Despite the ceasefire, Israel keeps Gaza’s crossings closed

Erez crossing, 2017. Photo by Gisha

Erez crossing, 2017. Photo by Gisha

May 7, 2019. Despite the reported ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, Israel is still enforcing a closure of Gaza’s crossings, Erez and Kerem Shalom. Movement through Erez has been limited since Sunday to exit of foreign nationals, Israeli passport holders, West Bank residents, and ambulances transferring medical patients in critical condition to receive treatment. Only residents of Gaza were allowed to enter the Strip.

Kerem Shalom Crossing is closed today, other than for entry of fuel. Damage to the electricity infrastructure in the Strip has mostly been fixed since the ceasefire was implemented, given that no fuel entered Gaza yesterday via Kerem Shalom, the power plant was operating only two turbines, rather than three. Today it resumed operating the third turbine.

Yesterday at midnight, Israel began imposing a closure on movement to and from the West Bank, as well as Gaza. According to a statement by the Israeli army’s spokesperson passed to journalists this morning, the closure is being enforced in accordance with the army’s security assessment. However, it also states that the crossings will be closed “during [Israeli] Remembrance Day and Independence Day,” casting doubt on the supposed security justification. Given the severe damage caused by the continuous closing of the crossings to the civilian population in Gaza, it is especially unclear why the crossings are closed today as well.

The army stated that the crossings, which have been closed since last weekend (May 3-4), will only be opened once the Israeli national holidays end, at midnight on Thursday (May 9), “in accordance with an assessment of the situation.” This too is misleading, as the crossings do not operate on the weekends, meaning that they will only be opened on Sunday (May 12) at the very soonest.

Israel has also denied all access to Gaza’s territorial waters since Saturday, May 4, and continues to do so today, without explanation. Fishermen told Gisha that boats and valuable fishing equipment were severely damaged in Israeli strikes at the beginning of the week.

Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt continues to operate ‘as usual,’ but it cannot, in and of itself, meet the needs of the civilian population in Gaza for movement to and from Israel and the West Bank via Erez and Kerem Shalom.

In Gaza, where the economy struggles for survival and residents face adverse humanitarian conditions, every additional day that passes until these further restrictions are lifted by Israel has severe implications: Traders cannot fulfill their business commitments, patients miss crucial appointments for life-saving treatment, and fishermen cannot feed their families.

Israel’s use of its control over the crossings to deliberately harm the civilian population in Gaza has to stop. Israel must reverse sweeping and arbitrary restrictions on the movement of Palestinians and at the very least, enable people to access family, education, healthcare and professional opportunities.