Impact of the Hermetic Blockade on the Gaza Strip
26 September 2006
Situation of Gaza Strip Border Crossings
(25 August – 25 September 2006)
The situation of the Gaza Strip border crossings remained generally closed during the 32-day period covered by this report. The exceptions to this are some partial openings to allow the entry of essential food stuffs, medical supplies, and other necessities into the Gaza Strip. The closure of the crossings and complete blockade led to an increase in the poverty and unemployment rates. Furthermore, the blockade violates civilians’ right to freedom of movement and travel to and from the Strip. In addition, it has adversely affecting the flow of food and medical supplies and other necessities such as fuel, construction materials, and raw materials for various economic sectors. This blockade has had unprecedented catastrophic impact on the living conditions of the civilian population.
The most notable developments regarding Gaza Strip border crossings during the period covered by the report are:
Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing:
This crossing was completely closed during the report period. The number of closure days during the report period was 32 days of complete closure. Thus, the days of complete closure since 25 June 2006 are 62 days. The only exceptions are international diplomats. International workers, staff of international organizations, and international journalists require prior coordination with the Israeli Liaison Office at the crossing to move to and from the Gaza Strip. Nonetheless, the crossing was closed for international workers and journalists for 4 hours in the morning of Sunday, 17 September 2006.
As to humanitarian cases, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) allows the passage of 4-6 patients daily for treatment in Israeli and West Bank hospitals. This number of patients was reduced to 3 daily during the period from 9-17 September 2006 for security reasons, noting that most of these patients are critical cases that do not pose any danger to Israelis. These patients require treatment for serious illnesses such as cancer, spinal cord implant, ophthalmic surgery, child deformities, bone and spinal cord injuries, and heart diseases requiring catherization or surgery. These patients are forced to wait for hours at the crossing to undergo complex passage and security procedures. They are thoroughly search in a humiliating. Patients are forced to pay additional financial expenses to rent Israeli ambulances to transport them from the crossing to hospitals since Palestinian ambulances are barred from transporting patients. It is noted that the number of patients passing through the crossing has steadily decreased from 50 patients daily three months ago.
In an exceptional move, the crossing was used to supply the Gaza strip with some basic goods such as meat and dairy products during the period from 24 August – 2 September 2006. This was because these products cannot be left to wait their turn to enter the Gaza Strip from Al-Mentar (Karni) Crossing, which was closed during that period due to an incursion into Sheja’eya Quarter east of Gaza City. Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) allowed the passage of 104 truckloads during this period: 44 dairy products, 18 meats, 7 eggs, 16 medical supplies, and 17 fruits.
Al-Mentar (Karni) Crossing:
This crossing was completely closed for 12 days and partially closed for 20 days. Since 25 June 2006, the number of full closure days of the crossing increased to 30, and the number of partial closure days to 32. Imports through the crossing were insufficient in meeting the needs of the Gaza Strip population, which suffered from a clear lack of some food stuffs and medications. As to exports, IOF allowed the export of some food products to the West Bank and Israel after months of preventing exports. The exported goods included canned food products and biscuits.
Nahal Oz Crossing:
This crossing is for fuel imports for the Gaza Strip. It has worked well below capacity during the report period, which included 9 days of complete closure. Thus, the number of full closure days since 25 June 2006 increased to 21 days. During the report period, the crossing allowed 1,373 tons of benzene; 6,628 tons of gasoline; and 3,313 tons of gas into the Strip. These quantities constituted one-third of the monthly fuel needs of the Gaza Strip. The fuel crisis persisted in the Gaza Strip after the IOF bombardment of the Gaza Power Plant. Key institutions, such as hospitals, rely fuel to run power generators during power outages.
This crossing opened for 24 days during the report period. In addition, IOF allowed the import of some food stuffs, livestock, medical supplies, and humanitarian assistance from the Red Cross for 21 days due to the closure of Al-Mental crossing and the severe shortages of basic necessities in the Gaza Strip. However, the transportation of these food and medical supplies was very sub-standard, and large quantities expired. In addition, the crossing was opened for construction materials and aggregate for 3 days only during the report period. As a result, there is a severe lack of construction materials and aggregate in the Gaza Strip, which led to an increase in their prices. It is noted that the crossing was completely closed for 8 days during the report period, and for 38 days since 25 June 2006.
Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) Commercial Crossing:
The crossing was partially opened for 10 days to allow the passage of humanitarian assistance from the Egyptian Red Crescent Society. The number of closure days during the report period is 22 days, and 62 days since 25 June 2006.
Rafah International Crossing Point:
During the report period, this crossing was closed completely for 27 days. It was partially opened for 5 days for civilians traveling in and out of the Gaza Strip. Thus, the number of days of total closure since 25 June 2006 increased to 54 days. The crossing was partially opened for 8 days since that date.
On Friday, 25 August 2006, the crossing was opened for incoming and outgoing travelers for 10 hours. Approximately 3,104 civilians left the Gaza Strip and 3,204 returned. On the next day, the crossing was partially opened for 6 hours, allowing approximately 2,500 to leave and 1,070 to return. The crossing was then completely closed to 22 September 2006, when it was partially opened for 3 days. Approximately 7,000 travelers left the Gaza Strip, including 68 critical patients. In addition, approximately 3,000 returned to the Gaza Strip.
The closure of the Rafah crossing has had a catastrophic humanitarian effect on thousands of Palestinians forced to stay in Egypt due to the closure of the crossing, especially patients returning to the Strip after treatment in Egyptian hospitals. Ghafra Mohammad Hussein El-Arja, a female resident of Rafah, died at approximately 16:00 on Monday, 18 September 2006. She made it to Egypt after great difficulties on 10 August 2006. She underwent treatment for 2 weeks in Palestine Hospital in Cairo. Then she went to city of Rafah in Egypt to wait for the border to open. However, her health condition deteriorated; and she was taken to El-Arish Hospital, where she died.
Rafah Commercial Crossing has been completely closed since the implementation of the unilateral disengagement plan on 12 September 2005.