Erez Crossing is the only land crossing for the movement of people between the Gaza Strip and Israel and the West Bank, as well as third countries when Rafah Crossing is closed. In recent years, Israel permitted Palestinian residents to apply to cross Erez in narrow circumstances: for business and trade, medical treatment unavailable in the Strip, and other “humanitarian exceptions,” that is, visiting a dying first-degree relative, or attending a wedding or a funeral of a first-degree relative.
Since March 2020, Israel has tightened the closure on Gaza even further, blocking virtually all travel via Erez Crossing, save for a small number of patients, their companions, and a handful of others. As the graph shows, the numbers of exits from Gaza via Erez Crossing since March 2020 are just 1-3% of the exits registered in February 2020, before the “coronavirus closure” was imposed. Even before the pandemic outbreak, the average number of exits by Palestinians through Erez were still just a fraction of the half million exits by laborers recorded at Erez every month in 2000.
Gaza residents’ ability to cross Erez was gradually limited over the years. Since 1991, residents have been required to obtain exit permits, and the number of permits given gradually declined. In 1993, a general closure was declared on the Palestinian territory; it was enforced in Gaza especially starting in 1995, when an electronic fence and concrete wall were built around the Strip. When the Second Intifada broke out in September 2000, Israel cancelled many existing exit permits and reduced the number of new permits it issued. Additionally, Erez Crossing was shut down more frequently. In the first year of the intifada, the crossing was closed to Palestinians 72% of the time. The restrictions led to a drop of tens of percentage points in the number of Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip who were able to travel to and through Israel daily, from more than 26,000 in the summer of 2000, on the eve of the intifada, to less than 900 after it broke out later that year.
After Hamas took control of the Strip, Israel tightened movement restrictions to the point of full closure on Gaza, only allowing travel according to a narrow list of criteria, determined by Israel. Though Israel has implemented slight changes to the criteria over the years, travel from Gaza to Israel and the West Bank remained extremely limited, and beyond the reach of most Palestinians.
Text was last updated in February 2022.