The Gaza Cheat Sheet

About the Gaza Cheat Sheet

The Gaza Strip is a topic of great interest and debate in Israel and abroad and it is not always easy to find answers to the most basic questions about it. On this page we attempt to collect concise and up-to-date answers to some of the questions that we are asked frequently: What is the situation in the Gaza Strip? What are the restrictions currently imposed on the movement of people and goods into and out of the Strip? What is Gisha’s position on the subject? The Gaza Cheat Sheet is updated regularly.

Last update:  March 30, 2015

Economic situation in Gaza

More than 70% of the population relies on humanitarian aid • On the eve of Operation Protection Edge, 57% of the population suffered from food insecurity • The unemployment rate was 42.8% in the 4th quarter of 2014 (compared to 18.7% in 2000) • 27 government schools in Gaza were heavily damaged or destroyed during the fighting this summer • Even before the military operation, the Strip was short over 200 schools, including 150 government schools • Classes are usually taught in two shifts • More than 100,000 housing units were damaged during the recent hostilities, including 17,000 housing units which were severely damaged or destroyed • Some 562 factories and workshops were damaged or destroyed during the hostilities.

Access policy

Entrance of goods into Gaza: Kerem Shalom, connecting Gaza to Israel, is the only official crossing open for the transfer of goods into and out of the Strip • Israel allows entrance of civilian goods into Gaza, except for a list of materials that it defines as “dual-use”, whose entry into Gaza is restricted • On September 2, basic construction materials (cement, gravel and steel) were again allowed to enter for international aid organizations and the Palestinian Water Authority • A mechanism that is meant to allow materials in for use by the private sector has been operating for the last few months, yet what has entered is just a fraction of what is needed • Since the ceasefire, from August 26 until the end of February 2015, 462,926 tons of construction material entered the Strip • Of this amount, 15% entered as a part of the mechanism, the inspection process established by the Palestinians and Israel under UN supervision, while the rest entered for international organizations or projects funded by Qatar • Five million tons of construction materials are needed for rebuilding following the hostilities this past summer and also to meet cumulative needs; the amount of materials that has entered Gaza since late August represents about 9% of total need.

Exit of goods from Gaza: Currently, it is prohibited to market non-agricultural goods from Gaza in Israel • In November 2014, Israel canceled a seven-year ban on the marketing of some commodities from Gaza in the West Bank and in March it canceled the ban on entrance of some agricultural products to Israel for the sake of the Jewish practice of “shmita” or allowing agricultural land to lie fallow every seven years • In the past six months, an average of 48 truckloads of goods exited Gaza per month, or about 4.5% of what exited monthly on the eve of the closure in 2007.

Travel between Gaza and the West Bank: The only crossings through which people are permitted to travel to and from the Gaza Strip are Erez (to Israel) and Rafah (to Egypt) • Until Operation Protective Edge, Israel allowed passage through Erez only “in exceptional humanitarian cases, with an emphasis on urgent medical cases” in addition to some merchants • After the cessation of hostilities, Israel changed some of the criteria for travel from Gaza, but these remain very narrow • In January, there were approximately 10,195 exits of Palestinians recorded at the Erez crossing and in February 11,909 exits – of whom 60% were traders • In 2014, the monthly average was 6,270 exits and about half were of traders.

Travel from Gaza to the outside world: Such travel takes place mostly through Egypt • During the first half of 2013, approximately 40,000 people transited at Rafah in both directions • Starting in July 2013, Egypt began limiting passage to exceptional cases only, following instability in the country, as well as limiting the days of operation of the crossing • In January 2015, the crossing operated on three days and in March it opened for two days; 1,507 and 1,010 individuals managed to travel out of Gaza on these occasions respectively • Through its control of the Palestinian population registry, Israel has indirect control over the issuing of Palestinian passports, which are required for travel through Rafah.

Access to the Gaza Strip’s land, territorial waters and air space: Israel prevents all access to and from the Gaza Strip by sea and air • Following the end of Operation Protective Edge, on August 27, the fishing zone was changed again, expanding to six nautical miles from the coast and the “buffer zone” along the border was reduced to 100 meters.

Gisha’s position

By virtue of Israel’s substantial control of the Gaza Strip, international law requires Israel to facilitate normal life in the Strip, including by allowing access for civilians and civilian goods. Alongside this obligation, Israel has the authority to decide by which routes both people and goods enter and leave Gaza and to establish reasonable and proportionate security measures to prevent the transfer of weapons and other military activity. Accordingly, Gisha’s position is that Israel must lift the sweeping restrictions that remain and allow entrance of construction materials, sale of goods to the West Bank and Israel and travel of people between Gaza and the West Bank, subject to individual security inspections. Since Egypt has begun to reduce the flow of people through the Rafah crossing, Gaza residents have no almost no possibility of leaving Gaza. Israel has a responsibility to allow regular movement of people and goods between Gaza and the West Bank, which continue to share a single economy, a single education system, a single healthcare system and countless familial, cultural and social ties.

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