Israel Denies Obligation to Allow Commercial Passage Through Karni Crossing

April 26, 2006 – Israel owes no duty to allow the passage of goods to and from Gaza through Karni Crossing, the state attorney’s office said, and the opening of Karni Crossing is a discretionary matter. The state’s position was submitted to Israel’s High Court today (26.4.2006) in response to a petition demanding the immediate opening of Karni Crossing for regular, sufficient and predictable hours, in order to permit Gaza residents to receive humanitarian goods and to participate in a properly functioning economy.

The state claimed that its closure of Karni is based on security threats and that it is working to allow humanitarian goods to enter Gaza. It blamed the Palestinian Authority for not cooperating to safeguard the crossing. Tomorrow, 27.4.2006, the Court will consider whether to order Israel to keep the Crossing open.

The petitioners are the Gaza-based Mezan Center for Human Rights, the Palestinian Consumer Protection Organization, a Gaza farmer who had to destroy his produce intended for export because of the closure, and Gisha: Center for the Legal Protection of Freedom of Movement, which prepared the petition.

Since Jan. 15, 2006, the Karni Crossing has been closed most of the time, with brief reprieves in which limited passage was permitted. The closure, which began at the height of the agricultural export season, has already caused more than $24 million in losses to the Palestinian economy. The U.N. has warned that the closure threatens to create a humanitarian disaster. The closure has caused shortages of flour, baby formula, medicines and other goods.

The frequent closing of the crossing puts relentless pressure on a civilian population living under conditions of siege and raises questions regarding the motivations behind the closure.