2017: The worst year for access to and from Gaza since Operation Protective Edge

Monday, January 15, 2018: A new factsheet by Gisha 2017: Tightening of the Closure provides a round-up of measures imposed by Israel in 2017 further limiting movement of people to and from Gaza via Erez Crossing. The list includes new or intensified measures, introduced with little to no justification provided as to their purpose and, it appears, no consideration of the impact they would have on the lives of Gaza’s residents. The continued closure of Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt along with the tightening of Israel’s already restrictive permit regime has further disrupted the scarce options for travel open to residents of the Strip.

The list of measures includes: significant extension of the processing times of permit applications, leaving thousands of permit applications pending with no responsea new directive prohibiting Palestinians from exiting Gaza with electronic devices, toiletries and food; freezing travel to the American Consulate; mandatory shuttle services to Allenby Bridge Crossing; “security blocks” blocking travel for medical patients, traders, and humanitarian workers; increase in the frequency and severity of “security interviews” at Erez; trader permits cancelled as new approvals declined; travel for Friday prayers in Jerusalem remaining blocked, and; recipients of permits for travel abroad increasingly made to sign a commitment not to return for a year.

Following Operation Protective Edge in 2014, there was a noticeable shift in the rhetoric of Israeli security and political officials, acknowledging that well-being in Gaza and its economic development are linked with Israel’s security. Israel’s access policy vis-à-vis Gaza does not reflect this recognition. In fact, since the end of 2015 and throughout 2017, restrictions on freedom of movement were exacerbated, further impeding travel to and from Gaza, and making this year the worst for access since 2014.

The number of exits by Palestinians via Erez Crossing in 2017 dropped by 51 percent compared to 2016. The monthly average in 2017 was only 5,963 exits compared to a monthly average of 12,150 exits in 2016, and 14,276 exits in 2015. The monthly average number of exits in 2014 was 6,270. The number of valid trader permits also dropped dramatically by 85 percent during this period; from more than 3,500 trader permits at the end of 2015, to only 551 valid permits in December 2017.

The closure imposed on Gaza by Israel for over a decade has severe, far-reaching implications for the lives of Gaza’s two million residents, obstructing economic development and crushing hope. Sweeping, arbitrary, and incomprehensible restrictions on movement must cease, immediately; 2018 must be the year when Israel’s long-failed access policy changes substantively to reflect the real needs of the civilian population in Gaza and its fundamental, universal right to freedom of movement.

To view the factsheet “2017: Tightening of the Closure, click here.