Six human rights organizations in urgent High Court petition: Reverse all restrictions on movement of goods through Kerem Shalom Crossing and immediately allow entry of fuel to Gaza

Monday, August 13, 2018: A High Court petition was submitted on Thursday (August 9) by Gisha with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, HaMoked – Center for the Defense of the Individual, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Adalah, and Physicians for Human Rights Israel, demanding that the court instruct the state to immediately reverse all restrictions imposed by Israel on the movement of goods through Kerem Shalom Crossing, the main lifeline for the two million people living in the Gaza Strip, about half of whom are children.

More than a month ago (July 9), Israel announced it would limit entrance of goods to Gaza through Kerem Shalom Crossing to food and medicine and would prohibit all outgoing goods destined for sale in Israel, the West Bank, and abroad. Gaza’s devastated economy is almost entirely dependent on the operation of the Israeli-controlled crossing; restrictions imposed on Kerem Shalom also threaten an already delicate humanitarian situation. The new sanctions have led to shortages in basic commodities; they are inflicting immeasurable damage on industrial activity, businesses and factories, which are struggling as it is to engage in economic activity under the severe constraints of the closure tightened by Israel in 2007. Thousands of jobs have already been lost in the farming, textile, furniture, and construction sectors in Gaza, sending a ripple effect through other sectors, and greatly exacerbating the rate of unemployment, which had reached 53.7% even before the crossing’s operations were reduced in July.

In addition, for most of the past month, Israel implemented a dangerous decision to block the entry of fuel, essential for the running of critical civilian infrastructure such as hospitals, and the water and sanitation systems, and cooking gas. Israel had also been prohibiting the entrance of fuel purchased by the United Nations, despite warnings of potential shutdowns of at least five central hospitals in the Strip and the threat of overflowing sewage – the damage of which will not stop at Gaza’s perimeter fence.

The petition states: “Even before the closing of Kerem Shalom was announced, the crossing failed to supply the population’s minimal needs. And so, rather than take measures to prevent the demise of a population of two million people, the respondents are acting to further deteriorate the humanitarian and economic situation in the Gaza Strip (…) with complete disregard for the destructive implications of their decision for the civilian population.”

Israel openly states that its actions are punitive measures against Gaza’s civilian population, intended to mount pressure on Hamas in response to incendiary kites and balloons being launched from Gaza. Collective punishment of the civilian population for actions that are beyond its control is both immoral and illegal, further propelling Gaza toward a foreseeable humanitarian disaster. Over the last month, Gisha and several other human rights and civil society organizations have repeatedly cautioned against potentially irreversible harm to Gaza residents as a result of further restricting movement of goods via Kerem Shalom. Gisha has also contacted the prime minister and the minister of defense directly with urgent demands to lift the sanctions at Kerem Shalom, which defy international law, the jurisprudence of Israel’s Supreme Court, and Israel’s obligation to enable normal life for the two million residents of Gaza affected by its control over the crossings. Israel must stop its cynical exploitation of the civilian population in Gaza to further its own political gain, and immediately put an end to the cruel violation of their fundamental human rights.

To view the petition, see here (Hebrew).