Gaza’s private sector holds another protest strike

Rafah Crossing. Photo by: Gisha

Rafah Crossing. Photo by: Gisha

February 15, 2018. Gaza’s private sector is striking again today in protest against the continuous economic decline and worsening living conditions in the Strip. No goods entered Gaza through Kerem Shalom in the last two days. Yesterday, as part of the protest, a convoy of trucks drove along the road in Gaza leading to Erez Crossing, where a protest rally and news conference were held. The background for the strike is the relative indifference with which Gaza’s economic deterioration has been met by the authorities. The strike’s organizers presented a list of demands:

  1. Approve exit permits for medical patients who require treatment that is not available in Gaza, particularly for those with serious conditions. This week, the World Health Organization released information indicating that only 54 percent of the 25,000 applications submitted to Israel in 2017 were approved.
  2. Significantly increase the number of trader permits and permits granted to businesspeople. Sustainable economic growth in the Strip depends on long-term permits to enable economic activity.
  3. End the arbitrary policy of placing “security blocks” on individuals, barring them from travel.
  4. Open Erez Crossing 24/7 for movement of people in and out of the Strip.
  5. Permit the entry of equipment and spare parts needed for restoration of industrial production lines and infrastructure maintenance.
  6. Close down the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), originally set up in 2014, following Operation Protective Edge, to monitor and control the distribution of construction materials in the Strip. The GRM now severely hinders the entrance of essential materials and equipment into Gaza.
  7. Expand the list of Gaza-made products permitted for sale in the West Bank and for export abroad, primarily processed foods and paper products.
  8. Open Erez Crossing to movement of goods in and out of Gaza.
  9. Permanently expand Gaza’s fishing zone.
  10. Shorten the security screening process that is a prerequisite for obtaining travel permits from Israel.

In the meantime, some 400 residents of Gaza who were unable to return to the Strip in the short time the Rafah Crossing was open last week remain stranded in Egypt. About one hundred people, who were already on their way to the crossing, did not reach it in time and had to return to Cairo. Others arrived at the Cairo airport and were forced to return to the countries they had traveled from in the hopes of entering the Strip. The crossing was opened suddenly on Wednesday, February 7, in the early afternoon and was scheduled to remain open until Friday. At 11:00 a.m. on Friday morning the Egyptian authorities announced that the crossing would be closed earlier than planned due to security incidents in the area. While the crossing was open, 1,021 individuals entered the Strip, and 890 people exited Gaza into Egypt.