Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998
The Occupied Territories
(Including Areas Subject to the
Jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority)
Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and
East Jerusalem during the 1967 War. The West Bank and Gaza Strip
now are administered to varying extents by Israel and the Palestinian
Authority (PA). Pursuant to the May 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement
and the September 1995 Interim Agreement, Israel transferred most
responsibilities for civil government in the Gaza Strip and parts
of the West Bank to the PA, while retaining responsibility in
the West Bank and Gaza Strip for external security; foreign relations;
the overall security of Israelis, including public order in the
Israeli settlements; and certain other matters. Negotiations to
address the permanent status issues including Jerusalem, borders,
settlements, refugees, water, and other matters began in May 1996
but were adjourned immediately. In accordance with the Wye River
Memorandum, signed in October, the permanent status talks resumed
in November. According to the timetable set out in the 1993 Israel-Palestinian
Liberation Organization (PLO) Declaration of Principles, the interim
period is to conclude in May 1999.
In addition to most of the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area, which
were turned over to the PA in May 1994, Israel began redeploying
its forces in the West Bank and turning over major towns and villages
to the PA in late 1995. Pursuant to the Interim Agreement and
the Hebron Agreement, concluded in January 1997, Israel also redeployed
its forces in Hebron. On October 23, Israel and the Palestine
Liberation Organization (PLO) signed the Wye River Memorandum
which, among other things, called for the continuation of the
process of Israeli further redeployments from the West Bank. Israel
continues to control certain civil functions and is responsible
for all security in portions of the occupied territories categorized
as Zone C, which includes the Israeli settlements. In areas known
as Zone B, the PA has jurisdiction over civil affairs and shares
security responsibilities with Israel. The PA has control over
civil affairs and security in Zone A. The PA also has jurisdiction
over some civil affairs in Zone C. Accordingly, this report discusses
the policies and practices of both the Israeli Government and
the PA in the areas where they exercise jurisdiction and control.
Israel continues to exercise civil authority in some areas of
the West Bank through the Israeli Ministry of Defense's Office
of Coordination and Liaison, known by the Hebrew acronym MATAK,
which replaced the now defunct Civil Administration (CIVAD). The
approximately 163,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip are subject to Israeli law and are treated better
by Israeli authorities than are Palestinians. The body of law
governing Palestinians in the Israeli-controlled portions of the
territories derives from Ottoman, British Mandate, Jordanian,
and Egyptian law, and Israeli military orders. In Palestinian-controlled
areas, laws and regulations promulgated by the PA are also in
force. The international community considers Israel's authority
in the occupied territories to be subject to the Hague Regulations
of 1907 and the 1949 Geneva Convention relating to the Protection
of Civilians in Time of War. The Israeli Government considers
the Hague Regulations applicable and states that it observes the
Geneva Convention's humanitarian provisions.
In January 1996, Palestinians chose their first popularly elected
government in democratic elections, which were generally well-conducted.
The 88-member Council and the Chairman of the Executive Authority
were elected. The PA also has a Cabinet, newly appointed in August,
of 27 ministers. PA Chairman Yasir Arafat continues to dominate
the affairs of government and to make major decisions. Most senior
government positions in the PA are held by individuals who are
members of, or loyal to, Arafat's Fatah faction of the PLO. The
Council meets regularly and discusses a range of issues significant
to the Palestinian people and the development of an open, democratic
society in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Pursuant to the agreements
signed between the PLO and Israel, the PA has full or partial
control over most major Palestinian population centers in the
Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Israeli security forces in Israeli-controlled parts of the West
Bank and Gaza Strip consist of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF);
the General Security Service (GSS or Shin Bet); the Israeli National
Police (INP); and the paramilitary border police. Israeli military
courts try Palestinians accused of committing security crimes
in Israeli-controlled areas. Members of the Israeli security forces
committed human rights abuses.
The Palestinian Police Force (PPF) was established in May 1994
and includes the Palestinian Public Security Force; the Palestinian
Civil Police; the Preventive Security Force (PSF); the General
Intelligence Service, or Mukhabarat; the Palestinian Presidential
Security Force; emergency services and rescue; and the Palestinian
Coastal Police. Other quasi-military security organizations, such
as military intelligence, also exercise law enforcement powers.
Palestinian police are responsible for security and law enforcement
for Palestinians and other non-Israelis in PA-controlled areas
of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli settlers in the occupied
territories are not subject to PA security force jurisdiction.
Members of the PA security forces committed human rights abuses.
The economy of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is small, poorly developed,
and highly dependent on Israel. The economy relies on agriculture,
services, and to a lesser extent, light manufacturing. Israel
restricts the movement of persons and products into Israel and
Jerusalem from the West Bank and Gaza. In addition, since 1993
Israel has applied "closures," or enhanced restrictions,
on the movement of persons and products for lengthy periods following
terrorist attacks. Palestinians and their vehicles are required
to use permits to cross from the West Bank or Gaza into Israel
and Jerusalem. Many West Bank and Gaza workers are employed at
day jobs in Israel and Jerusalem, making their employment vulnerable
to disruption due to these closures. On occasion, Israel imposes
a tightened version of closure in the wake of terrorist incidents,
and when it believes that there is an increased likelihood of
terrorist attacks or unrest in the occupied territories. During
these times, Israel cancels all travel permits and prevents Palestinians--even
those with valid work permits--from entering Israel or Jerusalem.
It also periodically prohibits most travel between select towns
and villages within the West Bank (an "internal" closure),
hampering the flow of goods and persons. According to United Nations
economists, Israel imposed two days of tightened closure on the
West Bank and Gaza Strip in the first 6 months of the year. Israel
more frequently tightened the closures in the latter half of the
year due to security incidents or because Israeli officials were
concerned about the heightened possibility of unrest in the occupied
territories. Comprehensive closures were also instituted during
the Rosh Hashana and Succot holiday periods in September and October.
During the year, Israel began to implement a program to allow
selected Palestinian workers to enter Israel to work during "tightened
closure" conditions after renewing entry permits in a process
that lasts only a few days, rather than several days or weeks.
There were some improvements in the human rights situation in
the occupied territories, however, both Israel and the PA were
responsible for serious human rights abuses.
Israeli security forces committed a number of serious human rights
abuses during the year. During the year, nine Palestinians were
killed in violent confrontations with Israeli security units,
who at times used live ammunition against Palestinian demonstrators
and shot at demonstrators indiscriminately. For example, on May
14, the 50th anniversary of Israel's independence, Palestinian
demonstrators clashed with Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip
and West Bank. Four Palestinians in Gaza and one in the West Bank
were shot and killed by Israeli forces, who in some cases used
live ammunition and shot Palestinians in the upper body and head.
Israeli security forces abused, and in some cases tortured, Palestinians
suspected of security offenses. Human rights groups and lawyers
say that abuse and torture is widespread and that Israeli security
officials use a variety of methods designed to coerce confessions
that threaten prisoners' health and inflict extreme pain, including
the use of violent shaking. Prison conditions are poor, and Israeli
authorities arbitrarily arrest and detain persons. Prolonged detention,
limits on due process, and infringements on privacy rights remained
problems. In some cases, Palestinians were able to challenge successfully
the length of their administrative detentions and in July the
Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that judges, rather than senior
Israeli military officers, are authorized to extend a detainee's
administrative detention order. Israeli authorities placed some
limits on freedom of assembly. The Israeli Government places limits
on freedom of movement.
PA security forces committed a number of serious human rights
abuses during the year. For example, two Palestinians died in
PA custody. PA officials acknowledge that Walid Mahmoud Al-Qawasmi
died in August of wounds inflicted by PA Mukhabarat officers during
his detention. PA officials say that he was not given prompt medical
PA officials abused, and in some cases tortured, prisoners and
detainees. Due largely to the decrease in terrorist attacks during
the year, PA security forces made fewer arrests than in the past,
although there continue to be credible accounts of torture and
abuse of prisoners and detainees. PA prison conditions are very
poor. PA security forces arbitrarily arrest and detain persons.
Prolonged detention and lack of due process are problems. At year's
end, the PA held about 1,020 Palestinians in custody, including
315 in administrative detention, according to a Palestinian human
rights group. The courts are inefficient, lack staff and resources,
and do not ensure fair and expeditious trials. PA security forces
infringed on the right to privacy. Although the PA claims to respect
its citizens' right to express themselves freely, the PA limited
freedom of speech and of the press. The PA continued to harass,
detain, and abuse journalists. PA harassment has led many Palestinian
commentators, reporters, and critics to practice self-censorship.
The PA placed some limits on freedom of association. Societal
discrimination against women and the disabled is a problem.
During the year, three Palestinians died in attacks perpetrated
by Israelis while Israeli civilians, including settlers, continued
to harass, abuse, and attack Palestinians in the West Bank and
Gaza Strip. In general, settlers are not prosecuted for these
acts and rarely serve prison sentences when convicted of a crime
Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip continued to harass,
abuse, and attack Israelis, especially settlers. Extremist Palestinian
groups and individuals, including the militant Islamic Resistance
Movement (HAMAS) and the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), killed
Israeli civilians in a number of deadly attacks in the Occupied
Territories and Israel, continuing their efforts to undermine
the authority of the PA and halt progress in the Israeli-Palestinian
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
Members of the Israeli security forces killed four Palestinians
at military checkpoints and roadblocks inside the occupied territories.
In these cases, Israeli authorities stated that the individuals
were shot after failing to obey orders to halt or after Israeli
soldiers perceived that they were trying to attack the soldiers
manning the checkpoints. Palestinians dispute these accounts and
charge that Israeli soldiers used excessive and unnecessary force.
On March 10, three Palestinian workers, Jaleb Rajoub, Mohammed
Shanada Sharawne, and Adman Abu Zneid, were shot and killed by
Israeli soldiers when their van swung out of a line of traffic
and lurched forward. Soldiers said that they believed the van
driver was trying to run them over. Two other Palestinian passengers
in the van were wounded in the incident. The three Israeli paratroopers
involved in the incident initially were detained but were released
a day later. An Israeli military court investigated the incident
and decided not to charge the soldiers. The court ruled that because
they felt their lives were in danger, they behaved appropriately.
On April 6, security forces shot and killed Bilal Naji Al-Salayimah,
25, at an Israeli checkpoint in northern Jerusalem. Israeli authorities
say that he failed to obey orders to stop at the checkpoint.
Israeli security units also shot and killed several Palestinians
who they claim were involved in acts of terrorism. On March 6,
soldiers of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) shot and killed a Palestinian
who was trying to cross the Egyptian border into Gaza. Israeli
authorities claim that he was trying to infiltrate Israel, possibly
to carry out a terrorist attack. On the evening of June 9, Rafad
Mohammed Al-Bardawil, 25, was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers
outside the Morag settlement in Gaza. Israeli officials say that
Bardawil was attempting to infiltrate the settlement. On September
11, Israeli soldiers and police shot and killed Imad and Adel
Awadallah, two brothers who were members of the armed wing of
HAMAS, outside Hebron. Both men were wanted by Israeli and Palestinian
authorities for planning several terrorist attacks that resulted
in the deaths of civilians.
During the year, violent clashes between Palestinian demonstrators
and Israeli security forces resulted in 16 Palestinian deaths
and scores of wounded. IDF regulations permit the use of both
rubber-coated metal bullets and live ammunition only when a soldier's
life is in immediate danger, to halt fleeing suspects, to disperse
a violent demonstration, or to fire on an "individual unlawfully
carrying firearms." According to policy, soldiers should
direct fire at the legs only and may fire at a fleeing suspect
only if they believe that a serious felony has occurred and they
have exhausted other means to apprehend the suspect. It is forbidden
to open fire in the direction of children or women, even in cases
of severe public disorder, unless there is an immediate and obvious
danger to a soldier's life. Israeli soldiers and police sometimes
used live ammunition or rubber-coated metal bullets, which can
be lethal, in situations other than when their lives were in danger
and sometimes shot suspects in the upper body and head. During
the year, Israeli soldiers shot in the head and killed, with rubber-coated
metal bullets, three Palestinians under the age of 18.
On March 11, Samer Bassem Karameh, 12, was shot and killed by
a rubber-coated metal bullet during clashes with the IDF in Hebron
that erupted following the killing a day earlier of three Palestinian
workers by Israeli security forces near Hebron. On May 14, Israel's
independence day, 4 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and 1 in the
West Bank were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers and approximately
400 were wounded during violent clashes. One of the Palestinians
killed during clashes in Gaza was a nurse who was shot while in
a clearly marked ambulance. Palestinian officials charged that
the IDF use of force was excessive, especially with regard to
the use of live ammunition, and that Israeli soldiers shot to
kill, hitting several Palestinians in the upper body and head.
Israeli officials say that Israeli soldiers in Gaza did not always
follow live-fire guidelines but they denied that soldiers deliberately
tried to kill protesters.
On August 1, Fatima Sulayman Auda Rashiydeh, age 60, died from
wounds suffered during a clash between Israeli soldiers and Arab
Bedouin demonstrators on July 15, according to Palestinian human
rights monitors. Her wounds included broken bones, contusions,
and bruises from being beaten and hit by an army jeep. The demonstrators
were protesting Israeli attempts to remove grazing livestock from
an area designated as a military firing range in an Israeli-controlled
area. Israeli officials said that they were unaware that she had
been injured during the demonstration or that she had died.
On September 12, Kamleh Mohammed Al-Nadher died after being shot
in the face during a clash between Palestinians and Israeli border
policemen in the Shofat refugee camp in Jerusalem. The Palestinians
were protesting the death of a Palestinian man who had suffered
a heart attack and died after the ambulance was delayed waiting
for its mandatory border police escort.
On October 8, 20-year-old Amjad Jamal Natsche, a Jordanian citizen,
was shot with a rubber bullet and died during confrontations between
Palestinians and Israeli soldiers in Hebron. Witnesses to the
shooting say that Natsche was shot while his back was turned to
Israeli soldiers during a lull in the fighting.
On October 11, Jihad Abu Rabi'a, a 13-year-old boy from the Jalazone
refugee camp near Ramallah, was shot in the head by an Israeli
border policeman during a stone-throwing altercation. Israeli
physicians have declared him clinically dead.
On December 9, Jihad Fidro 'Aiad, age 16, was shot and killed
by the IDF north of Ramallah during a demonstration. On December
11, Mohammad Sliman, age 18, and Kamal Adwan, age 21, were shot
and killed by the IDF during a demonstration in Qalqilyia. On
December 17, Mohammed Ahmed Dahoud was shot and killed by the
IDF during a demonstration near Ramallah.
Two Palestinian "security" detainees died in Israeli
custody, one from an alleged suicide attempt and the other allegedly
due to inadequate medical treatment and subsequent mistreatment
(see Section 1.c.).
PA security forces were responsible for several extrajudicial
killings. In October members of the Palestinian Military Intelligence
Organization shot 16-year-old Wasim Tarifi in the head and killed
him during a protest in Ramallah.
During the year, two Palestinians died in PA custody. At least
one of the two died after being tortured; one reportedly committed
suicide (see Section 1.c.). On August 9, Walid Marmoub Al-Qawasmi,
a 50-year-old resident of Hebron, died in the General Intelligence
Organization prison in Jericho. PA officials say that he died
from suffocation brought on by swelling of the brain as a result
of a head injury that was inflicted during his detention, and
PA officials say that he was not given prompt medical attention.
In August the PA began an investigation into Qawasmi's death but
it has not revealed the results of its probe.
On August 30, two Gazans, Kamal Abu Sultan and Ra'id Kamal Abu
Sultan, were executed by firing squad after PA leader Arafat approved
the execution. They had been convicted by a Palestinian security
court and sentenced to death for murdering two men in the course
of a personal dispute; however, the arrests, trial, and executions
followed each other in rapid succession within 3 days, raising
concerns that the defendants were not accorded due process. Human
rights organizations criticized the executions and charged that
the PA did not provide the defendants access to independent legal
counsel before or during the trial in the PA's controversial Special
Two Palestinians, suspected among other things of selling land
to Jews, were killed in the West Bank under suspicious circumstances.
In 1997 PA Justice Minister Freih Abu Middein announced that the
death penalty would be imposed on anyone convicted of ceding "one
inch" of land to Israel. A Palestinian land ownership law
that was passed by the Palestinian Council and is awaiting Arafat's
approval forbids Palestinians from brokering or facilitating the
sale of Palestinian land to non-Palestinians and provides that
such activities be considered "high treason." The PA
has arrested and continues to hold several suspected land dealers
for violating the Jordanian law in force in the West Bank that
prohibits the sale of land to foreigners.
On April 6, Mohammed Anqawi, age 50, was found shot to death near
Ramallah. Anqawi was suspected of selling land to Jews and collaborating
with Israel, and family members say that he had been summoned
to Palestinian intelligence headquarters in Ramallah immediately
prior to his death. The Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group
accused the PA of murdering Anqawi. On April 7, Riboi Musfi Awad
was found dead in an Israeli-controlled area near Ramallah. Awad,
who was reputed to be a collaborator, had been shot in the head.
Palestinians say that he had been summoned to Palestinian police
offices to discuss allegations that he sold land to Jews. Palestinian
authorities say that because the body was found in an Israeli-controlled
area, they did not investigate the death.
During the year, Israeli civilians in the West Bank and Jerusalem
killed eight Palestinians. On May 6, Ahmed Alan Musa was shot
and killed by a settler after Musa stabbed him.
On May 13, Heiri Alqem, age 51, was stabbed to death by an unidentified
"serial stabber" in West Jerusalem. In October Israeli
police arrested a 32-year-old Israeli man affiliated with Israeli
extremist groups for a series of stabbings in Jerusalem in which
Alqem was killed and six others were injured. Israeli police officials
released the suspect, saying that there was insufficient evidence
to hold him. Later that day, 44-year-old Halil Ibrahim, a homeless
Palestinian Bedouin, was stabbed and killed in Jerusalem. Police
were investigating the killing. On December 2, Usama Musa Natshe,
41, from the Abu Tor neighborhood in Jerusalem, was stabbed to
death outside his home. Jerusalem police continue to investigate
On June 17 near Hebron, Israeli teenagers from a center for delinquent
children hit Abd Al-Majid Abu Turki, age 45, on the back of the
head with a plank from a moving vehicle and killed him. The Jerusalem
district court convicted one teenager of manslaughter and a second
of causing death through negligence.
On September 17, Iyad Qarafish, age 16, was shot and killed during
a stone-throwing altercation with an Israeli settler near Ramallah.
An Israeli settler turned himself in after the shooting and, upon
the orders of an Israeli court, he was held for 2 days and then
released to house arrest because the court did not believe that
the settler had fired the shot that killed the boy. The court
prohibited him from entering the West Bank for a week. Israeli
authorities are investigating and have not charged anyone formally
with the shooting.
On October 26, Muhammad Suliman Az-Zalmut, age 70, was killed
near the northern West Bank settlement of Itamar. An Israeli court
charged an Israeli citizen, Gur Hamel, with his murder. On December
7, an Israeli shot and killed Naser Erekat during disturbances
in Abu Dis, near Jerusalem.
In April a 28-year-old American-Israeli citizen was shot and killed
near Hebron during an altercation with Palestinians who contended
that he was using their land illegally. The circumstances of the
shooting are unclear and there is conflicting information about
who shot and killed him.
During the year, 9 Israelis were killed and over 100 were wounded
in terrorist attacks carried out by Palestinian groups or individuals
seeking to halt the Middle East peace process.
Yael Miver, age 25, was killed by a Palestinian in a drive-by
shooting in the West Bank in January. On May 6, a Yeshiva student
was stabbed to death in Jerusalem's old city while on his way
to pray at the Western Wall. Two Israeli settlers were shot and
killed near the Yitzhar settlement near Nablus on August 5. In
November, the PA arrested three members of the HAMAS military
wing who confessed to the killings.
In mid-August, an elderly rabbi was stabbed and killed by a Palestinian
in Hebron. Israeli authorities arrested the accused attacker,
who claimed to be a member of HAMAS, after he wounded 54 Israelis
in a grenade attack on a bus station in the Israeli city of Beersheba
in October. On October 13, Palestinians killed one Israeli youth
and wounded another at a bathing site near Jerusalem. On October
26, a 29-year-old Israeli security guard was shot and killed in
On October 29, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed one Israeli
soldier and wounded several other Israelis, including school children
who were slightly injured, in a bomb attack on a school bus in
the Gaza Strip. On November 6, two Palestinians died in a suicide
bombing in Jerusalem that wounded over one dozen Israelis.
Two Palestinians who disappeared under suspicious circumstances
in 1997 remained unaccounted for in 1998. Shafiq Abdul Wahhab,
a suspected land dealer, disappeared in 1997 and his whereabouts
remain unknown. The PA, which established a committee in 1997
to investigate his disappearance, has failed to locate him. Taysir
Hmiadan Ziyadi, a Palestinian who married an Israeli woman in
1992 and received an Israeli identification card in 1996, disappeared
in July 1997 during a trip to the Gaza Strip. His whereabouts
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or
Israeli security forces abuse, and in some cases torture, Palestinians
suspected of security offenses. There continue to be a high number
of complaints of mistreatment and torture during interrogation,
especially from Palestinians suspected of belonging to Islamic
groups. Interrogation sessions are long and severe, and solitary
confinement is used frequently for long periods. The GSS systematically
uses interrogation methods that do not result in detectable traces
of mistreatment of the victims, or which leave marks that disappear
after a short period of time. Common interrogation practices include
hooding; forced standing or squatting for long periods of time;
prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures; tying or chaining
the detainee in contorted and painful positions; blows and beatings
with fists, sticks, and other instruments; confinement in small
and often filthy spaces; sleep and food deprivation; and threats
against the detainee's life or family. Israeli interrogators continued
to subject prisoners to violent "shaking," which in
at least one past case resulted in death. In 1997 B'tzelem, a
respected Israeli human rights group, found that a large percentage
of Palestinian detainees whom it surveyed had been tortured while
in Israeli detention.
In 1987 the Israeli government-appointed Landau Judicial Commission
condemned torture but allowed for the use of "moderate physical
and psychological pressure" to secure confessions and obtain
information. In addition, although the Israeli Penal Code prohibits
the use of force or violence by a public official to obtain information,
the GSS chief is permitted by law to allow interrogators to employ
"special measures" that exceed the use of "moderate
physical and psychological pressure" when it is deemed necessary
to obtain information that could potentially save Israeli lives
in certain "ticking bomb" cases. The GSS first permitted
interrogators "greater flexibility" in applying the
guidelines shortly after a bus bombing in Tel Aviv in October
1994 that killed 22 Israelis. The Government has not defined the
meaning of "greater flexibility" or what might constitute
a "ticking bomb" case. At roughly quarterly intervals,
the Government has approved the continued use of "special
measures." In November Israel's ministerial committee on
GSS interrogations reauthorized the use of "special measures,"
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) declared in
1992 that such practices violate the Geneva Convention. Human
rights groups and attorneys challenged the use of "special
measures," especially shaking, before the Israeli High Court
a number of times during the year. In each case, the court either
rejected the petition or ruled in favor of the GSS.
Israeli authorities investigate allegations of torture; however,
the Government generally does not make public the results of such
Most convictions in security cases before Israeli courts are based
on confessions. A detainee may not have contact with a lawyer
until after interrogation, a process that may last days or weeks.
The Government does not allow ICRC representatives access to detainees
until the 14th day of detention. This prolonged incommunicado
detention contributes to the likelihood of abuse. Detainees sometimes
claim in court that their confessions are coerced, but judges
rarely exclude such confessions. It is likely that some Palestinian
detainees fail to make complaints either from fear of retribution
or because they assume that such complaints would be ignored.
Of the approximately 100 complaints filed during the year, there
were no known cases in which a confession was disqualified because
of improper means of investigation or interrogation.
Israeli authorities also frequently treat Palestinians in an abusive
manner at checkpoints. An Israeli military court ruled in September
that Israeli soldiers manning a checkpoint in Hebron exercised
poor judgment by refusing to allow a sick Palestinian infant and
the infant's parents to pass through the checkpoint to receive
medical care in a timely fashion, contributing in part to the
infant's death. Israeli soldiers shot and killed four Palestinians
at checkpoints (see Section 1.a.). In September an Israeli police
inspector in Hebron was fired after being filmed beating and kicking
a Palestinian cameraman during disturbances in Hebron. In October
three border policemen were arrested and charged with shooting
at a van carrying Palestinian workers near Hebron and injuring
three of them. They also were charged with obstructing justice
because they allegedly destroyed evidence and tried to cover up
the incident. Israeli security forces assigned to checkpoints
also often act capriciously in honoring permits and travel passes
held by Palestinians.
On March 3, before demolishing a Palestinian home due to lack
of a building permit, Israeli soldiers tied the hands of the homeowners
and their children, dragged them through rocks and dirt, and stuffed
them into the backs of jeeps with their feet.
In April the Jerusalem district court sentenced three border policemen
to hard labor for assaulting two Palestinians near Bethlehem in
August 1997, and dragging one of them behind their jeep. In his
ruling, the judge said that the incident was not an isolated one.
PA security forces abused, and sometimes tortured, Palestinian
detainees. Such abuse generally took place after arrest and during
interrogation. The PA does not prohibit by law the use of force
or torture against detainees. In 1995 the Gaza Civil Police commander
issued to police officers in the West Bank and Gaza a directive
forbidding torture during interrogation and directing the security
forces to observe the rights of all detainees. However, the directive
does not have the force of law; Palestinian security officers
have not been issued formal guidelines on the proper conduct of
PA security officials abuse prisoners by hooding, beating, tying
in painful positions, depriving of sleep and food, threatening,
and burning detainees with cigarettes and hot instruments. Palestinians
also alleged that they had been violently shaken while in PA custody.
International human rights monitoring groups have documented widespread
arbitrary and abusive conduct by the PA. Human rights groups say
that Palestinian prisoners frequently are tortured. Human rights
workers say that many prisoners suspected of ties to the radical
Islamic group HAMAS were abused in the aftermath of the killing
of a HAMAS terrorist leader in an explosion in March.
In March the Ramallah district court ruled that nine Palestinians
who had been arrested by the PA's Military Intelligence Organization
in 1996 for allegedly killing seven other Palestinians should
be released because their confessions were obtained illegally
and under torture. The defendants' attorney said that the nine
were denied legal counsel for 4 months and were beaten, burned
with hot water, tied in painful positions, and sexually assaulted.
During the year, two Palestinians died in PA custody, one after
being tortured (see Section l.a.). In comparison, in 1997 two
of the seven Palestinians who died in PA custody also were tortured.
Despite its promises to do so, the PA has failed to publicize
the results of its investigations or release the findings of its
investigations to diplomats or human rights organizations.
In August members of the Preventive Security Force beat journalists
and members of the Palestinian Council in Al-Bireh who were protesting
the PSF's confinement to their home of the family of Imad Awadallah,
a HAMAS terrorist who had earlier escaped from the PSF's custody,
and later was killed by the IDF (see Section 2.a.).
Israeli settlers harass and threaten Palestinians in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip. In August Israeli police detained three teenage
youths from the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba for harassing
Palestinians, including allegedly setting fire to Palestinian
fields and cars. In September settlers in Hebron ransacked the
Palestinian marketplace and threatened Palestinians after an attack
that wounded 24 Israelis. In general settlers are not prosecuted
for these crimes and rarely serve prison sentences even when convicted
of a crime.
Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip continued to harass,
abuse, and attack Israelis, especially settlers. During the year,
members of extremist Palestinian groups killed and wounded several
Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. There were periodic
reports of Israeli cars being stoned by Palestinians in the West
Bank and Gaza and several reports that Palestinians shot at Israeli
Prison conditions in Israeli facilities are poor. Facilities are
overcrowded, sanitation is poor, and medical care is inadequate.
Palestinian inmates held strikes and protests in support of a
number of causes and to protest prison conditions throughout the
year. Palestinians in Israeli prisons also held several strikes
to protest detention without trial, limits on visits by family
members or lawyers, and abuse by prison officials. In some Israeli
prisons, authorities now allow Palestinian prisoners to shower
every day, whereas in the past they were only allowed to bathe
once every several days.
Two Palestinian prisoners died in custody during the year. On
June 22, Youssef Diyan Al-Arir, age 60, died in Israeli custody
after undergoing heart surgery. His family claims that his heart
condition was not treated promptly and that he was mistreated
after his surgery. Israeli prison officials claim he died due
to complications from his surgery. Israeli authorities say that
they are investigating his death. Ahmed Asfour, age 23, died in
Beersheba prison on October 4. Israeli prison authorities say
that Asfour, who had been detained for 10 months for entering
Israel without a permit, died from wounds that were self-inflicted
during an attempted suicide.
Israel permits independent monitoring of prison conditions, although
human rights groups and diplomats sometimes encounter difficulties
gaining access to specific detainees.
Prison conditions in PA facilities are very poor, although conditions
in some PA prisons appear to be improving. The Palestinian Independent
Commission for Citizen's Rights claimed that conditions in central
prisons have improved greatly, but that conditions worsened in
other detention centers. In many cases, facilities are overcrowded
and dilapidated. Food and clothing for prisoners is inadequate
and must be supplemented by donations from families and humanitarian
groups. Palestinian inmates held periodic strikes and protests
throughout the year in support of a number of causes and to protest
prison conditions and the practice of administrative detention.
Ghassan Al-Adassi, a Palestinian arrested by the Palestinian Preventive
Security Force for allegedly participating in the killing of a
HAMAS terrorist leader in late March, was prevented from meeting
with his lawyer for several months.
Two Palestinians died in PA custody. One died after being tortured
(see Section 1.a.). On February 2, Nazir Hasan Al-Harub died while
incarcerated at the Palestinian police station in the West Bank
town of Dura. Palestinian Authority officials say that Harub,
who was found hanging in his cell after his arrest, committed
suicide. The circumstances of his death are unclear, and the PA
failed to publicize the results of its investigation into Harub's
death, despite its assurances that it would do so.
The PA permits independent monitoring of its prisons, although
human rights groups and lawyers encountered difficulties arranging
visits or gaining access to specific detainees. Pursuant to an
agreement signed in September 1996, the ICRC conducts prison visits
but can be denied access to a detainee for 14 days. If abuses
occur, they frequently happen during this 2-week period.
PA security officials in the West Bank appointed an officer to
act as a liaison with human rights groups. It is unclear what
degree of contact the officer has had with the human rights community
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Israeli authorities arbitrarily arrest and detain persons. Any
Israeli policeman or border guard may arrest without warrant a
person who has committed, or is suspected of having committed,
a criminal or security offense in the occupied territories, except
for areas under exclusive PA control.
Israeli soldiers also may arrest without warrant Palestinians
and hold them for questioning for the same reasons. Most of these
arbitrary arrests and detentions are for alleged security offenses.
Persons arrested for common crimes usually are provided with a
statement of charges and access to an attorney and may apply for
bail. However, these procedures sometimes are delayed.
Israeli authorities issue special summonses for security offenses.
Israeli military order 1369 stipulates a 7-year prison term for
anyone who does not respond to a special summons delivered to
a family member or posted in the MATAK office nearest the suspect's
home address. Bail rarely is available to those arrested for security
offenses. Although Israeli law does not allow Israelis between
the ages of 13 and 16 to be tried as adults, Israeli courts treat
Palestinians over the age of 12 as adults. Human rights groups
estimate that nearly 40 Palestinian minors are in Israeli jails.
Israeli authorities may hold persons in custody without a warrant
for 96 hours; they must be released unless a warrant is issued.
Prearraignment detention can last up to 11 days for Palestinians
arrested in the occupied territories and up to 8 days for minors
and those accused of less serious offenses. Authorities must obtain
a court order for longer administrative detentions--up to 6 months
from the date of arrest. At hearings to extend detention for interrogation
purposes, detainees are entitled to be represented by counsel,
although the defense attorney often is not allowed to see or hear
the evidence against his client. Detainees either are released
at the end of the court-ordered detention or sent to administrative
detention if they are not indicted. If there is an indictment,
a judge may order indefinite detention until the end of the trial.
Israeli regulations permit detainees to be held in isolation during
interrogation. Detainees have the right to appeal continued detention.
Although a detainee generally has the right to consult with a
lawyer as soon as possible, in security cases authorities may
delay access to counsel for up to 15 days. Higher-ranking officials
or judges may extend this period. Access to counsel is denied
routinely while a suspect is being interrogated, which sometimes
can last several weeks. Authorities must inform detainees of their
right to an attorney and whether there are any orders prohibiting
A number of factors hamper contacts by Palestinians in Israeli
prison and detention facilities with their lawyers, families,
and human rights organizations. Israel's policy of transferring
detainees from the occupied territories to prisons in Israel makes
visits of lawyers and family members difficult, and in some cases,
impossible. Israeli authorities have been known to schedule appointments
between attorneys and their detained clients, only to move the
clients to another prison prior to the meetings. Authorities reportedly
use such tactics to delay lawyer-client meetings for as long as
90 days. Palestinian lawyers also have trouble traveling to see
their clients during Israeli-imposed closures. Israel requires
Palestinian attorneys to acquire permits to enter Israel to see
their clients held in prisons there. Human rights groups say that
Palestinian lawyers from the Gaza Strip have a harder time obtaining
these permits than their West Bank counterparts and that they
are more frequently denied entry into Israel than West Bank lawyers.
Relatives of Palestinian prisoners also complain that sometimes
they only learn that visitation rights are canceled when they
arrive at the prison following a trip of many hours from the occupied
Family access to Palestinian prisoners improved slightly during
the year. Nevertheless, male family members between 16 and 40
years of age, and any family members with security records, are
still barred from visiting relatives in facilities in Israel.
Due to travel restrictions, the ICRC temporarily suspended its
family visits program to detainees in Israeli prisons several
times during the year.
Israeli authorities claim that they attempt to post notification
of arrest within 48 hours. Nevertheless, Palestinian suspects
often are kept incommunicado for longer than 48 hours. Even if
an arrest becomes known, it is often difficult to get information
on where a detainee is being held or whether he has access to
an attorney. Palestinians generally locate detained family members
through their own efforts. Palestinians can check with a local
ICRC office to determine whether it has information on the whereabouts
of a family member. A senior officer may delay for up to 12 days
notification of arrest to immediate family members and attorneys.
A military commander may appeal to a judge to extend this period
in security cases for an unlimited time. In a change from past
practice, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled in July that
judges, rather than military officials, can renew administrative
detention orders beyond the initial 6-month period.
According to the Government, as of December 26, 83 Palestinians
were in administrative detention in Israel, compared with 382
at the end of 1997. Several have been held for more than one year.
Human rights organizations say that the decrease is due largely
to the fact that there were no major terrorist attacks during
the year; in the past, Israeli officials arrested hundreds of
Palestinians suspected of terrorist links after major terrorist
attacks. Many Palestinians under administrative detention during
the past 2 years have had their detention orders renewed repeatedly
without meaningful chance of appeal. However, in January Adnan
Abdallah Yusuf Dhiyab successfully challenged his administrative
detention order and was released from prison. In his ruling, the
judge said that the evidence against Dhiyab, a Palestinian who
had been held in administrative detention for over a year for
allegedly belonging to HAMAS, was not sufficient to warrant continued
detention over and above the time already served.
Evidence used at hearings for administrative detentions is secret
and unavailable to the detainee or his attorney. During hearings
to appeal detention orders, the detainee and defense lawyer are
required to leave the courtroom when secret evidence is presented.
Israeli authorities maintain that they are unable to present evidence
in open court because doing so would compromise the method of
acquiring the evidence. Detainees may appeal detention orders,
or the renewal of a detention order, before a military judge,
but their chances for success are very limited. During the year,
a handful of detainees succeeded in persuading the courts to shorten
At year's end, 1,634 Palestinian prisoners and detainees were
incarcerated in Israeli prisons, military detention centers, and
holding centers, a decrease from 3,565 in 1997. The Israeli Government
routinely transfers Palestinians arrested in Israeli-controlled
areas of the occupied territories to facilities in Israel, especially
Megiddo military detention center near Afula.
PA security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained persons.
The PA does not have a uniform law on administrative detention,
and security officials do not always adhere to the existing laws
in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Laws applicable in Gaza, which
are not observed in the West Bank, stipulate that detainees held
without charge be released within 48 hours. These laws allow the
Attorney General to extend the detention period to a maximum of
90 days during investigations. Human rights organizations and
the PA Ministry of Justice assert that PA security officials do
not always adhere to this regulation. Prevailing law in the West
Bank allows a suspect to be detained for 24 hours before being
charged. The Attorney General may extend the detention period.
Following terrorist bombings in Gaza and in Jerusalem in October
and November, respectively, the PA arrested several hundred Palestinians
suspected of involvement with terrorist groups in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip.
PA authorities generally permit prisoners to receive visits from
family members, attorneys, and human rights monitors, except for
prisoners held for alleged security offenses. PA security officials
do not always permit lawyers to see their clients. In principle
detainees may notify their families of their arrest, but this
is not always permitted.
PA security services have overlapping or unclear mandates that
often complicate the protection of human rights. Under existing
law in the West Bank, only the PA's civil police force is authorized
to make arrests. In practice all security forces are known to
detain persons at various times. The operating procedures and
regulations for the conduct of PA security personnel in the various
services still are not well developed and have not yet been made
fully available to the public.
There are many detention facilities in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip administered by the overlapping PA security services, a
situation that complicates the ability of families, lawyers, and
even the Ministry of Justice to track detainees' whereabouts.
Security services, including Preventive Security, General Intelligence,
Military Intelligence, and the Coast Guard have their own interrogation
and detention facilities. In general these services do not, or
only sporadically, inform families of a relative's arrest. Most
PA security officers remain ignorant of proper arrest, detention,
and interrogation procedures, as well as basic human rights standards.
Human rights groups continue to provide basic human rights training
to PA security services. During the year, human rights groups
provided training to representatives of all the PA security services,
including the PA Military Intelligence Service. During the year,
at least 430 PA security officials participated in human rights
courses, bringing the total number of security officials who have
graduated from human rights courses to more than 1,300 since the
PA's establishment in 1994, according to human rights groups.
The Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens Rights states
that there has been a slight, incremental improvement in the Palestinian
security services' respect for human rights.
PA security forces continued to arrest arbitrarily and detain
journalists, political activists, and human rights advocates,
who criticized the PA and its policies. In March two human rights
workers were summoned to PA police headquarters in Ramallah and
kept there incommunicado for nearly 12 hours. They were asked
to refrain from criticizing the PA's human rights practices and
were released only after the intervention of senior PA officials.
Following the signing of the Wye River Memorandum, PA security
forces in Gaza arrested and detained for 2 hours several journalists
who were trying to interview HAMAS spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmad
Yassin (see Section 2.a.). Some of the journalists' equipment,
including videotapes, was confiscated and the PA temporarily ordered
that journalists clear with the PA all moves to report on political
and security manners. Also, Palestinian police arrested some individuals
who spoke out against the agreement including Sheikh Hamid Al-Bitawi,
a prominent Islamic scholar and preacher in Nablus with suspected
ties to HAMAS, for declaring that the Wye River Memorandum was
"against Islam." Following a HAMAS suicide bombing attack
in Gaza on October 29, the PA placed HAMAS founder and spiritual
leader Sheikh Ahmed Yasin in house arrest. Yasin was released
from house arrest in late December, after spending nearly 2 months
confined to his home.
Human rights organizations estimate that the PA has held approximately
400 persons for more than a year without charge, and that the
total number of Palestinians in PA jails reached over 1,000 by
the end of the year.
Neither the Israeli Government nor the PA forcibly deported any
Palestinians from the occupied territories during the year.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Palestinians accused by Israel of security offenses in Israeli-controlled
areas of the occupied territories are tried in Israeli military
courts. Security offenses are defined broadly and may include
charges of political activity, such as membership in outlawed
organizations. Charges are brought by military prosecutors. Serious
charges are tried before three-judge panels; lesser offenses are
tried before one judge. Defendants have the right to counsel and
to appeal verdicts to the Court of Military Appeals, which may
accept appeals based on the law applied in the case, the sentence,
or both. The right of appeal does not apply in all cases and sometimes
requires court permission. The Israeli military courts rarely
acquit Palestinians of security offenses, but sentences sometimes
are reduced on appeal.
Trials sometimes are delayed for several reasons: Witnesses, including
Israeli military or police officers, do not appear; the defendant
is not brought to court; files are lost; or attorneys fail to
appear, sometimes because they have not been informed of the trial
date or because of travel restrictions on Palestinian lawyers.
These delays add pressure on defendants to plead guilty to minor
offenses; if they do, an "expedited" trial may be held,
in which a charge sheet is drawn up within 48 hours and a court
hearing scheduled within days.
By law most Israeli military trials are public, although access
is limited. Diplomats are allowed to attend military court proceedings
involving foreign citizens, but there have been delays in gaining
admission. Most convictions in military courts are based on confessions.
Evidence that is not available to the defendant or his attorney
may be used in court to convict persons of security offenses.
There is frequently no testimony provided by Palestinian witnesses
either for or against Palestinians on trial. Israeli authorities
maintain that this is due to the refusal of Palestinians to cooperate
with the authorities. Physical and psychological pressures and
reduced sentences for those who confess can induce security detainees
to sign confessions. Confessions usually are spoken in Arabic
but translated into Hebrew for the record because, authorities
maintain, many Israeli court personnel speak Arabic but few read
it. Palestinian detainees seldom read Hebrew and therefore often
sign confessions that they cannot read.
Crowded facilities and poor arrangements for attorney-client consultations
in prisons hinder legal defense efforts. Appointments to see clients
are difficult to arrange, and prison authorities often fail to
produce clients for scheduled appointments.
Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip accused of security
and ordinary criminal offenses are tried under Israeli law in
the nearest Israeli district court. Civilian judges preside, and
the standards of due process and admissibility of evidence are
governed by the laws of Israel, not military occupation decrees.
Settlers convicted in Israeli courts of crimes against Palestinians
regularly receive lighter punishment than Palestinians convicted
in Israeli courts of similar crimes against either Israelis or
The Israeli judiciary is legally independent of executive influence,
but in practice, it usually acquiesces with the government's position
in security cases.
The PA inherited a court system based on structures and legal
codes predating the 1967 Israeli occupation. In the civil court
system, cases are initially tried in courts of first instance.
There are two appeals courts, one located in Gaza City and the
other in Ramallah, which handle appeals from the lower courts.
The appeals courts also function as the Palestinian Supreme Court.
The decisions of the Supreme Court are not always respected by
the executive or enforced by the Palestinian security agencies.
In 1995 the PA established state security courts in Gaza and the
West Bank to try cases involving security issues. Three military
judges preside over each court. A senior police official heads
the state security court in Jericho, and three judges preside
over it. There is no right of appeal, but verdicts may be either
ratified or repealed by the PA Chairman, Yasir Arafat. The PA
Ministry of Justice has no jurisdiction over the state security
courts, which appear to be subordinate only to the Chairman of
the PA. Two death sentences were carried out in August. Other
Palestinians convicted by the state security courts received sentences
ranging from several years in prison to life in jail with hard
The Gaza legal code derives from British Mandate Law, Egyptian
law, and PA directives and laws. Pre-1967 Jordanian law applies
in PA-controlled areas of the West Bank. Bodies of law in the
Gaza Strip and West Bank have been modified substantially by Israeli
military orders. According to the Declaration of Principles and
the Interim Agreement, Israeli military decrees issued during
the occupation theoretically remain valid in both areas and are
subject to review pursuant to specific procedure. The PA states
that it is undertaking efforts to unify the Gaza and West Bank
legal codes, but it has made little progress.
The court system in general is recovering from years of neglect;
many of the problems predate PA jurisdiction. Judges and staff
are underpaid and overworked and suffer from a lack of skills
and training. Court procedures and record keeping are archaic
and chaotic. The delivery of justice is often slow and uneven.
The ability of the courts to enforce decisions is extremely weak,
and there is administrative confusion in the appeals process.
The PA Ministry of Justice appoints all civil judges for 10-year
terms. The Attorney General, an appointed official, reports to
the Minister of Justice and supervises judicial operations in
both the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
The PA usually ignores the legal limits on the length of prearraignment
detention of detainees suspected of security offenses. The PA
also does not ensure defendants' right to due process. Defendants
often are brought to court without knowledge of the charges against
them or sufficient time to prepare a defense. Defendants typically
are represented by court-appointed lawyers. Court sessions often
take place on short notice in the middle of the night and without
lawyers present. In some instances, security courts try cases,
issue verdicts, and impose sentences in a single session lasting
In 1997 Palestinian Attorney General Fayez Abu Rahme acknowledged
that the PA held at least 100 political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Israeli military authorities in areas of the West Bank under their
control may enter private Palestinian homes and institutions without
a warrant on security grounds when authorized by an officer of
the rank of lieutenant colonel or above. In conducting searches,
the IDF has forced entry and sometimes has beaten occupants and
destroyed property. Israeli authorities say that forced entry
may occur lawfully only when incident to an arrest and when entry
is resisted. Authorities say that beatings and arbitrary destruction
of property during searches are punishable violations of military
regulations, and that compensation is due to victims in such cases.
The Israeli Government states that it does not keep consolidated
information on the claims against the Ministry of Defense for
damages resulting from IDF actions.
Israeli security forces may demolish or seal the home (owned or
rented) of a Palestinian suspected of terrorism without trial.
The decision to seal or demolish a Palestinian's house is made
by several high-level Israeli officials, including the coordinator
of the MATAK (formerly CIVAD) and the Defense Minister. Residents
of houses ordered demolished have 48 hours to appeal to the area
commander; a final appeal may be made to the Israeli High Court.
A successful appeal generally results in the conversion of a demolition
order to sealing. After a house is demolished military authorities
prohibit the owner from rebuilding or removing the rubble. Israelis
suspected of terrorism are subject to Israeli law and do not face
the threat of home demolition.
Israeli authorities destroyed one Palestinian home for security
reasons in 1998; in 1997 they destroyed eight.
Since 1994 the Israeli Government has allowed owners to apply
to regional military commanders for permits to rebuild or unseal
homes closed or demolished due to security offenses committed
by themselves or a family member after their release--or the release
of their family member--from prison. In 1998, as in 1997, the
Israeli Government did not allow any homes to be rebuilt or unsealed;
it allowed one home to be unsealed in 1996.
In the Gaza Strip and PA-controlled areas of the West Bank, the
PA requires the Attorney General to issue warrants for entry and
searches of private property. These requirements frequently are
ignored by Palestinian security services. PA police searched homes
without the consent of their owners. In some cases, police forcibly
entered premises and destroyed property. In August PA security
forces confined the family members of an escaped HAMAS militant
to their home (see Section 1.c.).
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Israeli Government generally respects freedom of speech in
the occupied territories but prohibits public expressions of support
for Islamic extremist groups, such as HAMAS and other groups dedicated
to the destruction of Israel. Continuing a policy it began in
1994, the Israeli Government did not enforce its prohibition on
the display of Palestinian political symbols, such as flags, national
colors, and graffiti, acts that are punishable by fines or imprisonment.
Overall, Israeli censorship of specific press pieces continued
to be low. Israeli authorities continue to monitor the Arabic
press based in Jerusalem for security-related issues. Military
censors review Arabic publications for material related to the
public order and security of Israel. Reports by foreign journalists
also are subject to review by Israeli military censors for security
issues, and the satellite feed used by many foreign journalists
Israel often closes areas to journalists when it has imposed a
curfew or closure. Israeli authorities have denied entry permits
to Palestinian journalists traveling to their place of work in
Jerusalem during closures of the territories.
In March Israeli soldiers shot and wounded nine journalists who
were covering rioting in Hebron. One journalist, a Palestinian
who worked for Reuters, reported that he was shot in the back
and side with rubber bullets while he was on the ground, after
he had been shot in the head. In October, a journalist was shot
in the head by Israeli security forces with a rubber-coated metal
bullet while covering clashes between Israeli security officials
The IDF requires a permit for publications sold in the occupied
territories still under its control. Publications may be censored
or banned for anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli content. Possession
of banned materials is punishable by a fine and imprisonment.
In 1998 Israel refused to allow publications, including newspapers,
into the Gaza Strip on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, when
Israel tightened its closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The PA limited freedom of speech and of the press, although it
professes to tolerate varying political views and criticism. In
general PA authorities do not permit criticism of Yasir Arafat
or his policies or style of government. Press freedom in PA-controlled
areas is subject to a 1995 press law that does not adequately
protect the press. PA security services further stifle the independence
of the press by periodically harassing or detaining media members.
In May Palestinian police arrested Bashm Momeni, a Palestinian
journalist who worked for Reuters, for distributing a taped interview
with a HAMAS leader who accused the PA of killing a HAMAS terrorist
leader. The PA closed a private television station in Bethlehem
in February and several others in December for advocating policies
on Iraq contrary to those of the PA. Palestinian security forces
beat journalists covering the confinement of a HAMAS activist's
family to their home (see Section 1.c.). In October following
the signing of the Wye River Memorandum, the PA detained journalists
for 2 hours and prevented them from interviewing and filming HAMAS
founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin without PA permission
(see Section 1.c.). After a HAMAS member carried out a suicide
bomb attack in October in Gaza, the PA temporarily required foreign
journalists to request permission to cover stories. Human rights
groups say that Palestinian journalists, commentators, and critics
practice self-censorship to avoid problems with Palestinian authorities.
In July the PA allowed Al-Istiqlal, a newspaper in Gaza affiliated
with an Islamic extremist group, to reopen after the PA ordered
it closed in 1996.
Israeli-imposed closures severely disrupted the operations of
West Bank and Gaza universities, colleges, and schools during
the year. Educational institutions in the West Bank and Jerusalem
closed for periods of time as a result of internal closures in
the West Bank. Significant numbers of students and staff could
not travel to the schools from neighboring towns and villages.
Gaza students routinely are denied permits to attend West Bank
The PA has authority over all levels of education in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip. The PA did not interfere with education in
the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the year; there was one instance
of interference with academic freedom in 1997.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Israeli Government places some limits on freedom of assembly.
Israeli military orders ban public gatherings of 10 or more persons
without a permit. Since the 1993 signing of the Declaration of
Principles, Israel has relaxed enforcement of this rule except
in cases of Palestinian demonstrations against land seizures or
Israeli security forces killed 14 Palestinian demonstrators in
violent clashes in May, July, November, and December (see Section
The PA does not impose restrictions on freedom of assembly, although
it does require permits for rallies, demonstrations, and large
cultural events. These permits rarely are denied. In Gaza police
approval is required for "political" meetings at several
specific large meeting halls. Written permission is also required
for buses to transport passengers to attend political meetings.
In West Bank cities, the PA requires permits for outdoor rallies
and demonstrations and prohibits calls for violence, a display
of arms, and racist slogans, although this is not always enforced.
Private Palestinian organizations are required to register with
the Israeli authorities in areas under Israeli control, though
some operate without licenses. The authorities permit Palestinian
charitable, community, professional, and self-help organizations
to operate unless their activities are viewed by Israeli authorities
as a security problem. In previous years, Israeli authorities
have forced some Palestinian organizations in East Jerusalem to
close because of alleged links to the PA.
The PA placed some limits on freedom of association. There were
periodic complaints during the year from Palestinian political
parties, social and professional groups, and other nongovernmental
organizations (NGO's) that the PA tried to limit their ability
to act autonomously. In March 1996 Yasir Arafat outlawed the armed
wings of several Palestinian political groups, including Islamic
opposition groups. While it is not illegal to belong to the non-military
components of Islamic opposition groups, during times of tension
between these organizations and the PA, the Authority has been
known to harass and even detain members of the political parts
of these organizations.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Israeli Government respects freedom of religion and does not
ban any group or sect on religious grounds. It permits all faiths
to operate schools and institutions. Religious publications are
subject to the Publications Laws (see Section 2.a.).
The PA does not restrict freedom of religion. There are periodic
allegations that a small number of Muslim converts to Christianity
are sometimes subject to societal discrimination, and harassment
by PA officials. The PA states that it investigates such complaints,
but it has not shared or publicized the results of these investigations
with any outside party. However, there was no pattern of PA discrimination
and harassment against Christians (see Section 5.).
d. Freedom of Movement Within The Occupied Territories, Foreign
Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Israeli Government places limits on freedom of movement. Israel
requires that all West Bank and Gaza residents obtain identification
cards to qualify for permits to enter Israel and Jerusalem. However,
Israel often denies applicants permits with no explanation, and
does not allow effective means of appeal. Palestinian officials
with VIP passes, including PA cabinet officials and members of
the Palestinian Council, were subjected to long delays and searches
at Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank, even though they were
traveling on special passes issued by Israel. In August Israeli
authorities did not allow a senior Palestinian police official
traveling on a VIP pass to cross through checkpoints that Israeli
authorities set up around Hebron following the murder there of
a rabbi. In general Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
find it difficult to obtain permits to work, visit, study, or
obtain medical care outside of the West Bank or Gaza. Palestinian
residents of Jerusalem sometimes are prohibited from entering
PA-controlled areas of the West Bank, and they require written
permits from Israel to travel to the Gaza Strip. Residents of
the Gaza Strip rarely are able to obtain permission to travel
to the West Bank, or residents of the West Bank to enter the Gaza
Strip; this is even true of residents of the West Bank and Gaza
Strip who regularly receive permission to enter Israel. Israeli
authorities permit only a small number of Gazans to bring vehicles
into Israel and infrequently permit West Bank vehicles to enter
Jerusalem or Israel. It is also difficult for Palestinians married
to Jerusalem residents, but not themselves Jerusalem residents,
to obtain permission to live there. A Palestinian with a West
Bank identification card, for example, must apply to the Israeli
Government for permission to live with his or her Jerusalem resident
spouse in Jerusalem. The Israeli Government occasionally issues
limited-duration permits and also issues a limited number of Jerusalem
identification cards as part of its Family Reunification Program.
Except for senior PA officials, Palestinians of all ages crossing
between the Gaza Strip and Israel are not permitted to travel
by car across the main checkpoint. Instead, they must travel along
a narrow walkway almost a mile long. Israelis moving into and
out of the Gaza Strip are permitted to use their cars. According
to the October Wye River Memorandum, Israel and the PA are due
to implement arrangements in the 1995 Interim Agreement to establish
"safe passage" to facilitate travel between the West
Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israel continues to apply its policy, begun in 1993, of closure
of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip following terrorist attacks.
On occasion Israel also imposed a tightened version of closure
in the wake of terrorist incidents and when it believed that there
is increased likelihood of terrorist attacks or unrest in the
occupied territories. During these times, Israel tends to cancel
all travel permits and prevents Palestinians, even those with
valid work permits, from entering Israel or Jerusalem. Israel
also may impose an "internal closure" during "an
initial limited period." An "internal closure"
prohibits Palestinians from traveling between West Bank towns
and villages. Tightened closures, especially when in combination
with an internal closure, severely hamper the flow of food, medicine,
students, doctors, and patients into and out of the occupied territories,
and seriously disrupt commercial activity. Israel imposed tightened
closures before Israeli holidays, when officials claimed that
an increased potential for terrorist attacks against Israelis
existed, after security incidents in the occupied territories,
and in anticipation of Palestinian unrest. Israel did not impose
a full-scale "internal closure" on the West Bank during
the year, although on several occasions it imposed closures around
West Bank cities where security incidents occurred.
Israel imposed a closure on Hebron after the murder of a Jewish
settler there in August and also in September and October as a
result of terrorist attacks. During those times, Israel established
checkpoints around the city and restricted or prohibited the passage
of persons out of Hebron as well as restricted or prohibited the
passage of persons and goods into Hebron. During the closure of
Hebron in August, two infants, one a newborn and the other a 3-month-old,
who were not allowed to pass through Israeli checkpoints to medical
facilities in a timely fashion, died. The IDF investigated the
death of the 3-month-old infant and concluded that the soldiers
manning the checkpoint had exercised poor judgment in preventing
the infant's timely passage.
Israel continued to impose periodic curfews in areas of the West
Bank under its jurisdiction in anticipation of incidents or during
what it considered high-threat times, such as Israeli and religious
holidays. Israelis are generally free to move about during curfews,
while Palestinians are confined to their homes. Curfews were imposed
on the Israeli-controlled section of downtown Hebron three times
during the year. During these curfews, Israeli settlers were free
to move about while Palestinian residents were confined to their
homes, and Palestinian schools and businesses were forced to close.
In September Israel began implementing a "continuous employment
program" that allows selected Palestinian workers who have
been approved by the Ministry of Defense and who are married,
are over 28 years old, and have worked in Israel a long time,
to enter Israel to work in the event of a tightened closure. Under
the new program, these workers can renew their entry permits within
a few days, rather than within the several days to weeks that
previously was the case.
The Israeli Government restricted travel for some Israeli settlers,
prohibiting them from entering sensitive locations in the West
The Israeli Government requires all Palestinian residents in areas
under its control to obtain permits for foreign travel and has
restricted the travel of some political activists. Bridge-crossing
permits to Jordan may be obtained at post offices without a screening
process. However, some East Jerusalem Palestinians hesitate to
travel due to fear of losing their residency permits. Palestinian
males between the ages of 16 and 25 who cross into Jordan must
remain outside the occupied territories for 9 months. Restrictions
on residence, tourist visas, reentry, and family reunification
only apply to Palestinian residents of the occupied territories.
Palestinians who live in the part of Jerusalem that was occupied
during the 1967 War generally do not accept Israeli citizenship.
They are, therefore, issued a residence permit or Jerusalem identification
card by the Israeli Government. Israel applies the 1952 Law of
Permanent Residency and its 1974 amendments to Jerusalem identification
card holders. This law stipulates that a Jerusalem resident loses
the right of residence if the resident leaves Israeli territory
for more than 7 years, acquires the nationality of another country,
or acquires permanent residence in another country. Such persons
are permitted to return only as tourists and sometimes are denied
entry. The Israeli Government does not apply these same restrictions
to Israeli citizens. Israeli government officials deny that more
stringent enforcement of the Jerusalem residency requirements
reflects a concerted policy to decrease the Palestinian population
in the city. As of August, human rights groups report that 346
Palestinian residents had their residency permits revoked during
Invoking the 1952 law, Israeli officials routinely tell Palestinian
residents of Jerusalem who possess other nationalities that they
have to renounce all other nationalities in order to retain the
right to live in Jerusalem.
Israeli authorities also place restrictions on family reunification.
Most Palestinians who were abroad before or during the 1967 War,
or who have lost their residence permits for other reasons, are
not permitted to reside permanently with their families in Jerusalem
or the occupied territories. Foreign-born spouses and children
of Palestinian residents also experience difficulty in obtaining
permission to reside with their family members.
Israeli security authorities single out young (often unmarried)
Palestinian males for more stringent restrictions than other Palestinians,
citing them as more likely to be security risks. They generally
are prohibited from working in Israel.
The PA issues passports and identification cards for Palestinians
residing in the West Bank and Gaza. Bearers of Palestinian passports
do not need special exit permits from the PA, but when leaving
through Ben Gurion Airport they do require permits in order to
transit Israel to reach the airport. They may travel both over
the Allenby Bridge to Jordan and via Ben Gurion airport in Israel.
Palestinians who hold Jerusalem identification cards, issued by
the Israeli Government, must obtain travel documents from the
Israeli Government to travel abroad. Human rights groups report
that Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem often do not apply
for Israeli travel documents because they fear that their application
might prompt a reexamination of their residency status and lead
to the revocation of their identity cards. On request, the Jordanian
Government also issues travel documents to West Bank Palestinians,
including those resident in formerly Jordanian-controlled East
Jerusalem. Palestinians who wish to travel to Jordan must leave
their Israeli identification documents with Israeli authorities
at the Allenby Bridge. There is also a requirement that Jerusalem
Palestinians have a special permit to cross the Allenby Bridge,
available for $40 (125 New Israeli Shekels) from the Ministry
of Interior. Palestinians who are residents of the West Bank,
the Gaza Strip, or Jerusalem, are not allowed to cross between
the occupied territories and Jordan at the Sheikh Hussein or Arava
Palestinians with passports from other countries are required
by Israel to exit and enter (either via Ben Gurion airport or
via land crossings) with a Palestinian passport. Israel asserts
that the requirement results from the Interim Agreement. Palestinian
officials dispute this interpretation and characterize this requirement
as "harassment." When Israel tightened its closure of
the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the year, the Government at
times restricted the foreign travel of all those who hold Palestinian
passports or those whom Israeli authorities deem to be Palestinians--even
if they have passports from other countries. This sometimes resulted
in Palestinians being unable to leave or to enter Israel. At all
times, West Bank and Gazan Palestinians require a special permit,
issued by Israel, to enter Jerusalem.
In August members of the PA Preventative Security Force confined
the family members of an escaped HAMAS terrorist to their home
(see Sections 1.c. and 1.f.).
The PA does not control its borders. All persons entering PA-controlled
areas must be granted permission by Israel.
The issues of Palestinian refugees and borders are matters to
be discussed between Israel and the PA in permanent status negotiations.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
Palestinian residents of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem
chose their first popularly-elected Government in 1996. They elected
an 88-member Council and the Ra'ees (President or Chairman) of
the Executive Authority of the Council. Yasir Arafat won almost
89 percent of the vote in a two-person race for Chairman. Some
700 candidates ran for Council seats. Council members were elected
in multimember electoral districts. As many as 35 of the elected
members were independent candidates or critics of Arafat and his
Fatah faction. International observers concluded that the election
could be reasonably regarded as an accurate expression of the
will of the voters, despite some irregularities. During the year,
the Council debated numerous draft laws and resolutions. Some
members of the Council complained of its relative lack of power
in relation to the executive branch of government; the Council
and the executive authority work within the boundaries set out
in the 1995 Interim Agreement. The Council's mandate runs to mid-1999,
the end of the interim period set out in the accords.
Most Palestinians in Jerusalem do not recognize the jurisdiction
of the Municipality of Jerusalem. Only a very small percentage
of Jerusalem's Palestinian population voted in the fall municipal
elections. No Palestinian resident of Jerusalem sits on the city
Women are underrepresented in government and politics. There are
5 women in the 88-member Council, and 1 woman serves in a ministerial-level
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Many local groups--Israeli, Palestinian, and international--monitored
the Israeli Government's human rights practices. The Israeli Government
normally cooperates with human rights organizations; officials
normally agree to meet with human rights monitors. The Israeli
Government permits human rights groups to publish and hold press
However, some individual human rights workers have been subjected
to interference. In July Israeli security authorities aggressively
questioned the director of a Palestinian NGO operating in Jerusalem
about his organization and its work, and questioned employees
and neighbors about the organization's activities.
Local human rights groups, most of which are Palestinian, as well
as several international human rights organizations, monitored
the PA's human rights practices. The PA generally cooperates with
these organizations and PA officials usually meet with their representatives.
Several Palestinian human rights organizations work behind the
scenes with the PA to overcome abusive practices in certain areas.
They also publish criticism if they believe that the PA is not
responding adequately to private entreaties. Ali Jarbawi, the
General Director of the Palestinian Independent Commission for
Citizens' Rights, said in October that since the establishment
of the Palestinian Authority, the PA has become more cooperative
and is more responsive to the organization's queries. However,
PA officials are said to be less responsive to the organization's
queries on the PA's policies towards and treatment of members
of Islamist opposition groups.
The ICRC operates in the PA areas under the terms of a memorandum
of understanding signed in September 1996 between the ICRC and
the PLO. The memorandum accords the ICRC access to all detainees
held by the PA and allows regular inspections of prison conditions.
In accordance with the agreement, the ICRC conducted routine visits
of PA-run prison facilities and to PA-held prisoners throughout
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability,
Language, or Social Status
Under the complex mixture of laws and regulations that apply to
the occupied territories, Palestinians are disadvantaged under
Israeli law and practices compared with the treatment received
by Israeli settlers. This includes discrimination in residency,
land use, and access to health and social services.
The problems of rape, domestic violence, and violence related
to "family honor" have gained greater attention in the
Palestinian community, but public discussion generally remains
muted. Victims often are encouraged by relatives to remain quiet
and are themselves punished or blamed for the "shame"
that has been brought upon them and their families. A 14-year-old
girl who was raped in May subsequently was beaten to death by
her uncle and brother to "protect" family honor, according
to press reports. The girl's brother is awaiting trial on murder
charges. Women's groups seek to educate women on these problems,
but women's rights advocates claim that few resources are available
to shelter the victims of violence because women's shelters are
not accepted culturally in Palestinian society. They also maintain
that society has not been receptive to providing counseling or
outreach services to victims of problems that these advocates
see as more widespread than is acknowledged. According to women's
groups, there are no reliable data on the incidence of violence
against women. Spousal abuse, sexual abuse, and "honor killings"
occur, but societal pressures prevent most incidents from being
reported, and most cases are dealt with informally by family members.
During the year, leaders of the HAMAS organization threatened
and tried to intimidate Palestinian women who are involved in
programs aimed at empowering women and helping abused women.
Palestinian women in both the Israeli- and PA-controlled areas
of the occupied territories endure various forms of social prejudice
and repression within their own society. Because of early marriage,
girls frequently do not finish the mandatory level of schooling.
Cultural restrictions sometimes prevent women from attending colleges
and universities. While there is an active women's movement in
the West Bank, attention has shifted only recently from nationalist
aspirations to issues that greatly affect women, such as domestic
violence, equal access to education and employment, and laws concerning
marriage and inheritance.
A growing number of Palestinian women work outside the home, where
they tend to encounter discrimination. There are no special laws
providing for women's rights in the workplace. Women are underrepresented
in most aspects of professional life. Despite the fact that there
is a small group of women who are prominent in politics, medicine,
law, teaching, and in NGO-related work, women for the most part
are seriously underrepresented in the decisionmaking positions
in these fields.
Personal status law for Palestinians is based on religious law.
For Muslim Palestinians, personal status law is derived from Shari'a
(Islamic law). In the West Bank and Gaza, Shari'a pertaining to
women is part of the Jordanian Status Law of 1976, which includes
inheritance and marriage laws. Under the law, women inherit less
than male members of the family do. The marriage law allows men
to take more than one wife, although few do so. Women are permitted
to make "stipulations" in the marriage contract to protect
them against divorce and questions of child custody. However,
only an estimated 1 percent of women take advantage of this section
of the law, leaving most women at a disadvantage when it comes
to divorce or child custody. Following legal protests, the PA
Ministry of Civil Affairs in 1996 rescinded a law that required
women to obtain the written consent of a male family member before
it would issue them a travel document.
The PA requires compulsory education up to 12 years of age. However,
early marriage frequently prevents girls from completing the mandatory
level of schooling. Current British Mandate, Jordanian, and military
laws, from which West Bank and Gaza law is derived, offer protection
to children under the Labor and Penal Codes. While there is no
juvenile court system, judges specializing in children's cases
generally sit for juvenile offenders. In cases where the child
is the victim, judges have the discretion to remove the child
from a situation deemed harmful. However, the system is not advanced
in the protection afforded children.
There is no societal pattern of abuse of children among Palestinians.
People With Disabilities
There is no mandated accessibility to public facilities in the
occupied territories under either Israeli or Palestinian authority.
Approximately 130,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are
disabled. Some Palestinian institutions care for and train disabled
persons; however, their efforts are chronically underfunded. Many
Palestinians with disabilities are segregated and isolated from
Palestinian society; they are discriminated against in most spheres,
including education, employment, transportation, and access to
public buildings and facilities.
There are periodic allegations that a small number of Muslim converts
to Christianity in the Palestinian community are sometimes subject
to societal discrimination and harassment by PA officials. The
PA states that it investigates such complaints, but it has not
shared or publicized the results of these investigations with
any outside party. However, there was no pattern of PA discrimination
and harassment against Christians (see Section 2.c.).
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Labor affairs in the West Bank came under Palestinian responsibility
with the signing of the Interim Agreement in September 1995. Until
a new law being drafted by PA authorities comes into effect, labor
affairs in the West Bank are governed by Jordanian Law 21 of 1965,
as amended by Israeli military orders, and in Gaza by PA decisions.
The law permits workers to establish and join unions without government
authorization. The earlier Israeli stipulation that all proposed
West Bank unions apply for a permit no longer is enforced. Israeli
authorities previously have licensed about 35 of the estimated
185 union branches now in existence. Following a process to consolidate
trade unions in the West Bank, there are now 12 trade unions there.
Palestinian workers in Jerusalem are governed by Israeli labor
law. They are free to establish their own unions. Although the
Government restricts Jerusalem unions from joining West Bank trade
union federations, this restriction has not been enforced. Palestinian
workers in Jerusalem may belong simultaneously to unions affiliated
with West Bank federations and the Israeli Histadrut Labor Federation.
West Bank unions are not affiliated with the Israeli Histadrut
Federation. Palestinians who work in Israel or Jerusalem are not
full members of Histadrut, but they are required to contribute
1 percent of their wages to Histadrut. Negotiations between Histadrut
and West Bank union officials to return half of this fee to the
Palestinian Union Federation were completed in 1996, but funds
have yet to be transferred.
Palestinians who work in Israel are required to contribute to
the National Insurance Institute (NII), which provides unemployment
insurance and other benefits. Palestinian workers are eligible
for some, but not all, NII benefits. According to the Interim
Agreement, Palestinians working in Israel continue to be insured
for injuries occurring in Israel, the bankruptcy of a worker's
employer, and allowances for maternity leave. The Israeli Government
has transferred the NII fees collected from Palestinian workers
to the PA, which is to assume responsibility for the pensions
and social benefits of Palestinians working in Israel.
The great majority of West Bank unions belong to the Palestinian
General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU). The PGFTU acted as
the informal coalition in the completion of the negotiations with
Histadrut regarding workers' fees. The reorganization of unions
under the PGFTU is intended to enable the West Bank unions and
Gaza unions to better represent the union members' interests;
the reorganization had not yet been finalized at year's end.
An estimated 88,000 workers in the West Bank are members of the
PGFTU, the largest union bloc, which is comprised of 12 trade
unions in the West Bank and 8 in Gaza. The organization has 43,455
members in Gaza. The PGFTU estimates actual organized membership,
i.e., dues-paying members, at about 30 percent of all Palestinian
No unions were dissolved by administrative or legislative action
during the year. Palestinian unions that seek to strike must submit
to arbitration by the PA Ministry of Labor. If the union disagrees
with the final arbitration and strikes, a tribunal of senior judges
appointed by the PA decides what, if any, disciplinary action
is to be taken. There are no laws in the territories that specifically
protect the rights of striking workers. In practice, such workers
have little or no protection from an employer's retribution.
The PGFTU has applied for membership in the International Confederation
of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). The PGFTU has not been accepted
as a member because the PA is not a state, but the PGFTU participates
in the ILO in observer status.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
A majority of workers in the occupied territories are self-employed
or unpaid family helpers in agriculture or commerce. Only 35 percent
of employment in the territories consists of wage jobs, most with
the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the PA, or
in municipalities. Collective bargaining is protected. Labor disputes
are adjudicated by committees of 3 to 5 members in businesses
employing more than 20 workers.
Existing laws and regulations do not offer real protection against
One industrial zone is being developed in the Gaza Strip.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
PA law does not specifically prohibit forced or compulsory labor,
including by children, and there were no reports of such practices
during the year (see Section 6.d.).
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
The minimum working age in the West Bank and Gaza is 14 years.
Most observers agree that a significant number of Palestinian
children under the age of 16 years work. Many children under the
age of 12 years are engaged in some work activities. Most of this
employment is believed to involve work on family farms, in family
shops, or as urban street venders. Some employment of children
also is reported to occur in small manufacturing enterprises,
such as shoe and textile factories. The law does not prohibit
specifically forced or compulsory labor by children (see Section
The PA's capacity to enforce existing laws is limited. It has
only 40 labor inspectors to inspect an estimated 65,000 enterprises.
The International Labor Organization and UNICEF are working with
the PA to study the nature and extent of the problem and to develop
the capacity to enforce and update child labor laws.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There is currently no minimum wage in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.
The average wage for full-time workers appears to provide a worker
and family with a decent standard of living. In the West Bank,
the normal workweek is 48 hours in most areas; in Gaza the workweek
is 45 hours for day laborers and 40 hours for salaried employees.
There is no effective enforcement of maximum workweek laws.
The PA Ministry of Labor is responsible for inspecting work places
and enforcing safety standards in the West Bank and Gaza. The
Ministry of Labor states that new factories and work places meet
international health and safety standards but that older ones
fail to meet minimum standards. There is no specific legal protection
afforded workers that allows them to remove themselves from an
unhealthy or unsafe work setting without risking loss of employment.
Source: U.S. State Department.