Since Tuesday morning (September 5), Israel has been preventing all exit of goods from the Strip via Kerem Shalom Crossing. 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.
In an urgent letter (Hebrew) sent September 6 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. “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.
Fully controlled by Israel, Kerem Shalom is Gaza’s main commercial crossing and the only one bordering Israel. All transit of goods through the crossing requires coordination with the Israeli authorities and is subject to restrictions Israel enforces on the entry and exit of goods, as well as security screenings at the crossing. Between 2007 and 2014, Israel banned commercial shipments from Gaza to Israel and the West Bank and allowed only very limited exports abroad. Since late 2014, Israel has gradually allowed limited exit of produce, furniture, textiles and a handful of other goods from Gaza for sale in the West Bank and Israel. However, it continues to limit and hinder outgoing commercial shipments, causing severe, ongoing harm to the Palestinian economy. Since the summer of 2021, some goods exit Gaza to Egypt via Salah a-Din Gate, which is under Egyptian control.
This is not the first time Israel has decided to stop all movement of goods through Kerem Shalom Crossing in response to isolated incidents, including attempted smuggling. Between May and July 2023, Israel enforced a blanket ban on exit of furniture from Gaza after allegedly thwarting an attempt to smuggle weapons. Since then, furniture shipments bound for sale in Israel and the West Bank have been subject to further restrictions, including on how much furniture may be shipped out of Gaza each day.
In August and November 2022, Israel blocked exit of fish from Gaza for sale in the West Bank for several weeks each time after trucks were caught transporting fish from Gaza in a manner that did not comply with Israeli procedures on the matter. Even after the full ban on fish shipments was lifted, Israel has continued to enforce an arbitrary quota on exit of fish, harming Gaza’s fishing sector.
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.
For the press release on this issue, see here.
To read the letter (Hebrew), see here.