With Gisha’s assistance, critical goods brought in to the Strip and medical equipment exits Gaza for repair

Several importers and business owners in Gaza were recently able to overcome bureaucratic obstacles put in place by Israel and access the materials and repair services they need, following intervention by Gisha.

Since 2010, Israel has allowed goods to enter Gaza but severely limits, and in some cases bans, the entry of items it defines as “dual-use,” that is, items that are civilian in nature but that Israel believes can also be used for military purposes. The list is long and vague. It includes broad categories like “communications equipment” and items vital to the health sector, civilian infrastructure and industry, such as medical equipment, cement, and wood. Israel severely restricts these items from entering Gaza and also from exiting it for repairs and basic maintenance, subjecting their transport to special coordination – a long, complicated, non-transparent process that often ends with no response from Israeli authorities.

Israel’s conduct surrounding Gaza’s access to “dual-use” materials and the ability of Gaza importers to repair “dual-use” equipment not only fails to meet its basic obligation to ensure normal living conditions in the Gaza Strip, but in fact pushes Gaza further into crisis. This unacceptable conduct has persisted throughout the coronavirus pandemic, which has devastated even the strongest economies around the globe and strained the most developed healthcare systems.

In June and July 2020, following legal interventions by Gisha, and after years of refusing to allow it, Israel approved applications made by two importers of medical equipment to ship equipment for repair by manufacturers in Europe. The delay caused by Israel’s prolonged refusal meant certain types of medical testing and surgeries could not be performed in the Strip in this time.

One of the importers had been applying for permission to ship ten items out of Gaza since 2017, including a device used in operating rooms for treating burns, the only one of its kind in Gaza. The other importer had been applying since 2018 to send three components to Germany for repair, including a valve that controls anesthetic dosing in operating rooms. He received the long-awaited permission from Israel in early 2020, but the items were turned back at Kerem Shalom Crossing on the grounds that they had arrived late and in a private car, rather than a truck. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization was informed verbally that the crossing lacks the equipment needed for scanning the devices. Gisha argued on behalf of the importers that just as Israeli authorities had permitted the entry of the items to Gaza via Kerem Shalom Crossing, they must find a way to allow them to be shipped out for repairs.

Another importer who recently requested Gisha’s assistance estimated that the inability to ship malfunctioning equipment to be repaired outside the Strip has cost him 1.5 million USD over the last three years alone. The importer told Gisha that he had been waiting for more than two months for an answer to his request to bring in four components used in CT scanning equipment.

Since late 2019, the CEO of New Star Max, an internet supplier in Gaza, had been trying to coordinate the entry of a server donated by Facebook into Gaza. The CEO explained that the server reduces operation costs significantly, which would enable the company to offer lower rates and attract new customers. In response to numerous applications filed to coordinate the entry of the server into Gaza, Israel authorities repeatedly said that request was “under security review” without giving a final answer. Following Gisha’s intervention, permission was finally granted to bring in the server in June, months after the company had first applied to Israel. Gisha is currently assisting New Star Max to coordinate the entry of another server meant to improve online services, donated this time by Google.

Exits from Erez Crossing have dropped to just one percent of what they were at the beginning of the year because of tightened restrictions at Erez Crossing imposed by Israel since March, under the guise of curbing the spread of the pandemic. This has affected the ability of manufacturers and suppliers with “trader” permits from Israel to bring in perishable and other fragile, essential items for their businesses. In February, Jamal Abu Eita, owner of a dairy factory in Gaza, purchased items needed for packaging his products, including ink used to print expiration dates. Because of the lockdown at Erez, he was unable to exit the Strip and bring the necessary items back with him, as he had done in the past. Thanks to Gisha’s legal intervention, Israel eventually allowed the items into Gaza by post. Abu Eita told Gisha that this allowed him to continue running the factory and keep its thirty workers employed. Amidst such widespread unemployment in the Strip, the fight for each job is critical.