Monday, July 12, 2021. More than six weeks after the ceasefire, Israel continues to block the entry of thousands of items into Gaza, including construction materials, raw materials, spare parts, and equipment that are critically needed in the Strip for industry, reconstruction of homes, and repair of civilian infrastructure damaged or destroyed during hostilities. Travel to and from Gaza via Erez Crossing, which was halted almost completely by Israel in March 2020 under the pretext of COVID-19 safety measures, continues to be highly restricted. This morning, Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced some minor “easings” to Israel’s policy at Gaza’s crossings. The proposed measures are nowhere near enough to meet current needs or to mitigate the harm caused by Israel’s closure policy.
According to reports, Israel is making Gaza’s reconstruction contingent on the outcome of political negotiations with Hamas. In practice, Israel continues to make wrongful use of its control over the crossings in order to deliberately impair the living conditions of Gaza’s two million residents, half of them children, who already contend with high rates of poverty and a lack of basic services. According to the United Nations, one in five people in Gaza do not currently have regular access to running or safe water. A senior official at the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility in Gaza relayed that thousands of items needed for the sector, including pumps and various pipes are lacking, severely impairing and in some cases leading to the shutdown of dozens of facilities in the Strip, including pumping stations, and sewage treatment and water desalination facilities. Even basic maintenance work to existing facilities is precluded. Stocks have run out and the block on entry of raw materials via Kerem Shalom Crossing has halted local production of necessary items as well.
Shortages of items available on the local market are also impacting production in several major industries, including textile, furniture, farming and fishing. Israel continues to restrict exit of goods, allowing only some items to be marketed in some destinations. Businesses and factories in Gaza have sustained heavy financial losses due to measures imposed by Israel since May 11, estimated at millions of dollars, and employees have been laid off. All of this among a population still reeling from the latest war and in an already beleaguered economy with nearly 50% unemployment.
Israel’s conduct and abuse of its control over the crossings to apply pressure on Gaza’s civilian population violates the absolute prohibition on collective punishment and is unacceptable. The limited entry of construction materials and other items via Egypt falls far short of meeting needs in Gaza, and does not detract from Israel’s legal and moral obligation to protect residents’ basic human rights. Israel must open the crossings immediately, without conditions, and allow Gaza residents living under occupation movement and access to all that is needed to facilitate normal life.