In response to the second intifada, Israel began constructing a system of internal checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza; and in 2002, the country began construction of a separation barrier. The checkpoints and barrier, along with a system of roadblocks, were put in place to curb the number of attacks in Israel.
On June 24, the UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA) placed the total number of these internal obstacles to movement and access within the West Bank at 613. This was the first ever joint OCHA-IDF survey of internal obstacles in the West Bank. The IDF confirmed OCHA’s numbers, but the two have differing definitions of the various impediments.
The following are a description of most of the main obstacles cited in OCHA’s report.
Unstaffed obstacles – 522
These obstacles, intended as security measures by Israel, include:
Earth mounds – dirt and rocks piled in the road to block vehicle traffic
Roadblocks – concrete blocks used to block vehicle movement on roads
Trenches (or ditches) – holes dug near obstacles to block vehicles from bypassing the barriers
Road gates – gates constructed across a road
Permanently staffed checkpoints – 68
Description: These checkpoints stop both foot and vehicular traffic. IDF or other Israeli security officials usually check personal documentation of the people crossing and search the cars.
Partial checkpoints – 23
Description: These are comparable to permanent checkpoints, but are not permanently staffed and are usually built on the side of roads.
In addition to the physical barriers counted in the OCHA-IDF survey, there are additional obstacles that restrict movement and access for Palestinians in the West Bank. These obstacles include:
Area C – Area C, established under the Oslo II Accords, comprises 59 percent of the total area of the West Bank and is under the full Israeli military control. There are restrictions on building and development for Palestinians in Area C. The land includes Israeli-created nature reserves and closed military zones, which are restricted from Palestinian access. According to a World Bank report in October 2008, the nature reserves and restricted military zones take up over 22 percent of the land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Restricted roads – These major roads are reserved for settlers and Palestinians are required to use smaller, less direct routes. Palestinians are allowed to apply for special permits to use the roads. According to a World Bank study in November 2008, these roads cover 2,262 hectares of land or 0.4 percent of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Separation barrier – The barrier, which separates Israel and the West Bank, is made up of walls, fences and barbed wire, and is over 260 miles long with an additional 190 more miles planned.
Seam zone – In 2003, the IDF declared the area between the separation barrier and the Green Line as a closed military zone. This area covers almost 8.5 percent of the West Bank. Special permits are required for Palestinians living in or traveling to the area, and there are additional restrictions for development and construction in the area.
Settlements – Palestinians are barred from the areas that lie within the municipal boundaries of settlements. Larger “settlement regional jurisdictions” that surround the settlement’s municipal boundaries are off-limits to Palestinians for economic use.
Temporary “flying” checkpoints – These checkpoints are set up in different parts of the West Bank based on changing intelligence. They are manned by Israeli security and most Palestinian cars, identified by green license plates, are stopped and searched.
This Backgrounds Basics was primarily sourced from the World Bank, OCHA and various news agencies.