Measures to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic have ushered in an age of uncertainty around the world, taking a heavy toll on national and global economies. In the case of the occupied Palestinian territory, these access restrictions come in addition to severe restrictions on movement of both people and goods that Israel has enforced for decades as a matter of policy. Given the lasting damage caused by its stringent permit regime, and the substantial control it still wields over life in the Gaza Strip, Israel has a responsibility to allow vital items and humanitarian aid to flow into the Strip and to actively foster conditions to allow for as much economic activity in Gaza as possible, even in these exceptional circumstances.
A new factsheet published by Gisha today provides information and analysis on operations at Kerem Shalom Crossing, Gaza’s main commercial access point to the West Bank, Israel and the world, and a critical lifeline for its two million residents. More than 80 percent of the goods entering the Strip, in terms of value, are purchased from Israeli companies and suppliers. Gaza relies on Kerem Shalom Crossing for trade, particularly with its natural and historically most significant target markets, the West Bank and Israel, but also for access to markets abroad.
The factsheet is based on Gisha’s ongoing monitoring of movement and current research. It provides analysis of the costs associated with Kerem Shalom Crossing serving as the exclusive route for movement of goods between Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank, the difficulties associated with its problematic location, in the southernmost point of the border between Gaza and Israel, far from commercial centers and industrial zones in both areas.
For Gaza to be able to realize its economic potential, Israel must remove the sweeping restrictions on movement of goods it enforces at Kerem Shalom. Until the closure is lifted and the occupation is ended, there are changes to policy and practice that must be made to facilitate more trade and transit of essential goods. In the conclusion of the factsheet, Gisha recommends a number of measures that can be implemented at the crossing to alleviate the economic crisis in the Strip, including:
- Opening additional commercial crossings in northern Gaza
- Removing restrictions on types of goods that can exit the Strip and restrictions on days/hours for exit of goods
- Ensuring uninterrupted operations of the crossing and refraining from closing Kerem Shalom as a punitive measure
- Reducing Kerem Shalom-specific fees and taxes
- Building fuel storage tanks, refrigeration and storage facilities for goods at the crossing
- Enabling the transport of shipping containers through the crossing
Israel’s control over the crossing, its infrastructure, what goods can be transported through it, how much of them, and when – comes with a responsibility to protect living conditions in the Strip and to respect its residents’ fundamental rights to dignity and livelihood.