9 April 2008
As a Palestinian organisation committed to the promotion and protection of international human rights and humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Al-Haq is gravely concerned about the prolonged isolation imposed by the Israeli occupying forces on the 11,000 residents of Azzun village, in Qalqiliya district.
On 9 March 2008, Israeli bulldozers piled dirt mounds and installed barbed wire in front of the main entrance to the village blocking access to Road no. 55, which connects the village to the rest of the West Bank, and the neighbouring city of Qalqiliya. What was a 10-metre trip from the northern entrance of the village to the main road, has now become a 18-kilometre long journey for those who need to access or leave from the village by vehicle. This roadblock has compounded the isolation of the village, already suffering from having had 11,000 dunums of its land expropriated for the construction of the Annexation Wall in 2002.
In addition to the sealing of the northern entrance, residents have been subjected to lengthy curfews and military incursions. From 4-14 February 2008, the entire village was placed under curfew and raids were frequently carried out by the Israeli occupying forces. Also, villagers holding work permits issued by Israel, the Occupying Power, have recently had these permits revoked solely on the premise that they are residents of Azzun village.
These measures have been justified as necessary to protect the illegal Israeli settlers in the nearby settlement of Ma'ale Shomeron, whose presence in occupied territory is in direct violation of Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (Fourth Geneva Convention). Specifically, these measures have been imposed in reaction to alleged claims of Palestinians attacking illegal Israeli settlers on Road no. 55 nearby. While Israel, as an Occupying Power, can take measures to ensure public order and safety, these measures must not reinforce existing violations of international law to the severe detriment of the occupied civilian population.
As a civilian population under occupation, the residents of the village of Azzun are protected persons who, under Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, are guaranteed respect for their fundamental rights and humane treatment. The intimidation, through curfews and raids, and isolation, through closures, of the entire village for extended periods amounts to collective punishment, explicitly prohibited by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The roadblock at the northern entrance of Azzun village is only one example of over 500 physical obstacles to the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank that target the entire population, contributing to the violation of their economic, social, and cultural rights, isolating civilian populations from each other and physically fragmenting the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
In light of the above Al-Haq calls for:
- the Israeli occupying forces to immediately end the isolation of Aazun, and all measures of collective punishment imposed on the civilian population of the OPT.
- the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to uphold their obligation under common Article 1 to ensure that Israel respects the rights afforded to the Palestinian civilian population of the OPT.
- Ends -