Are The Last Gates to Gaza Being Nailed Shut?

According to Palestinian officials, last week Israel mounted two attempts to transport industrial diesel into the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom border crossing, and not via the Nahal Oz crossing, which has until now been the only crossing designed and equipped for the transfer of fuels and gas to Gaza. Attempts to transfer industrial diesel via Kerem Shalom were also made in the previous month. In the last week, Israel transferred not one drop of industrial diesel via Nahal Oz and in the previous two weeks transferred 3.68 million liters in total- 53% of the amount required. The reports that Israel intends to close down the Nahal Oz crossing completely follow a gradual slowdown of operations at the terminal, which now operates only three days a week.

The other crossings have also been closed: Karni Crossing, which was the main trade route, has been closed since June 2007, and only one conveyer belt, used to transport produce and animal feed, has continued to operate on a partial basis since then. The Sufa crossing has not operated since September 2008 and Israel announced its permanent closure in March 2009. The transfer of goods via the Rafah crossing is prohibited. And so all of Gaza is now almost totally dependent on the Kerem Shalom crossing, which has limited capacity and was originally designed for the occasional transfer of humanitarian aid only. Now Israel apparently plans to burden Kerem Shalom with fuel and gas transports as well.

Of course, in response to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, Israel occasionally closes Kerem Shalom too, due to what it identifies as dangers to the crossing.

The possibility that security risks would threaten the opening of Gaza’s crossings was the subject of considerable forethought. As a result, three fundamental conditions designed to ensure that the Gaza Strip crossings would operate continuously were established and agreed to by Israel:  (1) Recognition of the need to operate alternative lanes (lane redundancy); (2) recognition of the need to operate alternative crossings (passage redundancy); and (3) the primary objective which Israel committed to in the Crossings Agreement: the principle of continuous operation.

It is hard to imagine how one crossing, consisting of only one primary lane, can fulfill these fundamental conditions.

Meanwhile, Israel continues to strike against the tunnels underneath the Egypt-Gaza border, via which the majority of goods required by Gaza residents are transported, including by blowing them up.

Under these circumstances, with the sea and air routes completely blocked, the tunnels rejected as a legitimate option, and the overland crossings increasingly shut down, how exactly are the residents of Gaza supposed to get the goods they need?

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