In early March 2020, Israel severely tightened existing restrictions on movement of people to and from Gaza against the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak. Unlike in Israel itself and in the rest of the world, where temporary lockdowns have been eased and sometimes reinstated, for seven months Israel has continued to limit exit from Gaza to patients in need of urgent medical care and their companions, with rare exceptions. As a result, traffic at Erez Crossing has plummeted to just 3% of what it was at the beginning of 2020.

In May, the Palestinian Authority (PA) decided to suspend coordination with Israel, in protest over the Israeli government’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank. As a result, the PA-run Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee in Gaza stopped receiving permit applications from Gaza residents and forwarding them to the Israeli authorities. Months later, Israel continues to evade what is ultimately its own responsibility: To ensure Palestinian travel between the areas under its control and to protect the human rights of Gaza’s residents.

As has been made all the more salient to everyone in 2020, necessary health precautions must be balanced with the recognition of the cardinal importance of movement to everyday life. Israel must make far-reaching changes to its policy at Erez Crossing, both immediately and post-pandemic, that recognize its obligation to meet the basic needs and protect the human rights of Gaza’s residents.

To read Gisha’s new position paper on the tightening of the closure on Gaza during the pandemic, click here.