Since the kidnapping: Movement obstructed and goods blocked
June 23, 2014. Israel has engaged in an extensive military operation in the West Bank over the past nine days following the kidnapping of three Israeli youths in the Gush Etzion area. Military forces have entered Palestinian city centers and conducted widespread raids on homes and arrests. Following rocket fire from Gaza, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon ordered further restrictions on movement at Gaza’s crossings. This is the ninth time since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense (November 2012) that movement through the crossings has been further restricted following escalations of violence in the region.
Since Sunday (June 15), only foreign nationals (including Gaza residents with Israeli citizenship) and medical patients have been allowed to travel through Erez Crossing. Merchants and others who had received permits to travel are not being allowed to exit the Strip. Gaza residents who were in Israel or the West Bank are being allowed to return to their homes.
We have yet to receive precise data, but Palestinian sources estimate that during this period only 900-1,000 exits were recorded at the crossing, about 90% of which were of medical patients and their companions. This represents a daily average of about 160 exits or in other words, 56% of the daily average during the month of May.
Kerem Shalom Crossing
On Sunday and Monday of last week (June 15-16), Kerem Shalom Crossing was closed save for fuel transfers to the Gaza Strip. On Tuesday, Kerem Shalom opened partially for some goods and it operated in its normal capacity on Wednesday and Thursday.
However, export of goods remains blocked. Last week, export was not permitted because the crossing was closed and was still blocked following the re-opening of the crossing. According to the Palestinian agricultural coordinator, Israel claims that the merchandise scanner is out of order. Two truckloads of chives and basil had been scheduled to transit from Gaza destined for the United States this week and last.
On Sunday and Monday of last week, Rafah Crossing was opened to allow pilgrims to exit. On Tuesday and Wednesday it was opened for travel by medical patients, individuals holding foreign passports and residency and students. On Tuesday and Wednesday between 750 and 850 individuals exited Gaza to Egypt. The monthly average of exits through Rafah in the first five months of 2014 was 2,874, compared to 19,112 in the first five months of 2013, or in other words, 15%.
The Palestinian Crossings Authority reports that approximately 15,000 individuals are registered and still waiting to travel through Rafah. Before last week, the last time Rafah Crossing opened for predetermined categories was on April 29 and 30.
- Yesterday, human rights organizations in Israel working in the occupied Palestinian territory sent an urgent letter to the heads of the security establishment and to military commanders in the oPt, demanding that they refrain from collectively punishing the civilian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of the military operation “Brother’s Keeper” and roll back the measures taken against Palestinian prisoners.
- Last week, Gisha issued a condemnation of the actions taken against civilians, whether in Israel, the West Bank or Gaza. As in previous cases in which crossings were closed, any closure of the crossings that does not correspond to concrete security needs could be considered a targeting of civilians and a breach of international law.
- Haaretz recently published an op-ed by Amir Rotem, Gisha’s Director of the Public Department, marking seven years of closure on the Gaza Strip.