escorted the settler back to his car and asked him to leave the scene before allowing Mohammed H. to leave. Mohammed H. showed Human Rights Watch photos of his car, which showed damage consistent with his account.36
In a third incident on February 15, 2001, Mohammed H. was again victimized by IDF soldiers. As he was traveling from Hebron to Yatta on the main bypass road at 5 a.m. to pick up a passenger, IDF soldiers stopped him near the Zief junction and demanded his ID and keys, explaining that there was a closure and that he was not allowed to drive on the road because there had been shooting near the settlement of Ma'on. The soldiers slashed two of Mohammed H.'s tires before telling him, "If [the Palestinians] stop shooting at us [in Ma'on], you can travel on this road." Mohammed H. was forced to wait by his car until 6 p.m., 13 hours after he had been stopped, before his keys and ID were returned to him.37
In late January, Shaker Abu R., a twenty-four-year-old taxi driver from Yatta, was driving from Bethlehem to Hebron at about 5:30 p.m. when five IDF soldiers stopped him near Halhul. "They shot all four of my tires and broke my left mirror," he recounted, "The soldiers said I was not allowed to drive on the bypass road. I was the ninth taxi, plus five lorries, all of these had their tires shot out [in the incident]."38 On February 20, Abu R. was driving a sick person from the hospital in Hebron to his home in Yatta when he was stopped at about 5:30 p.m. at the Zief junction by four IDF soldiers. The soldiers began cursing at him and discussed shooting out his tires, relenting only because of the sick passenger. The soldiers refused to allow him to proceed to Yatta, forcing him to return to Hebron with the sick passenger: "They were calling me names, like son of a whore, son of a bitch, bad words that I cannot repeat. The soldiers said I cannot take the road, but it is the only entrance and exit from Yatta. All of the other roads are closed. ... So I drove back to Hebron and left my car there."39
Murad Z, a twenty-three-year-old taxi driver, was driving some goods from Hebron to Bethlehem when he was stopped by an IDF tank on the main bypass road at the junction near the Efrata settlement. The IDF soldiers asked Murad Z. for his ID, driver license and car papers, and then made him wait for two hours in his car. At about 3 p.m., after waiting for two hours, Murad Z. approached the soldiers and asked why they had stopped him and were keeping him so long. A soldier asked him, "OK, you want to go home?" When Murad Z. replied in the affirmative, the soldier walked over to the car, shot out all four tires, returned Murad Z.'s papers, and sent him off with a traditional Arabic greeting, saying "Yalla, ma'a salama."40 It cost Murad Z. 900 shekels (U.S. $225) to replace the tires.
Bahjat al-S., aged twenty-five, was driving his taxi with a passenger on the main bypass road near Kiriat Arba settlement in late January when he was stopped by IDF soldiers. The soldiers told the passenger to walk home, and then began searching the taxi. They asked Bahjat to open the radiator cap, but he refused, saying that the car was hot and that it would be too dangerous and bad for the engine to open the radiator before the car cooled down. The soldiers unsuccessfully attempted to force Bahjat to open the radiator, and then told him they would detain him until he did so, but refused to allow him to turn off the car so the engine could cool down. As he was sitting aside, two soldiers came over and began slapping and kicking him. The soldiers detained him for two hours, periodically coming over to beat him and to ask if he was willing to open the radiator cap. Finally, after two hours, a commander came in a jeep and put an end to the abuse, returning Bahjat's ID and allowing him to go home.
Fawzi Abu S. was driving his taxi past the Kiriat Arba settlement on a road in the Jabal Johar area of Hebron on January 21 at about 7:30 a.m. when he was stopped by a border police jeep. An Arabic-speaking officer took his car registration papers, his driver's license, his car insurance papers, and his license to operate a taxi issued by the Palestinian Authority. The officer, who was cursing him and, using foul language, asked him if he knew the area was under curfew. He then ordered Fawzi Abu S. to get out of the car. "He was yelling at me and kicking me, I didn't count the times [I was hit]." Then, the officer took out a knife, and ordered Fawzi Abu S. to take the knife and cut the tires to his car. Fawzi Abu S. initially refused, telling the officer that they would then shoot him and claim he had tried to attack them with the knife. The officer replied, "You will either cut the two front tires or you will be breaking news on Al-Jazeera TV," which Fawzi Abu S. interpreted as a threat that he would be shot if he didn't comply. Fawzi Abu S. took the knife and cut the two tires: "After I cut the tires, they took my papers and the keys of the car and went away." It cost him 800 shekels (U.S. $200) to replace the tires.41
Mahfouz H., a twenty-four-year-old taxi driver, had just dropped off a passenger in the industrial district of Hebron at about 5 p.m. on October 13, 2000 and was returning home when an IDF jeep pulled up and four soldiers got out. He related what happened next:
One of the soldiers came to the car, switched off the engine and took the key. He aimed his gun at me, and said to go home. After he pulled out the key, he pulled me out of the car and kept yelling, `Go home! Go Home!' I said that my house was far away, and that I couldn't leave the car because I had invested a lot of money in it, and was begging them to return my keys.
When I told the soldier I couldn't go home and needed my keys, the soldier pushed me in my back, and another fired a sound bomb [concussion grenade] at me. Then I ran away and hid in one of the neighboring houses. At that time, soldiers stopped other cars and also took their keys. ... They did this to five cars. ... The soldiers swore at us, using bad words, fuck this, fuck that, I am embarrassed to repeat them.42
Private Palestinian drivers face similar attacks by IDF soldiers when traveling on the roads. `Ali M., a thirty-one-year-old official in the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism, was driving on the road between Beit Umar and the al-`Arrub refugee camp at about 10 a.m., on his way to visit his parents. An IDF jeep suddenly passed him and cut him off, forcing him to stop. After `Ali M. complied with orders to get out of the car and hand over the keys, a soldier pushed `Ali M. hard against his car with his machinegun. The soldiers told `Ali M. the road was closed, and then one soldier shot out his rear tire while another pulled out a knife and cut through a front tire before leaving the car.43
On December 18, 2000, `Ali M. was about to cross the main bypass road (Route 60) to get from Hebron to his home village when IDF soldiers in two military jeeps stopped him and other drivers. The soldiers immediately started cursing and beating the crowd of Palestinian travelers, `Ali M. recounted:
They were swearing, calling us names, sons of bitches, dirty Arabs, bad stuff. I was standing outside the car with many other people. They just started hitting and pushing us, swearing at us. ... They were just walking around hitting people because we were not supposed to be there and were trying to get around them, and now we were caught.
A little boy threw a rock and hit a soldier in his leg. The soldier was so mad and started beating the boy bloody, he was swearing to God and cursing Mohammed, saying he would f*ck our prophet. The kid had a bloody nose and lips. ...
Then he went to the first taxi driver and blew out his four tires, [the taxi driver] was from our village. Then he shot out one of the tires in the Landrover. ... [The soldiers] took two [Palestinian] men with them. ... When I reached home, I found out that my front lights had been broken. I didn't see this happen, I was too focused on saving myself and [my young brother-in-law] `Arafat.44
The closures, blockades, and curfews have been devastating to the Palestinian economy.45 Because of Israeli-imposed restrictions and policies that prevent the development of an autonomous Palestinian economy, the Palestinian economy remains highly dependent on employment and markets within Israel. Since the beginning of the unrest in October 2000, employment for Palestinian workers inside Israel, normally a main source of income for many Palestinian families, has come to a virtual standstill. Countless businesses have been forced to shut down because they can no longer deliver their products. In the H2 area of Hebron, many shops have been closed for months.
Tahir Muhtasib, the vice-president of the Hebron chamber of commerce, explained the overall impact of the closures, blockades and curfews on the economy:
[T]his is the hardest closure since the beginning of the occupation [in 1967]. Hebron, like the other districts, suffers from closures. But Hebron has suffered more than other cities because it is divided in H1 and H2. H2 has been under curfew for more than four months. The industrial zone is in H2, and industry in Hebron contributes 40 percent of the Palestinian economy. This shows the big loss, the impact on the economy of Palestine.
Most of the industry is shoemaking, marble, tanning, weaving and textiles, and the traditional industries of pottery, glass, and metal furniture.
Since there is a closure, there is no normal course of trade. All of the commitments due to the traders go unmet. Since the entrances of the cities are controlled by the Israelis, it is impossible to transport goods. There are no raw materials for production. Since there are no workers let into Israel, there is very high unemployment. A big number of factories have closed down now. These factories had to lay off their workers, they only work part-time, or they can only pay part of the salary. If this situation continues for a long time, it will be miserable.46
`Abd al-Karim Nayrukh is part-owner of the largest metal furniture factory in the West Bank, employing some 120 workers in Hebron. Their traditional market has been drastically undercut by the closures: "We can't get to Jerusalem, Ramallah, or Tel Aviv. We don't get permits for our vehicles to go outside [Hebron]. I myself have not been outside Hebron for five months."47 The factory's sales have been cut by 60 percent, and the company is operating at a daily loss, amounting to at least 6,000 shekels [U.S. $1,500] per day. Nayrukh was skeptical about the company's long-term prospects:
We continue to pay our workers, I can't just tell them to go home or not pay them. They are our long-standing workers, many have been with us for ten, fifteen years. I don't know what we will do, but we can't continue like this for more than two months. I will continue to produce the goods and put them in storage. In two months, we will run out of money to pay the workers.48
Jabril al-Natsha is the owner of a large shoe factory in the Palestinian controlled area of Hebron. The closures have shut down his normal distribution networks in Israel and other West Bank towns, cutting his sales by 80 percent. After paying the salaries of his workers and covering his operating expenses, amounting together to about 80,000 shekels [U.S. $20,000] per month, he is operating at a loss of about 40,000 shekels [U.S. $10,000] per month since sales only amount to 40,000 shekels [U.S. $10,000] per month. Consequently, he has been forced to lay off about half of his forty person work force.49
Fathi al-Zaru, a fifty-four-year-old shopkeeper in the H2 Palestinian market explained: "In the old city of H2, the economy is totally destroyed. The situation is very bad. ... One day they will say we can open until 12 p.m., then four or five days we sit at home. ... People from outside H2 are afraid to come here, they are afraid their youth will be stopped or arrested. ... Before the intifada, the normal profit of a small shop would be fifty or sixty shekels [U.S. $12.50 to 15] a day. ... All of our savings have been spent, and we have to start borrowing. Today, since 8:30 a.m., I haven't sold a single thing. ... I have been selling at this market for thirty years. We have never seen a period worse than this one."50 Samir Abu Ruqab, an apple seller nearby, agreed:
What is there to say? We can open a few hours and then have to close again. I have been in this shop for twelve years. Before the intifada, we would make 1,000 to 1,200 shekels [U.S. $250 to 300] a week. Now, we are not making any money, we are spending more than we make. These apples, I will have to throw half away because they will rot before I can sell them. Yesterday, I threw away fifty cartons of apples, 1,500 shekels [U.S. $375] worth of goods. ... I just closed the shop for [the first] three months and threw away the goods.51
Radeh Abu `Aisha is a part owner in a brass-producing factory located in H2. Because of the nearly continuous curfew, the factory has been shut down: "I haven't worked a day since the beginning of the intifada. We can't get supplies and the customers cannot pick up their orders. How can you work with the curfew? The curfew is only lifted for a few hours, and it takes six hours for the brass to melt and another six hours to get the brass ready to work on. There is no guarantee that you will be able to finish the work before the curfew returns."52 The seven employees of the factory were laid off because of the lack of work. Because of the loss of income, Radeh Abu `Aisha was forced to pull his son out of university because he could no longer afford the fees.
Desperation is setting in for many of the families in Hebron, as their financial reserves are running out and they can no longer borrow from relatives and friends. The case of the Abu Hadid family is typical. They live in a house with twenty-five relatives, and after the men lost their employment inside Israel, were forced to rely on the income from a small shop. Since the intifada, the shop has been closed under the curfew, and the family has used up all of the supplies inside the shop:
We depended on the shop for the past five months, we ate all the food in the shop. We also sold our Peugeot car and bought a very cheap one, we have spent the money from the car. Now we have nothing left. I used to sell stationary supplies to the school children and owe the supplier 10,000 shekels. The goods are in the shop but I can't sell them now. Now, we depend on God's will.53
One of the areas of Palestinian society most affected by the curfew and closures in Hebron is the education sector. The IDF has closed three major schools in Hebron and turned their grounds into military bases: the Osama Munkith school, with 584 students, the al-Ma'arif school, with 871 students, and the Jawhar Girls' school, with 380 students.54 According to Muhammad Qawasm, the head of the education directorate in Hebron district, thirty-two schools serving some 12,000 students inside the Israeli-controlled H2 area have been severely affected, unable to function during the curfew. The IDF announced in January that schools could operate even under curfew, but have repeatedly ordered several schools in the H2 area to close when they attempted to open. The overall impact of the loss of nearly five months of education is drastic:
There is a limited period for each teacher to cover a certain amount of material. Many of the schools have not been able to cover more than 30 percent of the [normal] material. Of course this affects the students negatively, especially those in the first years of education. We try to make up for the losses in different ways. We make some schools teach two shifts, especially those near H2 who have absorbed many students from H2. Since the beginning of this week, we started seven remedial centers at the edges of H2 in the H1 area where the Israelis can't come.55
Farial Abu Heikal is headmistress at the Qurtuba primary school, which caters to about 170 to 200 students aged between six and fourteen, and is located close to the Beit Hadassah settlement. The school was closed for almost all of October, November and December 2000, but has been able to operate whenever the curfew is temporarily lifted. The school is supposedly allowed to be open during curfew, but whenever the school attempts to open during curfew, soldiers at the Beit Haddassah settlement stop the students and teachers and order them to return home. Even when the curfew is lifted, soldiers and settlers often prevent children and teachers from reaching the school. Abu Heikal explained the impact of the curfew on the education of the children:
The curfew affected the timetable of the school year. There are now no recreation courses such as sports and music, only the main courses such as mathematics and Arabic. And still, the children are behind. About twenty students have left to attend schools in H1. ... The students are not yet finished with the first semester material, which normally ends in December. All schools in H1 finished their first semester material in December. ...
The performance of students has also changed. They were in summer holidays and then returned to school in September, which is a review month. When they were ready for new material, there was an interruption for three months. The teachers now need to move faster to cover as much material as possible. All of this affects the performance of the students, but the students are insisting on learning.56
The situation is not much different at the Ibrahimiya primary boys school, with more than five hundred students, which is located close to the Ibrahimi Mosque. The students have covered only about 20 percent of the curriculum, and the school has been closed for more than two-thirds of the school days since the beginning of the intifada. Even when the school is open, only about 60 percent of the students and teachers can make it through the internal blockades and closures. The school is supposed to be allowed to open during curfew, but when the principal and four teachers attempted to open the school during curfew for the first time on February 1, 2001, they were told by the soldiers that they had five minutes to close the school and go home.57
Afifa Sharabati is a physics teacher at al-Ukhwa secondary school in the H2 area of Hebron. Her school was closed completely for the first two months of the intifada, but since January military authorities have allowed the school to remain open during curfew. However, she and two other teachers, as well as about fifty students, cannot reach the school during curfew because they live in the center of the old city and are absolutely prohibited from being outside during curfew, even to go to school. Her final year students have to take their school leaving entrance exams in June, and must pass the physics component to pass the exam. Since she can't reach the school to teach physics, she is deeply worried that the students will be unable to succeed in the exam.58
Even when the curfew is lifted, many students report being abused or attacked by settlers and soldiers while trying to make it to their schools. Najla Khatib, aged thirteen, lives only twelve meters from the Qurtaba School, but has to walk a large detour because soldiers refuse to let her pass in front of Beit Haddassah settlement. One morning in early January 2001, she was climbing the stairs to her school when three armed settlers ran up and began throwing stones at her. The next day, she attempted to take a different route with other students, but again was confronted by a group of settler school children who threw stones at them and began cursing them. Nearby IDF soldiers just laughed. When she went home that day, the soldiers stationed near the school called her a whore and a bitch in Arabic and were laughing about the curses. On the third day, armed settlers stopped the children while they were climbing the steps to their school, and the IDF soldiers laughed about the incident. Again, the children were cursed in Arabic when they walked past the soldiers, who called out "daughter of a bitch" and "daughter of a whore" and parodied the Palestinian anthem.59
Fourteen-year-old Adham al-Barade was going to school on February 15, 2001 when he was confronted by two armed settlers in front of the Ibrahimi Mosque: "I was walking down the street when they attacked me. The two came from the back and grabbed me by my shoulders and started beating and kicking me. They said bad words ... When they were beating me, I hit [one] back. I hit him in the eye and then the other pointed his gun at me." The police came over, and promptly arrested Adham for attacking the settlers: "The police didn't do anything to the settlers, they told them to stop beating me and let them go home." He was taken to the police station, where he was slapped twice in the face by a policeman who asked him why he attacked the settlers. After being kept overnight at the police station, the boy was released when his father paid 500 shekels, either for bail or as a fine.60
On February 15, 2001, eleven-year-old Murad Ramus was walking to school. He had not been involved in clashes that day. When he passed the IDF checkpoint near Avraham Avino, he noticed that there were clashes going on up the hill (outside H2 area) but kept walking down the street (inside H2 area). A soldier at the checkpoint grabbed him, kicked him several times, and then told him to stand against the wall. "The soldier called over one of the settlers and allowed the settler to beat me. The settler [armed with an Uzi submachine gun] slapped me four times and kicked me five times. Then, a Palestinian boy threw a big rock at the settler ... and I managed to escape."61
On February 6, 2001, Jihad al-Qatanani, aged twelve, was walking home from school when he passed three soldiers near the Ibrahimi Mosque. The soldiers told him to go home, but al-Qatanani explained that the curfew was still lifted and continued walking in the street. One of the soldiers hit him with his steel helmet, and then the soldiers began chasing him. The soldiers soon caught him and beat the boy: "They grabbed me and started beating and kicking me. The soldiers didn't say anything. They beat me for a long time, I was kicked more than 15 times and kept for about 15 minutes. One of the children of my neighbor passed by and they started beating him, thirteen-year-old Shaker. Then the soldiers left. I had bruises from the beating on my back and my legs."62
Because of the problems with the schools in H2, many parents have opted to send their children to schools in the Palestinian-controlled areas. But often children from H2 are prevented from leaving their homes in the morning, or prevented from returning home after school. Radeh Abu `Aisha sends his son to a school in H1: "His school is in H1, but it is very hard. Some days when the army is being strict, they won't let him out [of H2], or even back in. On those days, he has to sleep at my sister's house in H1." During this interview with Human Rights Watch, Radeh's son called to say that he had been prevented from coming home because of the curfew, and would spend the night in H1.63
Another area severely affected by the closures and blockades is the health care sector. The physical blockading of many of the villages and cities in the West Bank, compounded by the frequent refusal of IDF soldiers to allow ambulances and ill people through checkpoints, has made it difficult to transport sick or wounded persons to safety, and is believed to have contributed to several deaths.64 In many cases, sick or wounded persons have needed to be driven to the blockade in one car, physically carried over the blockade, transferred to a second car, and then to make their way through various IDF checkpoints. Despite a pledge by the Israeli government to allow the free movement of sick and wounded persons, IDF soldiers have frequently delayed ambulances carrying sick or wounded patients at checkpoints, and ambulance drivers have reported severe cases of harassment at checkpoints. Palestinian ambulances are not allowed to enter the Israeli-controlled H2 area at all-no Palestinian cars have been allowed in H2 since October 2000-requiring that all Palestinian wounded or sick in H2 be transported by foot to the Palestinian-controlled areas before being transferred into an ambulance.
Sabah al-Jabari, aged forty-three, lives in the blockaded village of Beit `Einun, located just north of Hebron. At about 1 a.m. on February 13, 2001, she went into labor. An ambulance came, but was unable to reach the home because of an earthen blockade constructed by the IDF on the edge of the village. While in labor, Sabah al-Jabari had to walk over the high earthen dam to reach the ambulance. On the way to the hospital, the ambulance was stopped by IDF soldiers in a tank who pointed their guns at them and repeatedly yelled at them to go home. They were detained at the checkpoint for more than one half hour, until a higher ranking officer came who spoke Arabic and allowed them to proceed. The family reached the hospital, normally a five to ten minute ride away, after more than one and one half hour.65
Mansur Suleiman, a driver for the Palestinian Red Cresent Society, described to Human Rights Watch the dangers and delays faced by Palestinian ambulance drivers:
I have participated in many cases where we had to evacuate patients from the blocked villages. It is very difficult at night, we have to be very careful. ... After the soldiers let us go [through the checkpoint], we receive the patient at the blockade or the checkpoint, where they travel by private car. We use the stretcher to go across the earthen blockades and get the patient. We usually lose about one half hour to forty-five minutes, and we have to coordinate with the cars in the village to see where they [can travel to.]66
An emergency technician working for the Palestinian Red Cresent Society recounted three cases to Human Rights Watch during a November 2000 interview where his medical team had been delayed because of the blockading of villages by the IDF. On October 13, 2001, the team was delayed in evacuating a seven month old child with meningitis from the village of Shuyukh-al-`Arrub because of the closure imposed on the village. On October 14, 2001, the team was delayed in treating two patients, a twenty-five-year-old woman with acute abdominal pains and a seventy-year-old man with a brainstem injury and vascular bleeding who died a few days later.67
Medical teams have also suffered serious harassment at the hands of IDF soldiers, and at times have come under IDF fire. On December 15, 2000, a Palestinian Red Cresent Society ambulance crew were on their way to a patient in the al-Zeitoun area of Hebron when their ambulance came under IDF fire, who shot out all of the tires of the ambulance. The soldiers then approached the ambulance and ordered the medical team to get out, telling them "shut up, don't say anything, or we will shoot you," and ordering them to lie on the ground. After carefully searching the ambulance and detaining the crew for between twenty and thirty minutes, the team was ordered to proceed without changing the tires on the ambulance.68
On October 20, 2000, Muhammad Masharka, an ambulance driver with ten years of experience, received a call from al-Fawwar refugee camp, asking him to evacuate the gravely wounded Shaadi al-Waawi (discussed above). When he came to the entrance of the camp, IDF soldiers stopped the ambulance and began arguing among themselves whether to allow the ambulance to proceed. Finally, the IDF soldiers allowed the ambulance to proceed, but demanded that the ambulance team hand over the wounded or killed Palestinian to the IDF on their way out of the camp. The ambulance entered the camp and provided first aid to Shaadi, but then transferred him to a second ambulance, afraid that the soldiers would take Shaadi, who was still alive, and let him die by the road.
The second ambulance had to travel over very poor backroads. The ambulance broke down on the road because it could not negotiate its way over the large rocks, and lost valuable time as relatives of the wounded man cleared the road. Shaadi was bleeding heavily, and it took more than one hour to reach the hospital. On arrival at the hospital, Shaadi was immediately taken to the emergency room but was declared dead ten minutes later.69
The first ambulance, driven by Muhammad Masharka, was stopped by the same IDF soldiers on its way out of the al-Fawwar camp. When the soldiers found out that the wounded Palestinian was not in the car, they became angry and ordered the driver and nurse out of the ambulance. They interrogated both the driver and nurse, demanding to know who had contacted the ambulance team and what had happened to the patient, at one point threatening to beat the nurse: "All of their words were foul and threatening, they threatened to shoot us several times if we didn't give this information. They spoke in Arabic. One of the soldiers threatened to hit the nurse." Finally, a commander arrived in an IDF jeep, questioned the team for a few minutes in a polite manner, and then allowed them to proceed.70
25 Jewish Community of Hebron, "Travel Restrictions for Arabs, Recommendations to the IDF Brigade Commander," dated November 1, 2000. A copy of the Hebrew original, on JCH letterhead, was provided to Human Rights Watch by Peace Now.
35 Human Rights Watch interview, Yatta, February 21, 2001. Most taxi drivers interviewed by Human Rights Watch estimated that their daily earnings had dropped to about 50 shekels (U.S. $12.50) per day since the beginning of the Intifada, down from about 150 shekels (U.S. $37.50) per day during normal times.
45 See generally, Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator, The Impact on the Palestinian Economy of Confrontations, Mobility Restrictions and Border Closures: 1 October 2000-31 January 2001, Gaza, February 25, 2001.
64 B'Tselem, "Civilians Under Siege: Restrictions on Freedom of Movement as Collective Punishment," pp. 19-22; See also Deborah Sontag, "Janiya Journal: An Arab Village Strangled. Did Israel Just Forget?," New York Times, March 15, 2001.