An Israel Defense Forces checkpoint, usually called an Israeli checkpoint (Hebrew: מחסום, machsom, Arabic: حاجز, hajez), is a barrier erected by the Israel Defense Forces with the stated aim of enhancing the security of Israel and Israeli settlements and preventing those who wish to do harm from crossing.
IDF checkpoints may be staffed by the Israeli Military Police, the Israel Border Police, or other soldiers.
Number of checkpoints
Since the 1990s, Israel has created hundreds of permanent roadblocks and checkpoints staffed by Israeli Military or border police.
In September 2011, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said there were 522 roadblocks and checkpoints obstructing Palestinian movement in the West Bank, up from 503 in July 2010. That number does not include the temporary checkpoints known as “flying checkpoints,” of which there were 495 on average per month in the West Bank in 2011, up from 351 on average per month in the previous two years.
According to B’Tselem, there were 99 fixed checkpoints in the West Bank in September 2013, in addition to the 174 surprise flying checkpoints. In August 2013, 288 flying checkpoints were counted.
However, according to the Israel Defense Forces, after withdrawing the majority of checkpoints as a goodwill gesture, in May 2013 there were 13 checkpoints in the West Bank. This figure does not include the numerous road blocks that prevent Palestinians from crossing the wall, which in many cases blocks access to areas within the West Bank.
Many Palestinian residents of the West Bank, claim that despite the checkpoints’ intended use, in practice they violate Palestinians’ rights to transportation and other human rights. As a matter of fact, soldiers manning checkpoints abuse and humiliate Palestinians.
Hundreds of Israeli women have monitored the checkpoints as part of Machsom (Checkpoint) Watch. The organization circulated daily reports on the checkpoints and published a book of testimonies that co-founder and author Yehudit Kirstein-Keshet says demonstrates “Israel’s imprisonment of an entire population in a web of closures and checkpoints.” Kirstein-Keshet also reports, “We Watchers … have witnessed the daily humiliation and abuse, the despair and impotence of Palestinians at checkpoints.” The United Nations, in its February 2009 Humanitarian Monitor report, has stated that it is becoming “apparent” that the checkpoint and obstacles, which Israeli authorities justified from the beginning of the second Intifada (September 2000) as a temporary military response to violent confrontations and attacks on Israeli civilians, is evolving into “a more permanent system of control” that is steadily reducing the space available for Palestinian growth and movement for the benefit of the increasing Israeli settler population.
In 2008, an Israeli soldier in command of a checkpoint outside Nablus was relieved from duty and imprisoned for two weeks after he refused to allow a Palestinian woman in labour to pass through. The woman was forced to give birth at the check point and the baby was stillborn. Between 2000 and 2006 at least 68 women gave birth at checkpoints of whom 35 miscarried and five died in childbirth, according to the Palestinian health ministry.