Gaza crossing closure is collective punishment

The closure blocks supplies needed for reconstruction and patients from getting medical care

Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014: Israel’s Defense Ministry closed the Kerem Shalom goods crossing and the Erez passenger terminal between Israel and Gaza today following indiscriminate fire on Friday from Gaza toward southern Israel. As a result, Gaza is now closed nearly hermetically, following Egypt’s closure of the Rafah crossing a week and a half ago.

Security officials told (Hebrew) news agencies that the closure is “a pressure point on Hamas and clarifies to Gaza residents the price of shooting”. Gisha condemned the closure as collective punishment.

According to Gisha Director Eitan Diamond, “Today’s restrictions on movement raise the specter of a return to Israel openly closing crossings in response to rocket fire, punishing civilians in Gaza in pursuit of so-called political or security goals. This is a dangerous regression to a policy that is not only illegal under international law but also has been discredited by senior Israeli security officials as counter to Israeli interests“.

Today’s closure prevented medical patients seeking all but the most urgent care from reaching hospitals in Israel, east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Jordan.

As winter approaches, and in the wake of the recent military operation, civilians in Gaza are increasingly vulnerable. Israel, like dozens of donor countries, has recognized the obligation to allow Gaza’s urgent reconstruction. There is a massive need for construction materials to repair the devastation, and the economy must be allowed to re-start. Indeed, Israel’s most senior officials have publicly acknowledged the failure of the closure policy on Gaza and recognized the need to allow normal civilian life there. Just two weeks ago, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said (Hebrew): “Of course there’s a need to release the pressure and allow Gazans, and not Hamas, to live in dignity. There are 120,000 people who are homeless because of the operation in the Strip. They paid a heavy price. They need to be allowed to earn a living, and therefore part of our interest is to allow these processes”.

Israel has the right and responsibility to defend its residents, but closing the crossings is a punitive act aimed at civilians. Just as indiscriminate fire at civilians is forbidden under international law, so is collective punishment of civilians.

For Gisha’s position paper on Gaza access policy after the ceasefire, click here.

For more details: Shai Grunberg, Gisha spokesperson, shai@gisha.org or Sari Bashi, Gisha co-founder, sari@gisha.org.