Crossings update: Hundreds return to Gaza via Rafah Crossing, travel via Erez still heavily restricted. Movement of goods continues as usual

Kerem Shalom Crossing. Photo by Gisha

April 20, 2020. Since March 8, travel to and from Gaza via Erez Crossing has been limited almost exclusively to medical patients seeking treatment unrelated to COVID-19, and their companions. In March, a small number of personnel of international organizations were also allowed to travel through the crossing. Entrance into Gaza is limited to Palestinian residents of the Strip. Since March 15, all individuals entering the Strip are immediately sent to quarantine in government facilities for as long as 21 days.

Exit of people from Gaza to Egypt via Rafah Crossing has been halted since March 12. Rafah has also been closed to entries by residents returning to the Strip since March 26, other than patients in ambulances and bodies being transited for burial. In April, Rafah Crossing was opened for four days (April 13-16) for the return of about 1,630 residents who had been stuck in Egypt. Like all others returning to the Strip, the group was sent to quarantine facilities set up by the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, including medical patients who were sent to the Palestine-Turkish Friendship Hospital. The hospital was built with support of the Turkish government, and though it was completed several years ago, it only opened in late March. There are still many residents of Gaza waiting in Egypt to be able to return to the Strip, as they were unable to enter in the short time the crossing was opened. They are calling on the de facto Gaza authorities to coordinate their entry back in to the Strip.

Kerem Shalom Crossing, between Israel and Gaza, is operating as usual. Salah a-Din Gate for entrance of goods from Egypt to Gaza is also working regularly on three days per week.

Yesterday, according to reports, two more residents of the Strip were diagnosed with COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 15 (nine of which have already recovered). The two had been quarantined since their return to the Strip.

On April 7, Gisha and fellow human rights organizations Adalah and Gaza-based Al Mezan sent an urgent appeal to Israel’s Minister of Defense, the Attorney General, and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, demanding that Israel reveal information about its plan to  for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in Gaza and meeting the medical needs of its residents.