For the first time since 2008: Israel openly declares that it is closing crossings in response to rocket fire on southern Israel

Photo: Olly Lambert, Flickr, CC Y 2.0February 26, 2013. Gisha sent an urgent letter (Hebrew) to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak asking him to refrain from using travel restrictions as a punitive measure against Gaza’s civilian population. The letter was sent after Israel’s security establishment decided to close the Kerem Shalom crossing and restrict movement through the Erez crossing in response to a rocket which was fired towards southern Israel from Gaza.

Indiscriminate firing of rockets on civilian populations in southern Israel is a war crime and a breach of international law, but it cannot justify punitive measures against Gaza’s civilian population.

In the letter, Gisha Executive Director Sari Bashi stressed that “international law allows Israel, which still controls most of Gaza’s crossings, to restrict movement into and out of the Gaza Strip only for concrete security reasons, and even then, it must balance the security imperative against its obligations towards Gaza’s civilian population. The timing of the closure of Kerem Shalom and canceling the planned travel of dozens of Palestinians via Erez today raises serious concern that this is not a travel restriction necessitated by a concrete and weighty security imperative but rather is a punitive act aimed at Gaza's civilian population in reaction to the actions of militants”.

Kerem Shalom has been closed for passage since the early afternoon and travel through Erez has been limited to medical patients, Palestinian citizens of Israel wishing to exit Gaza and foreign nationals only. As earlier reported (Hebrew), government officials ordered the closure of the crossings in response to the launching of a grad rocket toward Ashkelon. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time since 2008 that Israel has expressly closed the crossings in response to attacks that did not target the crossings themselves.

To read the full letter (Hebrew)