Israel unexpectedly closes the Palestinian territory

  • The sudden notification yesterday about the closure came unexpectedly, interfering with people’s plans and preventing thousands from reaching jobs, family, and other personal engagements
  • 1.8 million residents of Gaza depend on the Erez crossing for their connection to the outside world, including Israel and the West Bank
  • Israel’s reasons for closing Erez Crossing further than it is already closed are difficult to understand and appear arbitrary 

Wednesday March 23, 2016: Yesterday, Israel unexpectedly informed the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee (of the Palestinian Authority) that Erez Crossing, Gaza’s sole pedestrian crossing connecting the Strip with Israel, would be closed for the remainder of the week, except in special humanitarian cases, for foreign staff of international organizations, Israeli citizens, and Christian residents of Gaza with special permits for the holidays. The closure comes on the eve of the Purim holiday which begins today at sundown.

The last time Erez Crossing was closed on Purim was five years ago, in 2011. Israel generally imposes movement restrictions of this kind on the Palestinian territory during the Jewish high holidays. Purim is not one of these holidays. In light of the prolonged closure of the Rafah Crossing with Egypt, Erez Crossing is the only crossing that connects Gaza with the outside world.

Kerem Shalom Crossing, Gaza’s sole cargo crossing, is operating as usual. Movement is also being restricted in the West Bank for the remainder of the week, preventing thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank from entering Israel to work, among other things. 

The closing of Erez Crossing means that individuals who held rare permits to enter or exit the Strip today, Thursday or Friday will not be able to travel. According to the Civil Affairs Committee, hundreds of Christians from Gaza holding permits to travel for Good Friday will apparently be allowed to exit.

Given that Israel already severely restricts travel through Erez Crossing to traders, medical patients and their companions, and “exceptional humanitarian cases” only, the further interference with the operation of the crossing compounds the harm to Gaza’s 1.8 million residents.

Barring specific security considerations, Israel is obligated to maintain regular operations at the crossing, due its continued control over multiple facets of civilian life in the Strip, including its crossing points. The reasons given for closing the crossing appear arbitrary and the manner in which the notification came, at the very last moment, only intensifies the harmful effects of the closure.