idf checkpoint 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel's network of military checkpoints and road barriers in the West Bank has grown by 40 percent in the past year, part of an increasingly sophisticated system of controls that disrupts all aspects of Palestinian life, a UN agency said Wednesday.
These physical obstacles are carving up the West Bank into separate parts, with travel between them becoming more and more difficult, said David Shearer, head of the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Jerusalem.
UN officials in Geneva, meanwhile, expressed concern about the ongoing closure of the Gaza Strip, including the crossing between Gaza and Egypt.
"It cannot continue like it is now without a social explosion that will hurt everybody, including Israeli security," said Jan Egeland, the UN humanitarian chief.
In Jerusalem, the UN agency, OCHA, said it has seen an increase of nearly 40 percent in the number of army checkpoints and physical barriers in the West Bank, from 376 in August 2005 to 528 in September of this year.
The West Bank's Jordan Valley is now entirely off limits to Palestinians who are not residents of that area, except for those with permits to work in the valley's Jewish settlements, Shearer said.
Israel is also pushing ahead with the construction of its separation barrier along, and in many areas inside the West Bank. The barrier will eventually run for 703 kilometers (437 miles), and 406 kilometers (252 miles) have been completed, of those 44 kilometers (27 miles) in the pasts five months, Shearer said.
Some 50,000 Palestinians find themselves on the wrong side of the barrier, meaning they are separated from the rest of the West Bank, Shearer said.
"We are seeing a continuing closing down, locking down of Palestinian areas," he said.
Capt. Adam Avidan, spokesman for the military's civil administration in the West Bank, said in a statement that Israel tries "as much as possible to preserve the Palestinians' way of life and to avoid hurting innocent civilians in its war against terrorism."
The tightened travel restrictions come at a time of continued deadlock - both in efforts to restart an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and a bid by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to form a more a pragmatic government that is acceptable to the international community.
The Hamas-led Palestinian Authority has reiterated in recent days that it will not recognize Israel or renounce violence - key conditions for the lifting of an international aid boycott.