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: October 18, 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 41.5% in the 2nd quarter of 2015 (compared to 18.7% in 2000) • 27 government schools in Gaza were heavily destroyed during the fighting, five of them were completely destroyed and have not yet been rebuilt • 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 19,000 housing units which were severely damaged or destroyed • Some 562 factories and workshops were also damaged or destroyed.

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, but restricts entrance for a list of materials that it defines as “dual-use”, including basic constructions materials • A mechanism that is meant to allow these materials in for use by the private sector is operating, yet what has entered is just a fraction of what is needed • In early October 2015, it was reported that gravel, unlike cement and steel, would no longer be listed as dual-use • From Operation Protective Edge until the end of September 2015,  two million tons of construction material entered the Strip through Kerem Shalom Crossing, which constitutes about 9% of the total need, estimated at about 23 million tons • Only 30% of the construction materials that have entered the Gaza Strip so far were designated for private use to repair damage incurred during Operation Protective Edge, while the rest entered for international organizations or projects funded by Qatar • In June, August and October cement for the private sector entered Gaza via Rafah Crossing, in addition to gravel for use primarily in projects funded by Qatar.

Exit of goods from Gaza: 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 • From September 2014 until September 2015, an average of about 75 truckloads of goods exited Gaza per month, or 7% 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 slightly changed some of the criteria for travel from Gaza, but these remain exceedingly narrow • In the first six months of 2015, a monthly average of 13,832 exits of Palestinians was recorded at Erez Crossing, of which 67% were exits of traders, medical patients and their companions • In 2014, the monthly average was 6,270 exits, compared to  a monthly average of 4,766 exits in 2013 • This is a fraction of the monthly average number of exits through Erez in 2000, which was more than 500,000.

Travel from Gaza to the outside world: Such travel takes place mostly through Egypt • During the first half of 2013, about 40,000 people transited at Rafah in both directions each month • 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 • From January – September 2015, Rafah Crossing was open on 27 days only, with transit out of Gaza to Egypt barred on four of these • During this period, a monthly average of 2,479 entrances and exits through Rafah was recorded • 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 expanded from three to six nautical miles from the coast • The size of the “buffer zone” which is off limits to Palestinian stands at 300 meters from the border with Israel, but according to correspondence with Israeli officials, farmers can enter lands up to a distance of 100 meters from the border • It is unclear how the army knows which residents are farmers, for the purpose of allowing them to access their lands.

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 sweeping restrictions 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 began 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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