As the death toll mounts and amidst deteriorating humanitarian crisis, Gaza crossings closed

Erez crossing. Photo by Gisha

Erez crossing. Photo by Gisha

May 14, 2018. Gaza residents suffer further deterioration of living conditions in the Strip following the closing of its two major gateways to the outside world: Erez Crossing for movement of people and the commercial crossing Kerem Shalom.

On Friday, May 11, a group of Palestinian protestors broke into the Palestinian side of Kerem Shalom Crossing and caused severe damage to facilities and equipment. Palestinian officials told Gisha that the control room, conveyor belt, and pipelines used to transport fuel and cooking gas to Gaza were set on fire by protestors. The crossing has been closed until further notice as a result. Israeli authorities stated that, in the meantime, they will consider allowing certain essential goods to enter the Strip in exceptional humanitarian cases. Seven trucks entered the Strip yesterday, mostly carrying medical supplies. Israel and the Palestinian Authority must act immediately to repair the crossing and restore its operations in full, and make every effort to enable goods to pass through it until it returns to full capacity.

Meanwhile, Israel announced that Erez Crossing will be closed for two days, other than for “humanitarian exceptions.” Gisha maintains that Israel cannot prohibit movement through the crossings as a punitive measure, and must keep them open.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned that the acute fuel shortage in the Strip is already having an impact on residents. The Gaza City municipality decided to reduce its waste disposal services to a minimum in order to preserve dwindling fuel supply, currently only sufficient for ten days. The 13 public hospitals in Gaza only have enough fuel in stock to last for one week of operations; private medical facilities only have fuel in store for three days. Water and sewage treatment services have fuel supplies for five days of activity before they too will be forced to shut down.

For at least a month, Gaza residents have relied exclusively on the supply of electricity purchased from and provided by Israel. The sole power plant in the Strip is out of commission, as are the power supply lines from Egypt. Consequently, most residents are receiving between two and four hours of power per day.

Egypt opened Rafah Crossing on Saturday, May 12, and it is due to remain open until May 17. Egypt also facilitated the passage of goods into the Strip, mainly construction materials and fuel, through the Salah A-Din gate. Rafah Crossing does not have infrastructure in place to allow passage of cooking gas. Should Kerem Shalom remain closed, a deficit in cooking gas could get much worse.

At this time, the protests near the fence separating Gaza from Israel are reaching a peak. Gisha reiterates that international law prohibits the use of lethal force against civilians unless they participate directly in acts of hostility or pose a concrete risk to life, and even then, only as a last resort and only to the extent necessary to alleviate the risk. Participation in a demonstration, even if it is not entirely peaceful and includes riots or disturbances, does not constitute an act of hostility or direct endangerment of life, in and of itself, that justifies the use of live fire.

To read Gisha’s analysis of the situation and receive answers to frequently asked questions about the situation in Gaza.