Gisha response to closing of Karni Crossing: Gaza’s Crossings Squeezed Shut

Thu., March 3, 2011 – Gisha expresses concern that yesterday’s closing of Karni Crossing will further restrict the ability of Palestinian residents of Gaza to engage in dignified, productive work. Rather than considering opening new crossings, as Israel promised as part of its "easing" of the closure, Israel is squeezing shut one of the last gateways into Gaza, pushing all access into the small southern Kerem Shalom Crossing. Kerem Shalom can accommodate just 250 trucks per day, as opposed to the 1,000 truck per day capacity of Karni, Gaza’s commercial lifeline.

Since 2007, Israel has closed three of Gaza’s four commercial crossings. Currently, Israel is allowing 40% of Gaza’s need for incoming trucks, and just 1% of its outgoing needs, despite promises to lift the ban on exports. The ban on export and on incoming construction materials is preventing Gaza’s economy from recovering and is keeping its factory and construction workers unemployed and dependent on international assistance. In addition, diverting all ingoing traffic to the southern-most crossing increases transportation costs and is expected to significantly raise the price of goods, including humanitarian donations, on which 80% of the Strip’s inhabitants depend.

Gisha notes that while Israel has a right and responsibility to protect itself from security threats at the crossings, the closure of the Karni, Nahal Oz, and Sufa crossings appears to be motivated by political, rather than security goals. The United States and the international community have invested millions of dollars in high-tech security equipment at Karni to address legitimate security concerns. All crossings have come under threat at various times, and the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was captured by militants who entered near Kerem Shalom. Security concerns must be balanced with the duty to allow residents of Gaza the level of access necessary for economic recovery.

Limiting access to a small crossing near the Egyptian border is consistent with a series of steps aimed at cutting Gaza off from Israel and the West Bank – tearing at the fabric of Palestinian society and undermining the possibility of a two-state solution.

Since the December 8, 2010 announcement of "easings" of restrictions on export, Israel has allowed just four trucks per day to leave Gaza, rather than the 400 trucks per day it promised in the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access.