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 19, 2014
Economic situation in Gaza
There is no shortage of food in Gaza, but severe poverty has increased over years of closure and because of travel restrictions • More than 70% of the population currently receives humanitarian aid • The official unemployment figure during the final quarter of 2013 was 38.5% (compared to 18.7% in 2000) • There is a shortage of approximately 259 schools in Gaza, among other things because of restrictions on the entrance of construction materials • Classes are taught in two and sometimes three shifts.
Entrance of goods into Gaza: Kerem Shalom, connecting Gaza to Israel, is the only crossing open for the transfer of goods into and out of the Strip (apart from the tunnels) • Israel allows all goods into the Gaza Strip except for items it defines as dual-use, which are only permitted in under some circumstances for the international community • Israel is allowing construction materials in for just 10 projects implemented by UNRWA after stopping all construction materials from entering, whether for international organizations or the private sector, in October 2013 following the discovery of a tunnel dug between Gaza and Israel • Construction materials enter in small quantities via Rafah Crossing for reconstruction projects funded by the Qatari government.
Exit of goods from Gaza: The ban on sale of goods from Gaza to the West Bank and Israel, in effect since June 2007, remains in place • Since March 2012, in an exception to the rule, 55 truckloads of goods have exited Gaza for the West Bank and Israel: 49 truckloads of date bars for a World Food Programme project and 4 truckloads of school desks and chairs ordered by the Palestinian Authority to the West Bank and 2 truckloads of palm fronds to Israel • Export abroad is permitted, however demand for Gaza-made goods outside of the West Bank and Israel is low • Some agricultural produce, which exits between November and May, is exported annually as part of a project partially subsidized by the Government of the Netherlands and starting in June 2013, some export of spices to the United States has also taken place • During January and February 2014, an average of 24.5 truckloads of goods exited Gaza each month, or 2% of what exited monthly prior to 2007 • All the goods which exit Gaza transit via Israeli territory.
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) • Israel allows passage through Erez only “in exceptional humanitarian cases, with an emphasis on urgent medical cases” • In practice, during January and February 2014 about 6,200 exits of Palestinians were recorded per month at Erez, most of them businesspeople and medical patients and their companions.
Travel from Gaza to the outside world: Such travel takes place mostly through Egypt • Between January and June 2013, an average of 40,000 crossings were recorded via Rafah per month • Starting in July, Egypt began limiting passage to exceptional cases only, following instability in the country, as well as limiting the days of operation of the crossing • During January and February 2014, the number of crossings per month fell to 5,400 or 13% of the total for the first six months of 2013 • 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 • Israel expanded the fishing zone from three to six nautical miles off the coast • Israel prevents access in the buffer zone from a distance of 300 meters from the border fence.
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.The opening of the Rafah Crossing by Egypt allows for a welcome improvement in Gaza residents’ ability to access the outside world. However, it does not detract from Israel’s obligation to allow regular travel 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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