Palestinians trapped in Gaza or stranded outside Gaza

Because Israel does not allow access to or from Gaza via sea and air and imposes extensive restrictions on travel through Erez Crossing, Gaza residents rely on the Rafah Crossing with Egypt for travel abroad. Since late June, travel through Rafah has been restricted, preventing Palestinians from leaving Gaza and preventing Palestinians from returning home to Gaza.

There is currently a list of 10,000 people who have registered and are waiting to leave Gaza via Rafah. The waiting list has been closed, meaning that an unknown additional number of people would like to leave but cannot register.
• Egypt is preventing Palestinian residents of Gaza from flying to Egypt, although some exceptions are made. Airlines have been given instructions not to allow Gaza residents to board flights bound for Cairo airport, meaning that many Gaza residents are stranded abroad in third countries, unable to return home and struggling to pay for the unexpected additional costs of remaining abroad.
• Rafah was closed July 5-9. Since then, it has been open for Palestinians already in Egypt to return to Gaza and for exit from Gaza for (1) medical patients with a health ministry referral; (2) those holding foreign citizenship or residence, including Egyptians.
• In the first two weeks of July, exits from Gaza via Rafah dropped to less than one third of the usual daily average, and entrance to Gaza via Rafah dropped to less than half the daily average. Those trapped include students, employees of foreign companies, Palestinians visiting Gaza and seeking to return to homes in third countries, and others.


Rise in price of tunnel goods

The tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border have become a primary route for goods that Israel restricts, especially construction materials and fuel. Prior to the turmoil in Egypt, more civilian goods were entering Gaza via the tunnels than via the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel. Transfer of civilian goods via the tunnels has been disrupted due to the sporadic presence of Egyptian security officials on the Egyptian side of the border, although many tunnels remain functional.  The disruptions have led to price rises, including a 58% rise in the price of cement and a 50% rise in the price of gravel.


Gisha’s legal position

Egypt is not an occupying power in the Gaza Strip and it does not control Gaza’s air space and territorial waters. Therefore, its obligations towards Gaza’s residents are humanitarian in nature. It must, however, take into consideration Gaza residents’ right to freedom of movement and make the utmost effort to maintain a reliable and sufficient travel route through its territory.

In contrast, due to Israel’s substantial control over the Gaza Strip, it has a duty, under the law of occupation, to enable Gaza residents to lead normal lives, including the possibility of leaving Gaza and returning 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.