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An Israeli checkpoint (Hebrew: מחסום, mahsom, Arabic: حاجز, hajez), is a barrier erected by the Israeli Security Forces, primarily today part of the system of West Bank closures in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Number of checkpoints
In September 2011, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said there were 522 roadblocks and checkpoints obstructing Palestinian movement in the West Bank, up from 503 in July 2010. That number does not include the temporary checkpoints known as "flying checkpoints," of which there were 495 on average per month in the West Bank in 2011, up from 351 on average per month in the previous two years.
However, according to the Israel Defense Forces, after withdrawing the majority of checkpoints as a goodwill gesture, in May 2013 there were 13 checkpoints in the West Bank, down from 40 in 2008. Furthermore, according to the IDF, these checkpoints are not always used, with the frequency of use depending on the perceived security threat. This figure does not include the numerous road blocks that prevent Palestinians from crossing the barrier, which in many cases blocks access to areas within the West Bank.
According to program director Col. Triber Bezalel, the IDF employs humanitarian officers at various checkpoints. These officers are tasked with making life easier for those who cross the borders and aiding the elderly and sick.
Many Palestinian residents of the West Bank claim that despite the checkpoints' intended use, in practice they violate Palestinians' rights to transportation and other human rights. Palestinian complaints of abuse and humiliation are common: Israel Defense Forces' Judge Advocate General, Maj. Gen. Dr. Menachem Finkelstein, states that "there were many—too many—complaints that soldiers manning checkpoints abuse and humiliate Palestinians and that the large number of complaints 'lit a red light' for him". Hundreds of Israeli women have monitored the checkpoints as part of Machsom (Checkpoint) Watch. The organization circulated daily reports on the checkpoints and published a book of testimonies that co-founder and author Yehudit Kirstein-Keshet says demonstrates "Israel's imprisonment of an entire population in a web of closures and checkpoints." Kirstein-Keshet also reports, "We Watchers … have witnessed the daily humiliation and abuse, the despair and impotence of Palestinians at checkpoints."
The United Nations, in its February 2009 Humanitarian Monitor report, has stated that it is becoming "apparent" that the checkpoint and obstacles, which Israeli authorities justified from the beginning of the second Intifada (September 2000) as a temporary military response to violent confrontations and attacks on Israeli civilians, is evolving into "a more permanent system of control" that is steadily reducing the space available for Palestinian growth and movement for the benefit of the increasing Israeli settler population.
Checkpoints and Medical Care
In March 2002, an explosive device was found in a Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) ambulance. The Red Crescent expressed shock at the incident, and began an internal investigation. On January 11, 2004, a PRCS ambulance not carrying patients was stopped and searched at a flying checkpoint near the village of Jit. The ambulance was escorted by military jeep to the Qadomin bus station where after 10 minutes the ambulance crew got their IDs back and were allowed to continue working. In another case, on the same day, an ambulance transporting a diabetic patient to the hospital in Tulkarm was stopped, searched, and allowed to proceed after the companion of the patient was arrested.
In 2008, an Israeli soldier in command of a checkpoint outside Nablus was relieved from duty and imprisoned for two weeks after he refused to allow a Palestinian woman in labour to pass through. The woman was forced to give birth at the check point and the baby was stillborn. Between 2000 and 2006 at least 68 women gave birth at checkpoints of whom 35 miscarried and five died in childbirth, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank.|
- West Bank closures
- Machsom Watch a human rights group of Israeli women monitoring IDF checkpoints.
- Palestinian freedom of movement
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- "Movement and Access in the West Bank". United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs occupied Palestinian territory. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
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- "Israeli jailed over baby tragedy". BBC News. 2008-09-12. Retrieved 2010-05-05.