More
than one 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 changes have taken place regarding the state
of the border crossings.  Although the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF)
have marginally increased the amounts and types of goods allowed into the Gaza
Strip since the beginning of August, most of these goods do not meet even the
minimal level of Gaza’s actual needs. Goods which remain banned include raw
materials used for production and construction materials needed for the
reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. Even if most of the items and goods were
allowed into the Gaza Strip, full economic recovery would remain impossible, as
IOF continue to prohibit the export of goods from Gaza. The Gaza Strip
will remain dependant on humanitarian aid due to the ongoing stoppage of
production and the lack of development opportunities. The Palestinian
Center for Human Rights (PCHR) is concerned over the institutionalization of
the closure, as the international community appears to accept Israel’s claim to
have eased the closure.

 

 

Statistics
and data documented by 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
and the reduction of
restrictions imposed on the entry of goods. The latest statement was the
declaration of the Israeli Liaison Office at Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing on the
first day of Ramadan.
 IOF declared an
easing movement at commercial crossings, including increasing types of goods
allowed into the Gaza Strip and expanding Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing
by allowing 300 trucks in daily.
[1] During the reporting period the number of
trucks allowed into the Gaza Strip did not exceed 50% of the number declared by
IOF.
 In addition, IOF have continued to
impose a complete ban on the export of goods, and prevented the import of construction
materials and raw materials needed for the development of the economic sector
in the Gaza Strip.
[2]  IOF have also continued to completely prevent
the movement of persons from the Gaza Strip to Israel and/or the West Bank,
including Jerusalem, excluding limited numbers of ‘humanitarian cases’.

 

According
to PCHR’s observations, the variety of goods allowed into the Gaza Strip
increased slightly over the past few weeks, particularly following the attack
on the Freedom Flotilla. However, only 150 trucks were allowed compared to 450
that used to enter pre June 2006, and only 200 types of goods were allowed compared
to the 9,000 that used to be allowed into the Gaza Strip prior to mid June 2006.
 PCHR notes that most goods allowed into
the Gaza Strip are consumables, except for limited quantities of wood,
aluminum, glass, electric and gas ovens, electricity cables, air conditioners,
construction materials, furniture, plastic chairs, clothes and shoes.

 

 

 

 

IOF
also have continued to impose a total ban on the export of all the Gaza Strip’s
products, mostly intended for the West Bank and Israel, since June 2007, when IOF
tightened the closure on the Gaza Strip.
 The continuous prevention of the export of the
Gaza Strip’s products has resulted in large losses to the majority of economic
sectors, especially those which depend on marketing their goods in the West
Bank and Israel.
 As a result, most
industrial facilities have been completely closed.

 

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
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.
[3]

 

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 a crisis of human rights and human dignity for the
population of the Gaza Strip.
 Measures
declared recently 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 the ban on exports. PCHR is concerned that
the new Israeli policy is simply shifting Gaza to 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
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 August 2010):

 

· 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 Israeli and/or Palestinian
hospitals, 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 four 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 11 days,
during which time 140 traders were allowed to pass via the crossing; i.e. an
average of less than six 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 Israeli hospitals and/or Palestinian ones in the West Bank
for four days. During the partial opening of the crossing, only 345 patients
were allowed to pass via the crossing; i.e. an average of 23 patients daily –
this figure represents 46% 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 aggravated their health conditions.

 

 Journalists,
Diplomats and Workers of International Humanitarian Organizations:
 IOF imposed a ban on access of diplomats to
the Gaza Strip for eight days. Journalists, media representatives and workers
of international humanitarian organizations were denied entry for four
days.
 During the days on which the
crossing was open, IOF allowed approximately 35 journalists, 40 diplomats and
300 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 38 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 was facilitated
by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) until it was suspended
by Israel.

 

· Rafah
International Crossing Point

 

 During the
reporting period, Rafah International Crossing Point was opened for
humanitarian aid and limited categories of persons. During the reporting
period, 7,400 persons traveled abroad and 8,300 persons entered the Gaza Strip
via the crossing, while 330 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 27,300, while
32,200 persons entered the Gaza Strip and 3,450 have been denied permission to
cross the border by the Egyptian authorities.

 

 The Egyptian
authorities declared the exceptional opening of the Rafah International
Crossing Point on 1 June 2010 after it had been closed for Palestinians wishing
to travel abroad since it was closed by IOF on 12 June 2007. It should be noted
that during the closure of the crossing point, the Egyptian authorities
occasionally, especially on Wednesdays and Thursdays, allowed some limited
categories of persons to enter the Gaza Strip via the crossing for humanitarian
reasons, including persons stuck on the Egyptian side of the crossing point and
patients who had received medical treatment in the Egyptian hospitals.
 In addition, the Egyptian authorities allowed
Arab and international delegations to enter the Gaza Strip in groups to observe
the humanitarian conditions and the various impacts of the Israeli closure,
including the suffering of the Palestinian civilian population due to the
ongoing closure.

 

· Karm Abu Salem
(Kerem Shalom) Crossing

 

 During the
reporting period, Karm Abu Salem crossing was partially opened for 11 days
(73.3%), while it was completely closed for four days (26.7%).
 Karm Abu Salem crossing has been closed on 525
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 1,460 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.

 

 IOF allowed the
entry of 580 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 level of the needs of Gaza’s civilian
population, contrary to Israeli claims to double the number of truckloads
allowed into the Gaza Strip.

 

 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 1.7 million
liters of industrial fuel to Gaza, a quantity that sufficed to operate the
Plant at less than 30% 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%).

 

 1,620 tons of
cooking gas were allowed into the Gaza Strip over nine days. This amounted to an
average of 100 tons daily over the reporting period.  The supply of cooking
gas to the Gaza Strip stopped completely for seven 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.  It should be noted that the entry of benzene
supplies had been
120,000
liters
daily before IOF had reduced the quantities of
fuel supplies in October 2007.  During the reporting period, IOF allowed
the entry of
95,000
liters
of diesel. It should be noted that before
reducing the quantities of fuel supplies in October 2007, Israel had permitted
the delivery of
350,000
liters
of diesel to the Gaza Strip daily.  The Gaza
Strip depends on the fuel smuggled through the 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 11 days (73.3%),
and it was partially opened to allow the entry of limited quantities of imports
for four days (26.6%).
 During the
partial opening of the crossing, IOF permitted the entry of 125 trucks,
carrying 4,870 tons of grains, and 230 trucks, carrying 8,900 tons of fodder,
into the Gaza Strip.

 

 The number of
days of complete closure of the crossing has mounted to 850 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, to 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 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


 


 

————————————-

For
more information, please contact the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights at
pchr@pchrgaza.org or +972-(0)8-282-4776. 

 



[1] Ma’an News Agency, 11
August 2010.

[2] For more details on
the alleged easing of the movement of goods into the Gaza Strip, see state of
the Gaza Strip’s border crossings on 18 July 2010.

[3] See PCHR’s position
paper on the Easing of the Closure of the Gaza Strip issued on 1 July 2010.