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AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images

Short Take

Total Closure Days (vs. General Closure)

Snapshot

A quick overview of the history and experience of “total closure days” for Palestinians who carry Palestinian Authority IDs

Total closure days ” are days on which Palestinians with Palestinian Authority IDs are not allowed to enter Israel or East Jerusalem at all, even if they have valid Israeli entry permits. With the establishment of a detailed permit regime, especially after the Second Intifada,1 total closure days became more common.”

The Israeli army typically announces the total closure of the West Bank and Gaza2  on major Jewish holidays like Passover (which usually occurs in March or April) and Yom Kippur (which usually falls in September or October) or on the occasion of an Israeli national event such as Election Day or Independence Day.3  For instance, during the Purim holiday in 2017, an extended 11-day closure was imposed on the occupied West Bank and Gaza.4 During the Passover holiday in April 2019, the Israeli army imposed a nine-day closure.5  A total closure was announced twice in one year on the occasion of Israeli elections (April 7 and September 17, 2019).6  As well, the army might declare a total closure on the West Bank when there are high alerts of possible “attacks.” For instance, the Israeli military imposed closure from July 19 to 22, 2006, as a result of high alerts for attacks or kidnapping Israeli soldiers.7 This closure took place less than one month after the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on June 25.8

Total closure can last from several hours to several days .

Backgrounder Jerusalem: A Closed City

Closure, a “temporary” measure introduced in 1991, is the system that controls Palestinians’ movement and blocks millions from accessing Jerusalem.

Total closure can last from several hours to several days.

On total closure days, the only Palestinians who can pass through the checkpoints from the West Bank into Jerusalem or Israel are those who are citizens of Israel or who hold Jerusalem IDs. This also means that the nearly 150,000 Palestinian laborers (from the West Bank)9 who have entry permits for work purposes cannot get through the checkpoints on these days. The army argues that exceptions are made for humanitarian, medical, and other outstanding cases, but this requires the approval of the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) (see Jerusalem: A Closed City).

While total closure days usually coincide with major Jewish holidays, total closure is also sometimes imposed on other minor occasions. In 2016, for example, the army imposed total closure on the oPT on the Jewish holiday Purim, with the justification that it was “designed to reduce the friction between Palestinians and Israelis.”10

In recent years (since 2016), the number of total closure days in a given year has been between 15 and 32 (see Table 1). However, in the years of the Second Intifada, the number would exceed 100 per year. For example, in the last year of the intifada, 2005, there were 132 total closure days. In the following year, 2006, there were 122. But in 2007, there were 34 total closure days.11

Table 1 details the gradual increase in the number of days of total closure over time.

Writing in 1999, the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem noted that total closure “constitutes collective punishment, which is prohibited under international law.”12

Total closure “constitutes collective punishment, which is prohibited under international law.”

B'Tselem (an Israeli human rights organization)

On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the holiest of Jewish holidays, the Israeli border police closed off the road between the Israeli settlements and the Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem, September 26, 2012.

Credit: 

© Mahfouz Abu Turk/APA Images/ZUMAPRESS.com (via Alamy Stock Photo)

Number of closure days imposed on the West Bank since 1988*

Year

Closure days

1988 7
1989 5
1990 6
1991 41
1992 NA (but the number for Gaza was 37)
1993 8 (before signing: 5, after signing: 3)
1994 59 (Gaza: 69, WB: 59)
1995 66 (Gaza: 69, WB: 66)
1996 108 (Gaza: 108, WB: 108)
1997 78 (Gaza: 63, WB: 78)
1998 NA
1999 NA
2000 73
2001 244
2002 At least 77
2003 178
2004 163
2005 132
2006 122
2007 34
2008 52
2009 55
2010 44
2011 31
2012 11
2013 7
2014 29
2015 2
2016 16
2017 32
2018 27
2019 13 (until June)

Source: Carmi, Oslo, 20–21, [for years 1988–99]; “Closure” [for years 2000–2019].
* Figures reported by B’Tselem but in the year prior to 1998, compiled by the Coordinator of Government Operations in the Occupied Territories and the Palestinian Authority. B’Tselem only began keeping its own records in September 1998. These numbers relied on Palestinian Authority official statistics that are no longer available and so could not be verified.

Notes

1

Closure,” B’Tselem, January 1, 2017.

2

Although Israel “withdrew” from the Gaza Strip in 2005, it still solely controls all entry and exit to the area, its airspace, and its coastal waters. Therefore, Israel closes Gaza at will when it sees fit. See, for example, Hagar Shezaf, “As Every Jewish Holiday, Israel Imposes Closure on Palestinians in the West Bank for Purim,” Haaretz, February 25, 2021. Shezaf notes: “Every year, the Israel Defense Forces imposes a general closure on the West and Gaza Strip for the Jewish High Holidays, Purim, Passover—as well as Election Day. During the closure, Palestinians are unable to pass through checkpoints from the West Bank of Gaza Strip into Israel, even if they hold permits to enter Israel.”

3
5
6

Judah Ari Gross, “Army to Impose Election Day Closure on West Bank, Gaza,” The Times of Israel, April 7, 2019; Yoav Zitun, “IDF to Impose Closure on West Bank, Gaza on Election Day,” Ynet News, September 16, 2019.

7

 Efrat Weiss, “Due to Alerts: General Closure on the Territories” [in Hebrew], Ynet News, July 19, 2006.

9

Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), Labor Force Survey: The Third Quarter of 2019 [in Arabic], State of Palestine, November 17, 2019. According to the PCBS, by the end of September 2019, there were 141,000 Palestinian laborers from the West Bank working in the Israeli economy (the term Israeli economy here includes Israel proper plus the settlements in the West Bank). Of those 141,000, 72 percent hold Israeli permits—i.e., around 101,520 people.

11

 “Figures on Comprehensive Closure Days,” B’Tselem, last modified November 13, 2019.

12

Na’ama Carmi, Oslo: Before and After: The Status of Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (Jerusalem: B’Tselem, May 1999), 19.

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