Gisha welcomes steps in Gaza but recalls that freedom of movement must not be conditioned on political progress or curtailed in its absence

Ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, due to begin this Saturday, Israel has announced it will allow limited travel to al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem for Friday prayers, for the first time this year. Exits for Friday prayers were discontinued last December.

Erez Crossing. Photo by Gisha.

November 1, 2017. Important steps were taken today in Gaza, marking the commencement of the implementation of the Palestinian reconciliation agreement. With exclusive control of Gaza’s crossings on the Palestinian side being passed to the Palestinian Authority, many of the excuses long used to justify the violation of Gaza residents’ right to freedom of movement are being emptied of their content, which may bring new hope for progress.

Two million people in Gaza have been held hostage to political power struggles for far too long, while their most basic needs and rights have been trampled or overlooked. The parties responsible for this ongoing reality include the feuding Palestinian authorities in Gaza and Ramallah, as well as the Egyptian government, but first and foremost Israel, the only party that has maintained extensive control over the Strip for the past 50 years. Israel severely restricts movement of people through Erez Crossing and movement of goods through Kerem Shalom, mostly due to political motivations rather than legitimate security concerns. It also continues to control the airspace and territorial waters of Gaza, as well as the population registry and thus impacts almost every facet of life in the Strip.

Gisha welcomes the expected opening of Rafah Crossing to movement of people and possibly goods between Gaza and Egypt. Nonetheless, it is important to clarify that this positive development would not in any way detract from or prejudice the obligation to expand movement through the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings. Israel’s access policy must be transformed to reflect the actual needs and rights of Gaza’s civilian population, in keeping with Israel’s legitimate security concerns.

Human rights must be regarded as inalienable and interminable, including those of Gaza’s two million residents; they cannot be conditioned on political progress nor curtailed in its absence.