The passage to Erez Crossing must be opened immediately

Thursday, March 30, 2017: Gisha strongly condemns restrictions on movement imposed by the Hamas authorities in Gaza. The obstruction of access this week comes on top of severe restrictions imposed by Israeli authorities for upwards of a decade. Gisha also calls to remove the prohibition on fishing.

The Hamas-controlled checkpoint known as 4-4, en route to Erez Crossing, has been almost completely closed to movement out of Gaza since Sunday, March 26. The severe travel restrictions are said to have been imposed “for security reasons,” following the killing of Mazen Fuqaha in Gaza last Friday. Residents of Gaza, already suffering from a decade of closure enforced by Israel, now face additional impediments imposed by Hamas.

In light of the ongoing closure of Rafah Crossing to Egypt, Erez Crossing has come to be Gaza residents’ near sole gateway to the outside world, and serves as their only access route to Israel and the West Bank. Even the few lucky residents of Gaza to whom Israel has granted travel permits have been denied movement out of the Strip this week. Among those affected are medical patients in need of life-saving treatment; traders and businesspeople; Palestinians seeking access to consular services, including visa applicants with scheduled interviews, and; people who have received permits to visit family under humanitarian circumstances.

Earlier this week the interior ministry in Gaza said passage would be allowed to the Israeli side of Erez Crossing for medical patients and for family members granted permits to visit prisoners, limited to children under the age of 15 and individuals over the age of 45. Exit was also permitted to additional individuals in exceptional cases and entrance to the Strip has been permitted since Monday. From Sunday through Tuesday, the daily average number of exits via Erez Crossing was 73, less than a quarter of the daily average number of exits in February (304 exits). The daily average number of entrances to the Strip was 151, slightly more than half of the daily average during February (284 entrances).

In addition, Hamas authorities in Gaza have prohibited fishermen from going out to sea this week, harming thousands of families who are dependent on the fishing industry. Fishing has already been limited by Israel’s restriction of Gaza’s fishing zone to six nautical miles offshore.

As we said earlier this week, security concerns do not give any actor free reign to violate human rights. Freedom of movement is a fundamental human right, and is a basic precondition for the fulfillment of other rights, such as the right to health, to livelihood, and to family life.