Israel renews operations at Erez and Kerem Shalom Crossings, restores limited access to “fishing zone” in Gaza

Fishermen at the Gaza Port, 2013. Photo by Eman Mohammed.

March 31, 2019. This morning, Erez and Kerem Shalom Crossings between Israel and Gaza returned to normal operations, and the sweeping prohibition on access to Gaza’s territorial waters was removed.

On Monday, March 25, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) closed the crossings between Israel and Gaza to movement of people and goods and imposed a sweeping prohibition on access to the “fishing zone” off Gaza’s coast. The measures were framed as a response to rockets fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip.

Since March 25 and until this morning, Kerem Shalom had been completely closed to movement of goods to and from Gaza; movement of people through Erez Crossing was limited to exit of patient seeking urgent medical treatment unavailable in Gaza, foreign passport holders, and Israeli citizens.

While media reports indicated Israel removed the sweeping prohibition on access to the “fishing zone” this morning, fishermen in Gaza received no official announcement to this effect. Most Gaza fishermen did not go out to sea today due to the rough weather conditions.

Residents of Gaza are routinely subjected to severe restrictions on movement of people and goods enforced by Israel. They rely on the crossings controlled by Israel, Erez and Kerem Shalom, for access to basic and humanitarian supplies and to medical treatment, education, livelihoods, and family. Israel’s restriction of the “fishing zone” off Gaza’s coast greatly reduces the fishing catch and has already pushed countless people out of the sector, one of Gaza’s oldest. Closing the crossings and restricting access to Gaza’s territorial waters constitute collective punishment and are in violation of international law.