Because of the almost hermetic closure Israel imposes on Gaza’s land crossings and a complete ban on air and sea travel into and out of the Gaza Strip, Rafah Crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt has become a vital window to the outside world for the residents of Gaza. For a brief period after the “disengagement” and during the implementation of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, 40,000 people per month passed through Rafah Crossing in both directions.
In the months between the capture of Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in June 2006 and the Hamas takeover of internal control in the Gaza Strip in June 2007, Israel closed Rafah Crossing 86% of the time; in June 2007 Rafah Crossing was closed regularly, except for random and limited openings by Egypt, which met only about one tenth of the needs of the residents of the Gaza Strip for travel. Passage during those openings was permitted only to a small number of people in strictly defined categories: medical patients, pilgrims, and foreign nationals or residents of the Gaza Strip with foreign visas, including students.
Since June 2, 2010, following the events of the flotilla to Gaza, Egypt has opened the Rafah Crossing daily, but even since then passage has been limited to members of the same categories defined above and there is no free passage between Egypt and Gaza.
For further information on Rafah Crossing, click here.
Erez Crossing is the only land crossing for people between the Gaza Strip and Israel and the West Bank. The ability of Gaza residents to enter Israel has been increasingly restricted over the years, becoming nearly impossible: since 1991 residents of the Gaza Strip need entry permits to Israel, issued with General Security Services’ (GSS) approval in diminishing numbers over the years. In 1993, a general closure of the occupied Palestinian territory was declared; its enforcement in the Gaza effectively began in 1995 with the construction of an electronic fence and concrete wall around the Strip. The crossing has periodically also been closed to permit holders, when a “complete closure” was imposed on the Gaza Strip. At the beginning of the intifada in September 2000 Israel canceled many existing exit permits and issued few new ones. The number of days Erez Crossing was closed increased considerably. In the first year of the Intifada the crossing was closed to Palestinians for 72% of the year. The restrictions led to a sharp drop in the number of Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip who were able to enter Israel every day: from more than 26,000 in the summer of 2000 before the Intifada to less than 900 after it broke out later that year. On March 12, 2006, before the Jewish holiday of Purim, Israel declared a closure of the occupied Palestinian territory and prevented the entrance of workers from the Gaza Strip into Israel; since then they have not been allowed in again.
Israel continues preventing the residents of Gaza from traveling through Erez Crossing to this day, except for the monthly exit of a few hundred patients and their companions, a handful of merchants and other exceptional cases.