This week marks two months since the start of the latest large-scale military operation in Gaza. A month and a half after the ceasefire, Israel continues to severely obstruct movement and access, which is a kind of war, just in a different form.
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 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, interrupting operations at dozens of facilities in the Strip, including pumping stations, and sewage treatment and water desalination facilities. Stocks have run out and a 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, including in the textile, furniture, farming and fishing sectors. These restrictions on entrance of goods, as well as limits on exit of goods imposed over the past two months were estimated to have caused millions of dollars in losses for business and factories, leading to extensive layoffs. All of this among a population still reeling from the latest war and in an already beleaguered economy with nearly 50% unemployment.
Yesterday, 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 not enough to meet current needs or to mitigate the harm caused by Israel’s closure policy. Israel’s abuse of its control over the crossings to apply pressure on Gaza’s civilian population violates the absolute prohibition on collective punishment. 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. Gisha is calling on Israel to open the crossings immediately, without conditions, and allow Gaza residents living under occupation movement and access to all that is needed for facilitating normal life.