The So-called “Lifting of the Siege”

The So-called “Lifting of the Siege”



On 12th March 2001, less than a week into the new government, Prime Minister Sharon seemed to be feeling the weight of public pressure following the international attention the Ramallah siege received over the previous few days. It appears that the tightening of the closure around Ramallah was part of a larger army operation code-named 'bronze' which sets out plans for dividing the territories into 64 areas that can be cut off and separated from each other when violence or protests flare up. However, the moves gathered international and local media criticism. Seemingly in response to this attention Prime Minister Sharon stated his disagreement with collective punishment. The defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer announced the lifting of the blockades of Bethlehem, Hebron, Tulkarem and Qalqilya.

The next morning, 13th March, in Bethlehem, fieldworkers found little evidence of these words having any affect on the ground. One small gap has been opened in one of the blockades at the Al Khadr entrance to Bethlehem and one blockade partly cleared in Beit Jala; see photo. However, this gap is only large enough to allow one car to pass, leading to long tailbacks. The rest of the blockades on other roads leading to Bethlehem remain firmly in place; see photo. The service taxis taking people between Bethlehem and Hebron wait for customers who must walk 50 meters and climb two mounds that totally block the road; see photo



The Israeli army claims that the siege is being lifted gradually. But soldiers only a few hundred meters away from two large blockades with equipment suitable for breaking down blockades were using them for bulldozing a new road by an army lookout post instead; see photo . Similar equipment was in use on 6th March making a security road near the main blockade in Al Khadr; see photo.




On 13th March, when the blockade had supposedly been lifted, cars at the Bethlehem-Jerusalem checkpoint were repeatedly prevented from passing. Trucks carrying food and livestock were still being turned away from Bethlehem. When a couple of holes are made in the numerous blockades around the city see map, the Israeli army claims to have lifted the siege, despite most roads remaining blocked. For Palestinians to have freedom of travel again, the inhumane blockades need to be completely removed and the soldiers withdrawn from around the cities.



Prepared by:
The Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem

Categories: Closure