Freedom in the World
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Israeli-Occupied Territories *
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Intense fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas in the Gaza Strip ended with a ceasefire in January 2009, but the territory continued to suffer during the year from infrastructural damage, unexploded ordnance, and ongoing Israeli border restrictions. Meanwhile, Israeli authorities continued to break up protests against the growing security barrier in the West Bank, and approved additional construction at existing Jewish settlements near Jerusalem.
After the outbreak of hostilities, Israel had tightened its blockade of Gaza to allow only humanitarian goods, and reduced the number of crossing openings. Aid agencies called for a full opening of crossing points; according to the UNRWA, the Israeli authorities in January were permitting only a fraction of the necessary number of trucks to enter Gaza each day. Following the ceasefire, crossings were opened on a limited basis to transfer grains, certain types of fuels, and other authorized goods, as well as international aid workers and individuals with specified medical and humanitarian needs. The Rafah border crossing with Egypt opened on an ad hoc basis. In August, Israel allowed cement and heavy building materials into Gaza for the first time in seven months.
Since they are not citizens of Israel, Palestinians under Israeli control in the West Bank and Gaza cannot vote in Israeli elections. They are permitted to vote in PA elections. Israel was generally credited with allowing relatively free movement during the 2005 presidential and 2006 legislative elections for the PA, although some problems during the campaign, with electoral preparations, and with Israeli roadblocks were reported.
While Palestinian women are underrepresented in most professions and encounter discrimination in employment, they have full access to universities and to many professions. Palestinian laws and societal norms, derived in part from Sharia (Islamic law), put women at a disadvantage in matters of marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Rape, domestic abuse, and “honor killings,” in which women are murdered by relatives for perceived sexual or moral transgressions, are not uncommon; these murders often go unpunished.
The areas and total number of persons under Israeli jurisdiction changed periodically during the year as a result of the fluid nature of Israel’s military presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.