The Palestine Monitor
Palestinians fear for their safety in upcoming days; demand guarantees from
19 March 2003
As a US attack on Iraq draws ever closer, Palestinians in the West Bank and
Gaza Strip are feeling increasingly vulnerable and unprotected, according to
Palestinian civil society organizations.
Fears stem mainly from the knowledge that Israel is likely to impose a
complete lock-down, or curfew, on the Occupied Palestinian Territories –
forcing millions of residents to stay in their homes 24 hours a day for
days – perhaps weeks -- on end. Furthermore, Palestinians point out that
while Israel is ensuring that its own citizens are provided with gas masks
and other equipment in the event of an attack on the region, no such
provisions have been made for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories – in
contravention of Israel’s clear obligations under the Geneva Conventions.
During the last US attack on Iraq in 1991, Israel imposed a 24-hour curfew
on the OPT for six weeks – leading to a collapse of the Palestinian economy
and a medical crisis, including an outbreak of measles.
Residents fear that the impact of such a curfew right now would be
devastating on a population already weakened by months of killings, closures
and curfews imposed by the Israeli army.
Access to medical care, education and other social services would be
practically impossible in such a scenario – leaving cancer patients unable
to access treatment, children unable to receive vaccinations, heart attack
victims unable to get to a doctor, women unable to receive pre-natal care or
give birth in a hospital, and kidney patients unable to receive dialysis
According to recent figures published by Johns Hopkins University, 30% of
Palestinian children are already suffering from chronic malnutrition, while
46% of cancer patients needing treatment are unable to access such treatment
and 42% of people needing dialysis or emergency care are unable to access
Appealing to the international community, Palestinian civil society
organizations demanded guarantees that Israel will not escalate attacks on
the civilian population or impose a curfew on the Occupied Palestinian
Territories in the context of a war against Iraq, saying that any such
curfew would not increase security but amount to a collective punishment of
the Palestinian people.
Palestinians also demanded guarantees that medical teams and mobile clinics
would be allowed free access to all areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.