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: February 28, 2016
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 38.4% in the 4th quarter of 2015 (compared to 18.7% in 2000) • More than 100,000 housing units were damaged during the 2014 hostilities • According to January 2016 data from the Shelter Cluster, about 11,000 housing units were completely destroyed, of which only about 326 housing units were rebuilt • Of the 6,800 housing units that were severely damaged, 1,844 were rebuilt.
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 • From Operation Protective Edge until the end of 2015, 3.2 million tons of construction material entered the Strip through Kerem Shalom Crossing, which constitutes about 14% of the total need, estimated at about 23 million tons • About half 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 projects funded by international organizations or by Qatar • About 31,727 tons of cement entered the Strip through Rafah Crossing in 2015 • Cement also entered the Strip through Rafah Crossing in February 2016, during the few days in which the crossing was open.
Exit of goods from Gaza: In November 2014, Israel canceled a seven-year ban on the marketing of certain 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 2015, an average of 113 truckloads of goods exited Gaza per month, compared to a monthly average of about 18 truckloads in 2014 • The monthly average of truckloads of goods exiting Gaza in 2015 was just 10.6% of what exited monthly on the eve of the closure in 2007.
Travel between Gaza and the West Bank: Erez Crossing is the only crossing through which people are permitted to travel between Gaza and Israel • 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 elements of the criteria for travel from Gaza, but these remain exceedingly narrow • In 2015, a monthly average of 14,276 exits of Palestinians was recorded at Erez Crossing, compared to monthly averages of 6,270 exits in 2014 and 4,766 exits in 2013 • The monthly average of exits of Palestinians through Erez Crossing in 2015 was about 2.8% of the monthly average of exits of Palestinian laborers in September 2000, the eve of the Second Intifada, when about 26,000 laborers exited through Erez every day.
Travel from Gaza to the outside world: Travel from Gaza to the outside world 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 and following instability in the country, Egypt began limiting passage to exceptional cases only, as well as limiting the days of operation of the crossing • In 2015, Rafah Crossing was open on 32 days only, with transit out of Gaza to Egypt allowed on only 25 of those days • In 2016, the crossing has been open for 3 days only • 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 • Due to the closure of Rafah Crossing, Erez Crossing has provided a very select number of people a way to the outside world via Allenby Bridge into Jordan • In January 2016, there were 352 exits of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to Allenby Bridge, compared to a monthly average of 121 exits in 2015 • This is far from meeting needs, and can be compared with the average of 20,000 exits via Rafah monthly when the crossing operated more regularly.
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 Palestinians, 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.
By virtue of Israel’s substantial control of the Gaza Strip, international law requires Israel to facilitate normal life in the Strip, including 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 into Gaza, sale of goods from Gaza 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 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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