July 17, 2018. Yesterday evening, Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman declared a further exacerbation of the punitive measures against the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, including barring entrance of fuel and cooking gas into Gaza via Kerem Shalom Crossing, and reducing Gaza’s fishing zone to three nautical miles offshore. These sanctions are added to those already imposed at Kerem Shalom as of last week: Israel is limiting the entrance of goods into Gaza to a bare humanitarian minimum, and has placed a sweeping prohibition on the exit of goods from the Strip. The shutting down of Gaza’s main lifeline is an illegal act of collective punishment against the two million residents of Gaza, most of whom are children.
The Israeli government has framed these measures as a response to the extensive damage caused to fields and farmland in Israel by incendiary kites sent into Israel from Gaza. The harm inflicted on farmers in the south of Israel is grave and lamentable. Causing deliberate harm to Gaza residents for actions over which they have no control must not be regarded as a legitimate response to the situation, particularly in light of the already dire humanitarian situation in the Strip. Given the chronic shortage of electricity in Gaza, restrictions on the supply of fuel, which is used to power generators, threaten to impact essential civilian infrastructure, as well as the functioning of factories, businesses, and households. Gaza’s fragile economy cannot sustain any further blows.
Some background information to give a sense about the impact and potential impact of Israel’s sanctions on Gaza:
- According to the United Nations’ estimates, during the last week of June the value of agricultural produce exiting Gaza for Israel, the West Bank and foreign markets was 800,000 ILS (more than 220,000 USD). Most of Gaza’s produce, which is now barred from exiting Kerem Shalom, cannot be sold on the local market within the Strip and will therefore go to waste.
- Businesspeople from other sectors, such as the textile sector, already report extensive financial losses due to their inability to supply goods to their buyers outside the Strip.
- Gisha’s field coordinator in Gaza was informed that the total volume of cooking gas currently available in the Strip is expected to be sold out in one day. Cooking gas is a relatively cheap source of energy with a wide range of uses in Gaza, where actual demand is approximately 300 tons of gas per day.
- During June, almost 6.5 million liters of diesel and nearly 1.7 million liters of benzene entered Gaza via Kerem Shalom.
- The Gaza Health Ministry requires 15,000 liters of diesel per day to operate essential services such as hospitals, clinics, ambulances and offices.
- UNRWA requires about 36,000 liters of diesel and 1,500 liters of benzene per day.
In addition to the measures at Kerem Shalom, Egypt has closed Rafah Crossing for movement of people as well as Salah a-Din gate for movement of goods for “technical reasons,” meaning that Gaza’s limited substitute to Kerem Shalom is now blocked as well. Importantly, Salah a-Din gate operates at only a fraction of Kerem Shalom’s capacity; the total number of trucks that entered Gaza in June through Salah a-Din constitutes only five percent of the number of trucks that entered via Kerem Shalom during the same period (less than 350 trucks, compared with more than 6,800). For several months now, Gaza’s sole power plant has operated at low capacity using the small quantities of fuel entering Gaza from Egypt. Since Israel imposed its latest sanctions on Kerem Shalom last week, and before Salah a-Din gate was closed yesterday, 36 trucks carrying benzene and diesel entered the Strip from Egypt.
By virtue of its comprehensive and ongoing control over various aspects of everyday life in the Strip, Israel is obligated to facilitate normal living conditions for Gaza’s residents. In order to do so, Israel must end the closure on Gaza. Gisha calls on the Israeli government to immediately lift the sanctions imposed on the passage of goods through Kerem Shalom, to rescind the reduction of Gaza’s fishing zone, and to stop the abhorrent collective punishment of the civilian population in Gaza.