Since yesterday morning (August 2), Israel has restricted access on roads leading to Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings in the south of Israel and blocked all movement of people and goods to and from the Gaza Strip. Israeli authorities said these measures were taken following a wave of arrests by Israeli forces in the West Bank and for fear of reprisals by armed groups in Gaza. Access via Erez, Gaza’s only pedestrian crossing with Israel and thus the West Bank, has been barred completely for two days, preventing travel even in urgent and humanitarian cases for individuals whose permits had already approved, including dozens of patients in need of life-saving treatment that is unavailable in the Strip. Yesterday, only four patients were allowed through via back-to-back transfer on ambulances. Hundreds of other humanitarian cases, such as people traveling to attend a wedding or funeral of a first-degree relative in Israel or the West Bank, are being denied access. According to the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee in Gaza, the daily average number of exits via Erez Crossing in recent weeks was 2,000 exits, including some 100-120 exits by patients and their companions per day.
The closure of Erez also limits access for the roughly 14,000 residents of Gaza with valid “trader” and “financial needs” permits to work in Israel. On each day that the crossing is closed, thousands of people and their families are denied access to livelihoods, leading to losses of millions of shekels for Gaza’s economy, exacerbating already fragile humanitarian conditions in the Strip.
Kerem Shalom Crossing, Gaza’s main commercial crossing, has also been closed completely since yesterday, preventing, among other goods, the entry of fuel for Gaza’s power plant. If this continues, it may lead to a further reduction in the already intermittent electricity supply available to residents. The block on exit of goods compounds the financial losses caused by the closure of the crossings, and this for an economy already devastated by decades of restrictions and the last 15 years of Israeli-imposed closure on the Strip. According to the Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza, the exit of some 15-20 truckloads of produce and entry into Gaza of about 60-65 truckloads of produce was blocked yesterday, at immense losses for farmers and traders.
Israel’s decision to close Erez and Kerem Shalom has grave repercussions for Palestinians in Gaza and adds to the impact of the illegal closure it enforces regularly. According to reports, Israel claims that the measure is not intended to be punitive but regardless of these claims, it is crystal clear that the humanitarian needs and fundamental rights of Gaza residents have not been given adequate consideration, in violation of Israel’s legal obligations, as occupying power, to protect them.
In a letter (Hebrew) sent yesterday to Israel’s Minister of Defense (MoD), Attorney General, and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Gisha emphasized that the nature and extent of the closing of the crossings is illegal and leads to unjustifiable, unreasonable and disproportionate harm and infringement on the rights to life, health, movement, livelihood, and family life, as well as obstructing Gaza’s industries and economy as a whole. “This reinforces the impression that residents of the Strip, who live in constant uncertainty given Israel’s control of Gaza’s crossings and its sudden, arbitrary decisions to close them, are being targeted,” the letter states.
Also calling to open the crossings are Israeli members of Ibtisam Mara’ana (here), Aida Touma-Suleiman (here), and Mosi Raz, Michal Rozin, Ali Salalha and Gaby Lasky (here), who each wrote separately to Israel’s MoD and COGAT last evening to demand that Erez Crossing be opened immediately to allow exit of patients in need to medical treatment.