Human rights groups to DM Ya’alon: Respect Gaza residents’ right to freedom of movement

July 22, 2013. A group of Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations wrote to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Monday demanding Israel take action to allow Gaza residents affected by the new restrictions at Rafah Crossing to exit and enter Gaza.

Recent turmoil in Egypt has brought new restrictions on passage via Rafah Crossing. Since July 1, exit via Rafah has been reduced to less than one third its usual scope. As a result, more than 10,000 people are stranded in Gaza. An unknown number of others cannot exercise their basic human right to return to their homes, and they are unduly paying for involuntary stays in airports and hotels in foreign countries.

Currently, only medical patients with referrals from the Palestinian Ministry of Health and holders of a foreign citizenship or residence are allowed to enter Egypt from Gaza. Gaza residents present in Egypt are allowed to return home, but those still abroad are not being permitted to land at Egyptian airports. Because Israel does not allow passage to and from Gaza via the air or sea and limits passage via land crossings with Israel, Gaza residents have become dependent on Egypt as their gateway to travel abroad.

Students needing to reach universities abroad, Palestinian residents needing to return to their work places outside Gaza, businesspeople and medical patients without official referrals are all stuck.

Due to Israel's control over the Gaza Strip, it has an obligation, under the law of occupation and human rights law, to enable Gaza residents to lead normal lives, including the opportunity to leave Gaza and return to it. If travel through Rafah is inadequate, Israel must allow Gaza residents to exercise their right to freedom of movement through other crossings, whether on land through the border crossings between Israel and Gaza or by sea and air, to the outside world.

In the past, when traffic at Rafah was restricted, Israel allowed individuals to enter and leave the Strip via crossings with Israel, as part of a shuttle bus system and on an individual basis.

As the situation in Egypt remains volatile, and restrictions at Rafah continue, the undersigned human rights groups calls upon Israel’s defense minister to immediately institute arrangements that will allow Palestinian residents of Gaza to exercise their fundamental right to freedom of movement.

Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement
PCHR – Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Hamoked – Center for the Defence of the Individual
PHR-Israel – Physicians for Human Rights – Israel
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights