In an urgent letter (Hebrew) sent today (6.9) to Israel’s Minister of Defense Yoav Galant, and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Ghassan Alian, Gisha demands that the decision to block all exit of goods from Gaza via Kerem Shalom Crossing be reversed immediately.

Israel has been preventing all exit of goods from the Strip via Kerem Shalom since yesterday morning, September 5. According to reports, this follows the alleged discovery by the Israeli Crossings Authority, on Monday, September 4, of explosive material in a shipment of clothing during a routine security screening at Kerem Shalom. Entry of goods into Gaza is being permitted, subject to restrictions that are regularly enforced by Israel. Any further restrictions imposed on movement of goods through Kerem Shalom not only constitute illegal collective punishment, they also have an immediate impact on the population already living in fraught humanitarian conditions in the Strip and on the Palestinian economy.

“The decision is entirely unjustified, especially given the fact that thousands of civilians, including traders and workers in the agriculture sector and other fields, are being punished for no fault of their own for a single incident that has nothing to do with them. This indicates that the decision stems from punitive objectives, and constitutes abuse of your control over the crossings,” Gisha cautions in the letter. “What is more concerning still is the fact that the period in which the crossing will be closed to exit of goods is unknown and has not been made clear, despite the disastrous implications for Gaza’s population.”

According to assessments in Gaza, Israel’s ban on marketing of goods from the Strip has already resulted in losses of hundreds of thousands of shekels for the agriculture sector, which employs more than 60,000 people, as well as for other industries, which employ thousands more. The damage to traders and suppliers is multiplied each day that Kerem Shalom is blocked for exit of goods. Gisha emphasizes that “the decision is illegal, standing in contradiction to judgments by [Israel’s] High Court and even to Israel’s self-proclaimed commitments. It leads to unwarranted, disproportionate and unreasonable infringements on the rights to dignity, freedom of movement, to livelihood, harming thousands of civilians and generally disrupting trade and industry in Gaza.”

Again and again, Israeli authorities abuse their control over Gaza’s crossings in violation of their legal obligation to facilitate movement and access needed to maintain normal living conditions, while disavowing their responsibilities towards Palestinians under occupation. Israel must immediately cancel the decision to block exit of goods from Gaza via Kerem Shalom, which constitutes illegal collective punishment, and renew transit of goods subject only to proportionate and reasonable security measures.

To read the full letter (Hebrew), see here.