On Sunday night (September 17), Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced that the reopening of Erez Crossing after the three-day closure for the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana would be “postponed.” According to COGAT, entry of workers from Gaza to Israel would only be renewed subject to “an assessment of the situation.” This morning Israel announced that the crossing will continue to be closed “until further notice.” 

Yesterday and today (September 18-19), travel via Erez Crossing is only being allowed for patients in need of medical treatment that is not available in Gaza and their companions, employees of international organizations, and Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.  

We understand that a handful of others were allowed through yesterday to urgent consular appointments at foreign embassies and consulates. All other “humanitarian and exceptional” cases who meet Israel’s stringent criteria for permits are being blocked from travel, in addition to more than 18,000 holders of “financial needs” or work permits, as well as traders and senior businesspeople 

Blocking travel through Erez in response to demonstrations by Gaza’s perimeter fence constitutes illegal collective punishment, harming Gaza workers and their families, as well as other permit holders who need to travel for humanitarian needs.   

the words of a worker from Gaza, unable to exit the Strip. Photo by Majdi Fathi
The words of a worker from Gaza unable to exit the Strip. Photo by Majdi Fathi

“The intention and result of the decision is to cause deliberate harm to the civilian population, stemming from prohibited, punitive objectives and constituting abuse of your control over the crossings,” Gisha stated in an urgent letter sent to Israel’s Minister of Defense Yoav Galant, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Ghassan Alian, and Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara. “The decision is illegal, in blatant violation of the law, the rulings of [Israel’s] High Court and even Israel’s self-proclaimed commitments. It leads to unjustified, disproportionate and unreasonable infringement on the rights to movement, to livelihood, to family life and access to opportunities – harming thousands of families and generally disrupting trade and industrial activity in Gaza.”

The decision comes just two weeks after Israel blocked exit of goods from Gaza via Kerem Shalom Crossing for three consecutive days (September 5-7), another illegal act of collective punishment.

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. Erez Crossing must be fully opened immediately.

To read the press release, click here.