On January 14, 2020, Gisha sent a letter (Hebrew) to Israel’s Minister of Defense Naftali Bennett, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, demanding that they immediately allow the entrance of tires into the Gaza Strip. Israel has blocked tires from entering Gaza since April 2018, in a sweeping and punitive response to burning of tires at the Great March of Return demonstrations, which began in late March 2018. Since then, Israel has only allowed three truckloads of tires to enter the Strip for the private sector.
Earlier this month, Gisha reported that Israel’s tire ban had caused an acute shortage in the Strip, with the price of tires skyrocketing. Since September 2018, some tires have entered the Strip via Salah a-Din Gate between Gaza and Egypt. The supply from Egypt has been vital, but insufficient. Tire suppliers in the Strip are not able to order inventory according to customer demand and simply have to make do with whatever comes in. The price of the tires imported from Egypt is extremely high, and can only be paid in advance in full, rather than in installments. In the absence of appropriate regulation, the buyer in Gaza is forced to pay five times more for the same tire sold on the market in Egypt. Both customers and suppliers can seldom afford to pay the full price at once, so many of them opt for repairing old, worn tires, the use of which puts them and others on the road at risk of injury and death. Media reports in Gaza have linked the growing number of car accidents to the tire crisis.
Mohammed Abu Elba, owner of a Gaza tire supply company, told Gisha last month that just before the ban was imposed he had bought and paid in advance for 500,000 ILS worth of tires (almost 145,000 USD), which have been in storage in Israel ever since. Abu Elba is footing the bill for the storage as well. He estimated that other than his company’s purchase, about 1,800 tires for family cars and an additional 250 tires for trucks and industrial vehicles were purchased by his colleagues and are also being stored in Israel.
Although the directive to block the entrance of tires (which was issued formally in July 2018 but implemented as early as April 2018) does not, in theory, ban their entrance but rather requires tire suppliers to obtain a special permit to coordinate their entrance, suppliers who attempted to obtain such a permit were unsuccessful. In the letter to Bennet, Mandelblit and Abu Rukun, Gisha emphasized that the decision to prevent Gaza residents from accessing tires, “a basic humanitarian commodity,” is unreasonable and disproportionate. “Under the circumstances, the measure is a breach of Israel’s obligation to respect and safeguard normal civilian life for Gaza’s civilian population.”