Almost two and a half months
have passed since Israel’s declaration on the alleged easing of the illegal
closure regime imposed on the Gaza Strip.  However, to date, no meaningful changes have
taken place regarding the state of the border crossings. Statistics documented by the Palestinian
Center for Human Rights (PCHR) on the state of border crossings during the
reporting period refute Israeli claims with respect to the easing of the closure imposed on the
Gaza Strip. Specifically, PCHR refutes claims that the entry of goods has increased
in quantity and quality due to the reduction of restrictions imposed on the
entry of goods since the beginning of August. Most of the goods allowed are
consumables which do not meet the minimal level of the actual needs of the Gaza
Strip. Raw materials, used for production, and construction materials needed
for reconstruction of the Gaza Strip are completely denied entry. In addition, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF)
have continued to impose a complete ban on the export of agricultural and
industrial goods. As a result of the ongoing
stoppage of production and the lack of development opportunities the Gaza Strip
remains dependant on humanitarian aid.

 

 

Ongoing restrictions imposed by IOF
with regard to movement causes immense suffering to the population of the Gaza
Strip. IOF restricts movement from the Gaza Strip to Israel and/or the West
Bank, including Jerusalem or abroad via Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing, excluding
limited numbers of ‘humanitarian cases.’
IOF started to prevent a new category of patients, those
suffering from blindness and amputation of limbs, from traveling via Beit
Hanoun (Erez) crossing to receive medical treatment. IOF states that these
patients do not need urgent medical treatment instead claiming it is a luxury. As
a result, the number of patients denied access to hospitals in Israel and/or
those in Jerusalem and the West Bank have increased.

 

On the other hand, Rafah
International Crossing Point has been opened for more than three and a half
months. The operation of the crossing point compared to the previous periods has
also improved, which is seen by PCHR as a positive step. However, although the
crossing point is open daily only limited categories are allowed to travel.
These categories include patients officially referred by the Palestinian
National Authority (PNA) to Egypt for medical treatment and urgent cases;
persons working abroad and holding residency permits in foreign countries;
students enrolled at universities in Egypt and who hold residency permits there;
students enrolled at universities abroad; Palestinians holding foreign
passports and foreigners who are married to Palestinians; Palestinians obtaining
"private coordination from the Egyptian authorities"; Palestinians
holding valid residency permits in Egypt; international delegations, including
human rights delegations and diplomatic ones; international journalists; and
Palestinians holding diplomatic passports. PCHR believes that these measures are a positive step but it hopes that
they will make additional steps to promote Gazans’ right to full freedom of
movement, including traveling freely from and to the Gaza Strip via Rafah
International Crossing Point.

 

According to the observations of
PCHR during the reporting period the daily average of trucks allowed into Gaza
decreased to 110 trucks compared to 142 that were allowed on a daily basis into
Gaza last August. This represents a decrease of 22%. This daily average of trucks allowed represents
less than 25% of the trucks that were allowed before the imposition of the
siege in mid June 2007. PCHR noticed
that most of the goods allowed into the Gaza Strip include food items,
excluding limited quantities of wood, aluminum, glass, electric and gas ovens,
electricity cables, air conditioners, construction materials, furniture,
plastic chairs, clothes, shoes, and limited quantities of construction
materials and iron used for Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU). PCHR believes that if IOF continue to allow
only limited types of goods into the Gaza Strip, the situation will deteriorate
and there will be no positive change.

 

IOF have procrastinated putting into
effect an early July decision to allow cars into the Gaza Strip. Following the
“Freedom Flotilla,” Isreal issued a declaration on easing the siege imposed on
the Gaza Strip which included allowing 60 cars per week into Gaza. IOF further
informed the Palestinian side of their intention to allow 20 cars into Gaza on
16 September 2010 according to Mr. Hassan ‘Okasha, Director of Technical
Affairs in the Ministry of Transportation in Gaza.
[1] However, the Head of Coordination Committee for the Entry of Goods said
that IOF retreated hours before implementing the decision and decided not to
allow cars into the Gaza Strip without giving any reason.

 

Palestinian officials indicatd that given
the current state of the Gaza Strip’s border crossings prevents the possibility
of any improvement or economic development in the Gaza Strip is impossible. The
biggest obstacles center on the Israeli ban of more than 1,000 types of goods,
including construction materials and the ban on the exports to the West Bank,
Israel and abroad. The officials
confirmed that Israel’s claims of easing the closure is inaccurate and no
economy can be built upon the current arrangements. Mr. Amru Hamad, Head of the Palestinian
Federation of Industries (PFI) in Gaza, considered the banning of exports as a
stumbling block against the Gazan economic recovery. Even if raw materials for
construction were allowed into Gaza, which they currently are not, the ban on
exports makes economic recovery impossible. Hamad pointed out that the Gaza
Strip’s economy was dependant on the markets of the West Bank, Israel and the
local market to survive and without exports the economy has no chance to
survive. He emphasized that the Israeli
claims to have eased the movement at the Gaza Strip’s border crossings are
inaccurate and differ from what people expected. He further said that the only solution for
the recovery of the Gaza Strip’s economy depends on putting an end to
considering the Gaza Strip as hostile entity, reopening the six border
crossings and allowing imports and exports in both directions.

 

Mr. Ra’ed Fattouh, Head of
Coordination Committee for the Entry of Goods confirmed that the IOF have been
preventing the entry of more than 1,000 types of goods under the pretext of
their dual-use. He pointed out the
current situation cannot be compared to the situation before the siege. Before
the siege goods were imported and exported via several crossings whereas now
they are only allowed through one or two crossings. Fattouh said that only two
crossings are working now and there is an Israeli tendency to operate Karm Abu
Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing only. He
added that although the Israeli list allows the entry of 3,000 types of goods
but let in far fewer. The 1,000 types of goods which are allowed are the most essential
ones needed for the economic sectors such as goods that are used for
construction and similar works.

 

The World Bank stressed that the
ongoing restrictions imposed on the Palestinians’ lives continue to undermine
the ability of the Palestinian economy to survive. The World Bank attributed the impossibility
for the Gazan economy to rebuild to the major restrictions imposed by Israel on
the ground. They indicated that the most important issues facing the Gazan
economy are the ongoing ban on exports, the imposition of restrictions on the
entry of investors to Israel and the West Bank, the ban on the entry of raw
materials which are necessary for production sectors claiming that they are
items of dual-use and the imposition of complicated measures on the items
allowed into the Gaza Strip that cause delays in production and result into big
increase in costs.
[2] Mary Sherman, Representative of the World Bank in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip, stated that measures must be taken to ease the remaining restrictions
that hinder the improvement of the Palestinian private sector. John Nasser, the World Bank Chief Economist
in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, stated that the Israeli government would ease
the closure to allow the improvement of the private sector.

 

The closure imposed on the Gaza
Strip for more than three years constitutes a violation of international
law. Expanding the list of items allowed
into Gaza does not change the illegality of this policy, which is inconsistent
with Israel’s legal obligations both as an Occupying Power and under
international human rights treaties to which it is a party, such as the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Quartet have noted
that the situation of the civilian population of Gaza is unsustainable,
unacceptable and cannot be resolved by providing increased humanitarian aid. Therefore,
as confirmed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), there is
no other sustainable solution other than the complete, immediate lifting of the
closure.

 

PCHR emphasizes that in order to put
an end to the severe crisis that is affecting Gaza a dramatic change in Israeli
policy is needed. The illegal closure
has caused not only a humanitarian crisis but also a crisis of human rights and
human dignity for the population of the Gaza Strip. Measures recently declared to
ease the blockade are vague, purely cosmetic and fail to deal with the root
causes of the crisis, which can only be addressed by an immediate and complete
lifting of the closure, including lifting the travel ban into and out of the
Gaza Strip and lifting the ban on exports. PCHR is concerned that the new Israeli policy is simply another form of
illegal blockade, one that may become internationally accepted and
institutionalized. Palestinians in Gaza may no longer suffer from the same
shortage of goods, but they will remain economically dependent and unable to
care for themselves, and remain socially, culturally and academically isolated
from the rest of the world.

 

The following is a summary of the
most significant developments relevant to Gaza’s border crossings during the
reporting period (1 – 15 September 2010):

 

· Rafah International Crossing Point

 

During the reporting period, Rafah
International Crossing Point remained open.
[3] People could travel from and to the Gaza Strip. In addition, limited categories were allowed
to travel via the crossing; they are:

 

1) Patients officially
referred by PA to Egypt for medical treatment and urgent cases;

2) Persons working abroad
and holding residency permits in foreign countries and their families;

3) Students enrolled at
universities in Egypt and who hold residency permits there, and students
enrolled at universities abroad;

4) Palestinians holding
foreign passports and foreigners who are married to Palestinians;

5) Palestinians obtaining
"private coordination from the Egyptian authorities";

6) Palestinians holding
valid residency permits in Egypt;

7) International
delegations, including human rights delegations and diplomatic delegations;

8) International journalists,
and Palestinians holding diplomatic passports.

 

During the reporting period, 4,771
persons traveled abroad, 4,645 persons entered the Gaza Strip, and 322 were
returned at the border by the Egyptian authorities, according to the
Palestinian Crossings and Borders Commission. The number of persons who have traveled abroad via Rafah International
Crossing Point since it was opened on 2 June 2010 has mounted to 38,721, while 41,615
persons have entered the Gaza Strip and 4,172 have been denied permission to
cross the border by the Egyptian authorities. Also the Egyptian authorities facilitated the return of 5 bodies
belonging to patients died in the Egyptian hospitals. The Egyptian authorities declared opening
Rafah International Crossing Point on 1 June 2010 after it had been closed on
12 June 2007 by IOF.

 

· Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing

 

IOF have continued to impose
restrictions on all categories of persons who are allowed to travel via Beit
Hanoun crossing, including patients suffering from serious medical conditions
and transferred to hospitals in Israel and/or the West Bank, Palestinians
holding Israeli ID, international journalists, workers of international
humanitarian organizations and those wishing to travel via al-Karama
International Crossing Point on the Jordanian border. IOF had completely closed the crossing for
four days. The most significant developments relevant to movement through Beit
Hanoun crossing were as follows:

 

 IOF completely closed the crossing for the movement of
Palestinian civilians throughout the 15-day reporting period. The crossing was
completely closed for two days with respect to those limited categories of
persons who were allowed to travel via the crossing. During the reporting period, the crossing was
only open for eight days, during which time 170 traders were allowed to pass
via the crossing. This is an average of less than 12 traders daily. It should be noted that approximately 150
traders daily were allowed to travel via the crossing prior to June 2007.

 

  Patients’ Conditions: IOF closed the crossing
for Palestinian patients from Gaza who were transferred to hospitals in Israel and/or
Palestinian ones in the West Bank for four days. During the partial opening of
the crossing, only 300 patients were allowed to pass via the crossing; i.e. an
average of 20 patients daily – this figure represents 40% of the total number
compared to the first half of 2006. According to some reports, Palestinian
patients are being blackmailed by the General Security Service’s members
(Shabak). Some patients reported that the Shabak interrogators exploited
their serious health conditions to pressure them into giving the interrogators
information relevant to security matters.  As they refused to do so, those
patients were denied access to hospitals, which caused deterioration to their
health conditions.

 

 In a serious development, IOF started to prevent a new category of patients, those
suffering from blindness and amputation of limbs, from traveling via the
crossing to receive medical treatment. IOF states that these patients do not
need urgent medical treatment instead claiming it is a luxury. As a result, the
number of patients denied access to hospitals in Israel and/or Palestinian ones
in Jerusalem and the West Bank have increased.

 

 Journalists, Diplomats and Workers of International
Humanitarian Organizations:
 During the days on which the
crossing was open, IOF allowed approximately 19 journalists, 26 diplomats and
340 workers of international humanitarian organizations to enter Gaza, often
under very complicated security procedures which resulted in delays of several
days for many of those allowed to enter.

 

 Prisoners’ Visitation: For more than 40 months, IOF have
prevented the families of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip detained in Israeli
jails from visiting their imprisoned relatives.  There are approximately
800 Gazans detained in Israeli jails and the denial of family visits, imposed
since 6 June 2007, constitutes a violation of international law.  It
should be noted that 150 of the prisoners from the Gaza Strip had already been
deprived of all visitation rights prior to June 2007.  IOF attempt to
justify such deprival of visitation rights by security claims.  The prison
visitation program used to be facilitated by the International Committee of the
Red Cross (ICRC) until it was suspended by Israel.

 

· Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) Crossing

 

 During the reporting period, Karm Abu Salem crossing was
partially opened for nine days (60%), while it was completely closed for six
days (40%).  Karm Abu Salem crossing has been closed on 543 days since 18
August 2008 when the crossing was designated by Israel as the Gaza Strip’s
major commercial crossing.  According to the Ministry of Economy, the
following are the most significant developments related to the crossing during
the reporting period:

 

 During the reporting period, IOF allowed the entry of 1,656
truckloads of humanitarian aid, including food, blankets and medications
provided by international humanitarian aid organizations, including WFP, ICRC,
UNRWA, UNICEF and the Humanitarian Aid Office of the EU.  Food items for
local businesses were also allowed into the Gaza Strip via the crossing during
the time of its partial opening. The amount of truckloads did not represent a
doubling of the amount of truckloads previously allowed contrary to Israeli
claims.

 

 IOF allowed the entry of 672 truckloads of goods that were
previously banned. They included clothes, shoes, glass, refrigerators, electric
and gas ovens, electricity cables, construction tools, furniture, plastic
chairs, aluminum and wood.  These goods
do not meet even the minimal needs of Gaza’s civilian population.

 

 Fuel: Following the complete closure of Nahal Oz crossing, which
was previously used for the delivery of fuel supplies into the Gaza Strip, IOF
opened Karm Abu Salem crossing for the delivery of limited quantities of
fuel. As reported by the General Department of Petroleum to a PCHR
researcher, the delivery of fuel to the Gaza Strip during the reporting period
was as follows:

 

 IOF completely stopped supplying the Gaza Strip with the
industrial fuel needed for the Gaza Power Plant for six days. During the
days on which the crossing was open, IOF allowed the entry of 4.1 million
liters of industrial fuel to Gaza, a quantity that sufficed to operate the
Plant at 79% of its capacity during the reporting period. It should be
noted that the Gaza Strip depends on three sources of power: the Gaza Power
Plant, which provides 67-70 MW (34%); Israel, which provides 120 MW (58.5%);
and Egypt, which provides 17.5 MW (7.5%).

 

 1,400 tons of cooking gas were allowed into the Gaza Strip
over nine days. This amounted to an average of 93 tons daily over the reporting
period.  The supply of cooking gas to the Gaza Strip stopped completely
for six days.  The Gaza Strip’s daily need of gas is estimated at 350 tons
in winter and 200 tons in summer.

 

 IOF did not allow the entry of benzene or diesel during the
reporting period.  It should be noted that the entry of benzene and diesel
supplies had been 120,000 liters and 350,000 liters daily before IOF had
reduced the quantities of fuel supplies in October 2007. The Gaza Strip depends
on the fuel smuggled through tunnels at the Egyptian-Palestinian borders.

 

· Al-Mentar (Karni) Crossing

 

 As reported by the Ministry of Economy to a PCHR researcher,
al-Mentar crossing was completely closed for the supply of goods to and from
the Gaza Strip for 13 days (86.6%), and it was partially opened to allow the
entry of limited quantities of imports for two days (13.4%). During the
partial opening of the crossing, IOF permitted the entry of 79 trucks, carrying
3,081 tons of grains, and 60 trucks, carrying 2,340 tons of fodder into the
Gaza Strip. The number of days of
complete closure of the crossing has mounted to 874 since 13 June 2007, when
Hamas took over the Gaza Strip.  The closure of the crossing has resulted
in the deterioration of humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip and has
negatively impacted 1.5 million civilians living in the Gaza Strip.

 

Recommendations:

 

PCHR calls upon the
international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the
Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time
of War, to:

 

  1. Exert effective pressure on Israel to compel it
    to open all of Gaza’s crossings, both those used for commercial purposes
    and those used for civilian movement. Allow the civilian population of the
    Gaza Strip to reconstruct the property that was destroyed during Israel’s
    latest offensive on Gaza, and to enable the Civilian population of Gaza to
    enjoy their fundamental civil and political rights, as well as their
    economic, social and cultural rights.
  2. Promptly and urgently intervene to open Rafah
    International Crossing Point for all those who wish to leave
    Gaza—including hundreds of patients who require medical treatment abroad,
    students enrolled at universities abroad, holders of residency permits in
    foreign countries, and other humanitarian cases—and for those who are
    stranded in Egypt to return to Gaza if they wish.
  3. Promptly and urgently intervene to ensure
    respect for the provisions of international humanitarian law and
    international human rights law in order to put an end to the deterioration
    of living conditions across the Gaza Strip.
  4. Compel Israel to stop measures of collective
    punishment against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip, including
    the closure of Gaza’s border crossings.
  5. Remind the State of Israel, the Occupying Power,
    of its obligations towards the civilians of the Gaza Strip, under Article
    55 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, which stipulates: "To the
    fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the
    duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should,
    in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other
    articles if the resources of the occupied territory are
    inadequate. The Occupying Power may not requisition foodstuffs,
    articles or medical supplies available in the occupied territory, and then
    only if the requirements of the civilian population have been taken into
    account". The High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva
    Convention must fulfill their obligation under Article 1 of the
    Convention, to ensure the implementation of the convention’s provisions by
    the State of Israel, in order to ensure the protection of the Palestinian
    civilians of the Gaza Strip.




[1]
Ma’an News Agency, 15 September 2010.

[2]
The World Bank, The Underpinnings of the Future Palestinian State:
Sustainable Growth and Institutions
, Economic Monitoring Report to the Ad
Hoc Liaison Committee, September 21, 2010, in: www.worldbank.org/ps

[3]
The crossing was closed in Eid al-Fitr vacation for three days, from 10-12
September 2010.