Access to Erez Crossing still being denied by de facto authorities

 

Hamas-controlled checkpoint known as 4-4, en route to Erez Crossing. Photo courtesy of OCHA

Hamas-controlled checkpoint, en route to Erez Crossing. Photo courtesy of OCHA

April 2, 2017. The Hamas-controlled checkpoint known as 4-4, en route to Erez Crossing in Gaza, remains almost completely closed to movement out of Gaza.  Movement through the checkpoint has been restricted in this way since Sunday, March 26.

The severe travel restrictions are said to have been imposed “for security reasons,” following the killing of Mazen Fuqaha in Gaza on Friday, March 24. Residents of Gaza, already suffering from a decade of closure enforced by Israel, now face additional impediments. The spokesperson of Gaza’s interior ministry issued a statement this morning indicating that movement of international workers of United Nations agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross would be permitted; exceptional and urgent humanitarian cases that are not included in approved criteria for travel could petition the authorities to receive special permission. The spokesperson said the restrictions are temporary, and “due to the state of security.”

The interior ministry in Gaza previously announced that passage would be allowed to the Israeli side of Erez Crossing for medical patients and for family members granted permits to visit prisoners, limited to children under the age of 15 and individuals over the age of 45. Entrance to the Strip has been permitted since last Monday. During last week, the total number of exits by Palestinians was 385, a figure only slightly higher than the daily average of exits by Palestinians in February (304 exits). Last week, a total of 643 entrances by Palestinians were registered, in comparison with 284 daily entrances registered during February.

In light of the ongoing closure of Rafah Crossing to Egypt, Erez Crossing has come to be Gaza residents’ near sole gateway to the outside world, and serves as their only access route to Israel and the West Bank. Even the few lucky residents of Gaza to whom Israel has granted travel permits have been denied movement out of the Strip this week. Among those affected are medical patients in need of life-saving treatment; traders and businesspeople; Palestinians seeking access to consular services, including visa applicants with scheduled interviews, and; people who have received permits to visit family under humanitarian circumstances.

In addition, Hamas authorities in Gaza have prohibited fishermen from going out to sea, harming thousands of families who are dependent on the fishing industry. Fishing has already been limited by Israel’s restriction of Gaza’s fishing zone to six nautical miles offshore.

As we said last week, security concerns do not give any actor free reign to violate human rights. Freedom of movement is a fundamental human right, and is a basic precondition for the fulfillment of other rights, such as the right to health, to livelihood, and to family life.  This right cannot be denied, treated as conditional, or used as a bargaining chip.