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Evacuation of settlers hinders Palestinians' access to medical aid
Report, PCHR, 22 August 2005
If the movement of medical personnel, both staff and volunteers, is restricted or denied, the ability to provide timely, effective and efficient emergency medical care may not be possible. (PRCS)
Location: Northern West Bank: villages and towns along the Nablus-Jenin main road. Northern Gaza Strip: Al-Se’yafa enclave, north of the town of Beit Lahya.
Chronology of Events
As week two of the ‘disengagement’ process begins, movement of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the West Bank continues to be restricted severely. Palestinians tolerate, what they hope is the final closure of the main Beach Road, in order to facilitate the evacuation of Netzarim settlement bloc.
Demolition of illegal settler homes has commenced in the empty settlement blocs. This demolition process does not reflect the experience of thousands of Palestinians, who lost their homes in Gaza and the West Bank during the course of the al Aqsa Intifada. Their homes were demolished without prior notice, without time to remove valuables, without relocation to temporary accommodation and without compensation. Most of these families remain homeless to this day.
House demolitions continue in East Jerusalem and the West Bank on what is almost a daily basis, also without the notice or compensation afforded to the illegal settlers during the ‘disengagement process’. Demolition orders are presented to residents due to their failure to obtain the necessary permit to build. The reality of the permit process, however, is that applications are rarely granted to Palestinians. People have no choice but to build without the required permission and planning laws prevent natural urban growth in Palestinian areas, East Jerusalem in particular.
Closures and Curfews
Northern West Bank
IOF have declared the northern West Bank a closed military zone prior to evacuating four settlements in the area. As a result, severe restrictions have been imposed on the movement of Palestinian civilians in the affected area. IOF have set up iron gates on key roads and closed the entrances of villages and towns along the Nablus – Jenin road with earth barriers and cement blocks. In addition, IOF closed agricultural roads and routes. These restrictions are affecting the movement of ambulances and other medical transport vehicles working in healthcare centres in the area.
The director of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (UPMRC) in Nablus, Dr. Ghassan Ahmad Mahmoud Hamdan (41), informed a PCHR field worker that UPMRC’s ambulance crews face extreme difficulties in transporting patients from outside the city. These crews must pass a number of checkpoints and take dirt roads to reach their destinations.
IOF have imposed a complete closure on the area from Shavi Shamron settlement northwest of Nablus to Jenin. Ambulances are barred from passing through the Shavi Shamron checkpoint, and Israeli troops closed all bypass roads in the area. As a result, nine villages in the Nablus governorate have been turned into large prisons. These villages are: Bazaria, Barqa, Beit Imrien, Nisf J’beil, Sabsati’ya, El-Naqoura, Ej’nesen’ya, Yaseed and Aseerah El-Shamale’ya. Residents cannot enter or exit these villages.
Dr. Hamdan pointed that on Sunday the 21st of August 2005, IOF detained the medical team working in UPMRC’s “Ibn Siena” clinic located between the villages of Barqa and Sabsati’ya. The team was prevented from reaching the clinic for hours. It is noted that the Ibn Siena centre provides healthcare services to the nine afore-mentioned villages. Moreover, the residents of Bazaria village haven’t been able to reach the centre for more than one week because IOF closed the village entrance with earth barriers and cement blocks.
The suffering of patients, especially pregnant women and chronic cases requiring medical attention, is doubled after dark. Dr. Hamdan stated that at 23:00 on Friday the 19th of August 2005, a UPMRC ambulance left Nablus to Barqa village to transport Hana Abu Amr (22), who was suffering from severe bleeding. The ambulance was forced to take a rough dirt road on both ends of the trip. As a result, the patient’s suffering was intensified.
The administrative director of the Union of Palestinian Healthcare Committees (UPHCC), Mr. Mohammad Tamer Fa’shaf’sha (51), stated that UPHCC’s ambulance crews are hindered at IOF roadblocks. As a result, their medical teams haven’t been able to reach the UPHCC medical centre in the town of Sielet El-Thahir, south of Jenin, since the 15th of August 2005, because of the complete closure of the Nablus- Jenin road. The centre provides health services to the residents of Sielet El-Thahir, Ju’ba, El-Fondaqoume’ya, El-Atara, Barqa and Bazaria.
In addition, on Sunday morning, the 21st of August 2005, an UPHCC ambulance crew was heading from Nablus to the town of Azzoun east of Qalqilya. The ambulance was stopped at five IOF roadblocks. The first was the permanent Beit Ebba roadblock; the second was near El-Azzouni gas station on the Nablus-Tulkarem road; the third was in the middle of the bypass road off the Nablus-Tulkarem road; the fourth was on the Giet intersection; and the fifth one was on the main entrance of the village of Amatien east of Qalqilya. The ambulance was delayed for different time durations on each roadblock.
Al-Se’yafa enclave, north of the town of Beit Lahya, has been under complete closure since Monday the 15th of August 2005. Although food stuffs were stored before the closure began, residents in the area are suffering from an increase in IOF house raids. In the early morning of Saturday the 20th of August 2005, at 04:30, IOF searched five homes belonging to the al Ghoul family. The search operation lasted one hour and was conducted under the pretext of security precautions. At 23:00 that night, IOF searched another fives houses in a similar manner.
Settlements and settlers are illegal under international law. The Fourth Geneva Convention, the primary document governing the OPT, stipulates in Article 49 that the transfer of the population of the occupying power into the occupied territory is in breach of international law. The International Court of Justice confirmed in its 2004 judgment that settlements and settlement activity is illegal.
Freedom of movement is a right afforded to Palestinian civilians under the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as under established international treaties on human rights. Preventing free movement of people and goods interferes with the right to work, the right to health, the right to education, the right not to be held as a prisoner without a free and fair trial.
The Fourth Geneva Convention makes special provision for the provision of services by the International Committee of the Red Cross, affiliated societies and other essential humanitarian agencies. Human Rights Defenders are also recognized as having a right to defend the entire range of economic, social, cultural, social, political and civil rights in the “Declaration on Human Rights Defenders”. Israel’s continued policy of denying access to Human Rights Defenders continues to have a direct impact on the working conditions of the Defenders themselves and, significantly, on the living conditions of the Palestinian civilian population.