Center for the Defence of the Individual - Freedom of movement for settlers only: HCJ approves roadblock that severs two parts of the village of Shufah because of settlement access road
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חזרה לעמוד הקודם

Freedom of movement for settlers only: HCJ approves roadblock that severs two parts of the village of Shufah because of settlement access road

The village of Shufah in Tulkarm District is home to roughly 2600 residents. It has two parts, one to the south-east and one to the north-west, known as Izbat Shufah, with a short road connecting them. This connecting road intersects with the road leading into the Avne Hefetz settlement. Many families in the village have members living in both parts.

A few years ago, the army blocked off the road connecting the two parts of the village with two permanent dirt mounds, effectively making it a Jews-only road, used exclusively by residents of Avne Hefetz and soldiers from the nearby base. As a result of the blockage, the drive between the two parts, of the village, once a 1 kilometer trip, turned into to a 25 kilometer trip. The blockage also extended the drive from Shufah to its nearest urban center, Tulkarm, on which it relies for higher education, schools, hospitals and public institutions, from 7 kilometers to 21 kilometers. The army set up a third roadblock at the village’s north western exit, leading to the village farmland, and to another village, al-Labad, where the oil press serving the area is located.

In August 2010, HaMoked petitioned the HCJ on behalf of Shufah’s residents to instruct the army to remove the three roadblocks and the metal gate installed at the entrance to the village, given the severe, unreasonable and disproportionate impingement on the rights of the residents to family life, freedom of movement, education, health, property and life.

The state argued in response that the petition should be dismissed out of hand as the roadblock had been installed for security reasons, and the residents were provided with an alternative – crossing at another checkpoint. The state also announced that the army had removed the third roadblock, on the way to al-Labad and that there was no intention “at the present time” to close the metal gate at the entrance to the village.

However, in early August 2011, as the parties awaited the hearing, the army removed the two roadblocks that had split the village apart, without reason or explanation, for a month. During this time, with the exception of trucks, all vehicles could travel between the two parts of the village and from the village to Tulkarm without checks or roadblocks. When the roadblocks were put up again, HaMoked asked the State Attorney’s Office why. The response was that the roadblocks “had been removed for the month of Ramadan and returned once it was over”. The State Attorney’s Office also stated that “in order to remove the blockage, an IDF unit was diverted from its routine tasks to provide security backup on the road”.

Given this response, on February 27, 2012, HaMoked submitted a notice to the court stating that the fact that the army had removed the blockage for an entire month proved that it never served security needs, but rather manpower considerations and internal military priorities.

Despite this, on February 29, 2012, the HCJ dismissed the petition without prejudice, accepting the alternative offered by the army, whereby village residents would be able to cross a military checkpoint, known as checkpoint 407, on route to Tulkarm, but the blockages on the road from Shufah to Izbat Shufah would remain in place. Under the suggested arrangement, travel through the military checkpoint was to take place according to a list of individuals who were cleared for travel. In addition to village residents, the list, which sounds like a Kafkaesque parody about life in the OPT, also includes four teacher cars, one medical practitioner car and ten registered taxis. People not registered as Shufah residents were generally left out of the list.

This judgment with its imposed arrangements did afford Shufah residents a little more freedom of movement, but still failed to fully meet their travel needs, left the roadblocks between the two parts of the village intact and legitimized restrictions on freedom of movement by circumscribing its scope with cumbersome and limited travel arrangements. As such, the justices of the Supreme Court gave their seal of approval to the continued violation of the rights of Shufah residents based on alleged security considerations the army itself does not stand behind. HaMoked recalls that according to international law, the army is a “trustee” of the OPT and as such its actions are meant to facilitate normal life there and benefit local residents. Yet the army continues, for years, to block Palestinian freedom of movement inside the West Bank and violate the rights that would make a normal life possible.

The judgment was never implemented. Shortly after it was issued, the military voluntarily removed the two roadblocks on the connecting road.

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