A New Report from Gisha and Physicians For Human Rights-Israel Reveals: Who is Really Closing Rafah Crossing?

 •The report reveals that all parties – Israel, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas – are preventing passage between Gaza and Egypt for political reasons.

• All the parties are denying their own accountability, while pointing an accusatory finger at the others.

• The responsibility falls first and foremost on Israel; however, all parties involved are contributing to the systematic violation of the rights of Gaza residents.

• The right of 1.5 million people to enter and exit the Gaza Strip is not a political issue but a fundamental human right.


Wed., March 25, 2009 – A new report on Rafah Crossing and the parties involved in its closure was published today by Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel). The report "Rafah Crossing: Who Holds the Keys?" dispels the fog concerning responsibility for Rafah Crossing, answering the question, who is really responsible for the closure of Rafah Crossing – and therefore for the violation of the rights of Gaza residents.

After almost two years of a nearly hermetic closure and following a military operation which left behind thousands of victims and caused immense destruction, all parties involved continue to deny responsibility and claim that the opening of Rafah Crossing will be resolved through political negotiations. In light of the current political deadlock, Gisha and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel demand that all the parties controlling Rafah Crossing – Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Egypt – end this futile political game and take immediate and concrete action to open the crossing. All the parties concerned bear an obligation to rise above their narrow interests and to respect the rights of 1.5 million people being used as pawns in political negotiations.

The organizations also call on local and foreign policy-makers – first and foremost the European Union and the United States – to do everything in their power to bring about the crossing’s re-opening in an orderly fashion. If the European Union and the United States do not succeed in bringing about the opening Rafah Crossing, they must withdraw their involvement in the agreements concerning the crossing, in order to avoid the risk of complicity, by tacit agreement, in the violation of the human rights of Gaza residents.

The closing of Rafah has harsh consequences for the 1.5 million Palestinian residents of the Strip, denying them basic rights, first and foremost their right to access to medical services not available in Gaza, loss of opportunities for academic study or employment abroad or in the West Bank, continued separation of family members on either side of the border, critical damage to trade and business, and the inability to leave the Strip, even in life-threatening circumstances. These implications are intensified by the closure of the rest of the crossings by Israel as a part of a policy to put pressure on the Hamas government, in violation of the prohibition on collective punishment.

Gisha and PHR-Israel call on Israel, which maintains substantial and indirect control over Rafah Crossing and exclusive control over the rest of the crossings into the Gaza Strip, to devise an immediate arrangement that will allow for the free movement of Gaza residents between the Strip and the rest of the world. Israel is called upon to allow the residents of Gaza passage through the other crossings, if they cannot travel through Rafah Crossing, and to allow passage for those in need of medical treatment, whether in Israel, the West Bank, East Jerusalem or Jordan.

Gisha and PHR-Israel call upon Egypt, which has the physical power to open or close the crossing but is keeping it closed due to pressure from Israel and other parties and also to advance its own agenda not to recognize the Hamas government and prevent ties between Hamas and opposition elements in Egyptian society – to open Rafah Crossing for the passage of people and goods.

Gisha and PHR-Israel call on Hamas, which opposes Israel’s involvement in the operation of the crossings and prevents the Palestinian Authority Presidential Guard from operating Rafah Crossing, not to let power struggles violate Gaza residents’ right to freedom of movement and to place the rights of the residents of Gaza, whom it controls, at the top of its priorities.

Gisha and PHR-Israel call upon the Palestinian Authority, which opposes the opening of the crossing without the presence of its Presidential Guard and refuses to compromise with Hamas over control of the crossing, to participate in every initiative to open the crossing, with every relevant player, including Hamas, and to make the rights of Gaza residents its top priority.

Gisha and PHR-Israel call upon the European Union, the presence of whose border monitors allowed for the opening of the crossing under the AMA, to do all in its power in order to bring about the opening of Rafah Crossing or an alternative that will allow regular and free passage for the residents of the Gaza Strip. If this is not within the power of the European Union, then it must rescind its involvement in agreements related to Rafah Crossing and work to promote respect for the rights of Gaza residents.

Gisha and PHR-Israel call upon the United States of America, which sponsored the AMA yet does not insist upon its implementation and has not opposed the violation of the rights of Gaza residents which result from the closing of the crossing – to do everything in its power to bring about the opening of the crossing, to comply with the Fourth Geneva Convention and promote respect for the rights of Gaza residents.