Monday, March 16, 2020. Around the world, governments are trying to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic by imposing restrictions on movement. 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 the flow of vital items and humanitarian aid to the Strip, as well as 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. In addition to information about the crossing’s structure and capacity, the factsheet details the high costs incurred by manufacturers and suppliers in the Strip as a result of the crossing’s location in the southernmost point of the border between Gaza and Israel, far from commercial centers and industrial zones, and lists the fees and taxes collected by the Israeli and Palestinian authorities at the crossing. These added costs are a further burden on Gaza’s already fragile economy and are considered a significant impediment to development.
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, and changes to policy and practice that must be made to facilitate more trade and transit of essential goods.
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, 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
Gisha reiterates that Israel has a responsibility to protect living conditions in the Strip and to respect its residents’ fundamental rights to dignity and livelihood.