July 21, 2021. Two months after the ceasefire came into effect, Israel continues to exploit its control over the crossings and fishing zone and is still enforcing a ban on the entry of construction and other crucial materials into the Strip. This is a breach of Israel’s legal and moral obligation to allow residents access to whatever they need to rebuild after the war and in order to lead normal lives.
Kerem Shalom Crossing
On July 12, Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced some minor “easings” to Israel’s policy at Gaza’s commercial crossing, Kerem Shalom. Israel added items to the list of goods allowed in to the Strip. As of July 12, the list of permitted items includes medical equipment, fishing and farming equipment, raw materials for the production of cosmetics, cleaning products and medicine, textiles, shoes, houseware items, school supplies, bags, brushes, medical chairs, blankets, and more.
The minor modifications fall short of meeting current needs, let alone filling extensive supply gaps in Gaza. Israel continues to block the entry of thousands of items into Gaza, including construction materials, raw materials, spare parts, and equipment that are critically needed in the Strip for industry, reconstruction of homes, and repair of civilian infrastructure damaged or destroyed during hostilities.
Israel’s ongoing ban on entry of communications equipment has led to an increase in prices of basic items. Ayman Bakron, manager of the PalBox cell phone company and the Al Quds IT company, told Gisha that the price of cell phones, computers and tablets in Gaza has gone up by 20-30 percent. “Before the attack on Gaza, I ordered a lot of goods, and they’ve been stuck in Israel for more than two months,” Bakron told us. “As time goes by, the stocks in Gaza are depleted and the value of the goods stuck in Israel drops.”
Continued restrictions on the entry of goods have also had a dire impact on Gaza’s transport sector. According to Ismail Al Nahleh, director of the Car Importers Association in Gaza, Israel is holding goods with an estimated value of about 30 million USD, including more than 500 cars. Israel’s ban on entry of vehicles and tires has sent prices soaring.
On July 12, the Palestinian Committee for the Coordination of Exit and Entry of Goods said that, for the first time since the May 11 escalation, Israel would allow plastics and furniture to exit Gaza for sale in Israel and the West Bank. Mujahid Al Susi, a veteran furniture supplier, told Gisha that despite these easings, Israel is still preventing the entry of essential items for the furniture industry, which impacts production.
Severe restrictions on the sale of other Gaza goods in Israel, the West Bank, and abroad have resulted in price hikes in the local market and the destruction of agricultural goods. Businesses and factories in Gaza have sustained heavy financial losses due to measures imposed by Israel, estimated at millions of dollars, and employees have been laid off. All of this among a population still reeling from the latest war and in an already beleaguered economy with nearly 50% unemployment.
Travel to and from Gaza via Erez Crossing, which Israel has blocked almost completely since March 2020 under the pretext of COVID-19 safety measures, continues to be highly restricted. Travel is only possible for people falling into one of the following categories: Patients in need of critical medical treatment, foreign journalists and journalists working for the Palestinian Ministry of Communications, individuals traveling to receive medical training or for consular services at foreign missions, and people traveling to a funeral/mourning rituals of a first-degree relative or to visit a first-degree relative who is severely ill.
On July 17, in light of the increased demand for electricity in the current weather conditions, and ahead of the Eid Al Adha holiday, the Gaza electricity company announced it would start operating the power plant’s fourth turbine. Before then, the plant had been operating only three of its four turbines.
According to Mohammed Thabet, spokesperson for the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company, the plant will provide 20 additional megawatts (MW) for a total of about 90 MW produced at the plant. The improved power supply will be most evident at night, when Gaza residents usually have power outages.
The 90 MW produced by Gaza’s power plant, and the 120 MW purchased from Israel, make up Gaza’s total electricity supply (210 MW), which still falls far short of actual demand, estimated at about 400-450 MW per day.
The fishing zone
On July 12, Israel announced that “in light of the calm,” it would expand the “fishing zone” it enforces in Gaza’s territorial waters to a maximal distance of 12 nautical miles off parts of the Gaza coast. Israel has yet to restore the fishing zone to what it was before the May 11 escalation (maximal distance of 15 nautical miles). Even the fishing zone enforced before the latest hostilities fell short of the 20 nautical miles Israel had committed to allow under the Oslo Accords. According to an assessment by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Israel’s restrictions on access to Gaza’s sea space prevent Gaza fishermen from exhausting the fish stocks off the Strip’s coast, including certain types of sardines, tuna, and mackerel that can be found between 10 to 20 nautical miles off the coast.
Israel continues to abuse its control over the crossings and fishing zone to apply pressure as part of its continued negotiations with Hamas. The ongoing movement and access restrictions it is enforcing constitute illegal collective punishment of Gaza’s entire population, which is unacceptable. Gisha calls on Israel to fulfill its legal and moral obligations to allow residents access to all that is needed to facilitate normal life and rebuild the Strip. In particular, Israel must immediately enable access to materials and equipment needed to repair basic civilian infrastructure.