Curfews and Closure

Israeli soldiers in full combat gear running through an empty Palestinian city.
Israeli soldiers enforce a curfew, keeping all Palestinian residents in their homes. Israeli settlers, who have taken over part of the city, are not affected by the curfew. BBC

In the name of Israeli security, Israel often puts entire cities or regions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip under 24-hour ‘curfew’ for days, weeks, or even months at a time. Human rights organizations charge that this policy amounts to collective punishment and infringes on the Palestinian people's rights to work, education, and medical care.

During curfew, the Israeli military does sometimes allow people a few hours to obtain food and other essentials, but these respites are short, sometimes canceled without notice, and often end when curfew is suddenly re-imposed with force.

Countless Palestinians have been injured or killed when they – sometimes unknowingly – violated curfew.

A September 2003 Amnesty International Report documents how excessive force is used to impose curfew:

“To enforce closures and curfews, Israeli soldiers routinely fire live ammunition, throw tear gas or sound bombs, beat and detain people, and confiscate vehicles and documents (IDs). Ordinary activities, such as going to work or to school, taking a baby for immunization, attending a funeral or a wedding, expose women and men, young and old, to such risks.”

Perhaps the most devastating effect of curfews is their impact, along with checkpoints and closures, on the Palestinian economy. The Amnesty report continues:

“Closures and curfews have prevented Palestinians from reaching their places of work and from distributing their products to internal and external markets, and have caused shortages. Factories and farms have been driven out of business... As a result, unemployment has soared to over 50% and more than half of the Palestinian population is now living below the poverty line. With the sharp decline in the standard of living in the Occupied Territories, malnutrition and other illnesses have increased. Closures and curfews have prevented Palestinian children and youths from attending classes for prolonged periods, violating their right to education and undermining their future professional prospects.”

At times of prolonged curfew, Palestinians try to keep their lives moving forward and functioning as normally as possible. For example, they have created “Popular Schools,” where students and teachers meet wherever possible to prevent young people from falling behind in their studies.

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Additional Resources

PCHR Fact Sheet – The Illegal Closure of the Gaza Strip

B’Tselem Report – Restrictions on Movement

World Bank – 27 Months of Intifada, Closures, and Palestinian Economic Crisis

Amnesty International – Surviving Under Siege

Palestine Monitor – Curfews and Checkpoints

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