March 16, 2020. Due to concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 virus, exit from Gaza to Israel through Erez Crossing is currently limited mostly to medical patients and their companions. Patients are also reportedly being monitored by a committee established by the de facto authorities in Gaza on their way out of the Strip. Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, Palestinian residents of the West Bank, foreign nationals and individuals in other urgent, humanitarian circumstances may submit applications for travel permits to be considered by Israeli authorities. Entrance into the Strip is limited to residents of Gaza and foreign nationals, subject to special coordination. So far, cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Israel and the West Bank, but not in Gaza.
Travel via Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt has been limited since the weekend in both directions; return of residents to the Strip is being permitted as well as exit of urgent humanitarian cases. Residents of Gaza entering the Strip via Rafah are being sent to quarantine facilities set up near the crossing and in schools in the area.
Kerem Shalom Crossing, Gaza’s only commercial crossing for transit of goods, is operating as usual. This morning, for the first time since 2013, Israel allowed entrance of cement for Gaza’s private sector independently of the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM). For a brief period in late 2012 and 2013, cement was permitted to enter for the private sector. Since late 2014, cement for construction has only entered Gaza through special coordination or through the GRM. A total of 107 truckloads of cement entered the Strip today.
Gisha recalls that Israel’s comprehensive, ongoing control over substantial aspects of daily life in Gaza comes with a responsibility to protect the fundamental rights and living conditions of its residents, even in challenging times such as the present. Any decisions to limit access must be based on legitimate concerns for public health, also for Palestinian residents. Israel must allow humanitarian access under the widest possible interpretation of the term given the circumstances.