Despite Israel’s declarations on easing restrictions on movement to Gaza: Israel blocks travel out of Gaza for thousands on the grounds of unspecified “security preclusions”

 

Thursday, September 22, 2016:  In a new factsheet published today, Gisha notes with great concern an alarming new trend of the Israeli authorities blocking travel from Gaza for thousands of people on the basis of unspecified “security preclusions”, as well as turning people back from the crossing on alleged security grounds even after they have already received a permit to travel.

The sharp increase in the number of security blocks affects all categories of travelers via Erez Crossing, which is the primary transit point for nearly two million residents of the Gaza Strip to the West Bank and abroad: businesspeople, medical patients, national staff of international organizations, people traveling to receive consular services and for family visits in humanitarian circumstances.

Since the 2014 military operation, there has been an increase in the overall number of crossings via Erez, however the rate of travel is still just 3% of what it was in the year 2000. Nonetheless, in recent months, there have been at least 1,550 permit revocations of 3,500-3,700 trader permits granted; 160 permit revocations of 350 “Businessman Gaza” (BMG) permits granted to prominent businesspeople in Gaza, including 2 of the 4 BMG permits granted to women; 21% rate of permit denial for UN national staff based in Gaza in June; and an increase of 75% in the number of cancer patients who turned to Physicians for Human Rights for assistance in reversing permit denials in 2016 compared with 2015.

Individuals who are blocked for security reasons are not provided information about the nature of the block, often even in the course of legal proceedings, leaving them unable to challenge it. However, in several cases, where Gisha has challenged a block, the Israeli authorities reversed their decision and granted a travel permit. This calls into question the arbitrary and slack decision-making process for assigning a security block in the first place.

It is Israel’s right, and even obligation, to conduct individual security checks at the entrance to its territory. Nonetheless, blocking travel so sweepingly and for seemingly arbitrary reasons not only violates basic individual rights, but is also causing an overall chilling effect in requests for travel and further harming an already lagging economy in the Palestinian territory.  

This flies in the face of statements made by senior Israeli security officials, who have said repeatedly that economic growth and well-being in Gaza would advance Israel’s interests, including for greater security.

For the full factsheet, click here.