The State of Gaza Strip Border Crossings

11 March 2009 – 31 May 2009

 

Summary

 

During the 82-day reporting period, Gaza border crossings used for the movement of goods and civilians from and to Gaza remained closed.  The Israeli occupation forces have continued to impose a tight closure regime – an illegal form of collective punishment – on the approximately 1.5 million civilians in the Gaza Strip, directly contributing to dramatic levels of poverty and unemployment. As a result of the closure, Gaza civilians have been unable to rebuild their lives following Israel’s recent offensive on the Gaza Strip. 

 

The following is a review of the most significant consequences of the Israeli imposed closure, as it affected the living conditions of Gaza civilians during the reporting period:

 

· Contrary to public claims, Israel has continued to impose a total closure on Gaza’s border crossings and has hindered the delivery of the majority of supplies and basic needs for Gaza civilians. 

· The living conditions of Gaza civilians continued to deteriorate.  Basic goods became scarcer and their prices increased significantly. Prices increases affected electrical sets, industrial equipment, vehicles, cattles and construction materials in particular. 

· Gaza households were unable to meet their basic needs.  Poverty and unemployment registered 80% and 69% respectively.  All economic and productive facilities, including industrial; agricultural and services facilities, shut down due to the suspension of imports and exports as a result of the closure imposed on all Gaza border crossings. 

· For more that two years, Israel has imposed a ban on the import of basic construction materials, especially cement, iron bars and aggregate.  As a result, the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip has been impossible. 

· The suffering of Gaza’s civilians has been aggravated as a result of the dire need to reconstruct or rehabilitate the houses and civilian establishments destroyed during Israel’s recent offensive on the Gaza Strip. 

· Israel has imposed a total ban on exports, from Gaza, except for the export of a limited quantity of flowers over a two day period. 

· Israel allowed the delivery of limited quantities of food items, cleaning materials, and other medical, educational and agricultural supplies. 

· All Gaza border crossings remained closed for the majority of the reporting period, as follows: 

 Israel completely closed al-Mentar (Karni) crossing for 64 days, while the crossing was partially opened for 18 days. 

 Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing was completely closed for 17 days; it was partially opened for 65 days to allow the delivery of limited quantities of humanitarian aid and basic goods to Gaza. 

 Sofa crossing, which is designated for the delivery of construction materials, remained completely closed throughout the 82-day reporting period. 

 Nahal Oz crossing, which is designated for the delivery of fuel, remained completely closed throughout the 82-day reporting period for the delivery of benzene and diesel.  In addition, Israel completely closed the crossing for 29 days for the import of industrial fuel supplies used to operate the Gaza Power Plant and for cooking gas supplies. 

· Rafah crossing was completely closed for 74 days. It was exceptionally opened for eight days and for limited hours to allow approximately 3,700 civilians, including patients, students enrolled in international universities and holders of foreign visas; residency permits and nationalities, to leave Gaza.  During the exceptional opening of the crossing, the Egyptian authorities did not allow 1,288 civilians to enter to Egypt because they did not meet their requirements.  In addition, approximately 2,000 civilians stuck in the Egyptian side were allowed to return to Gaza via the crossing during the exceptional opening days.  Some foreign delegations, mostly solidarity activists, were allowed to enter Gaza to provide help to civilians, and also were allowed to leave Gaza via the crossing. 

· Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing was completely closed throughout the 82-day reporting period for Gaza civilians wanting to travel to the West Bank and/or Israel for commerce, religious or familial visits.  Only a limited number of civilians were allowed to pass through the crossing, under complicated procedures. 

· Israel imposed a ban on the access of Gaza patients to hospitals in the West Bank and/or Israel for 21 days.  The number of Gaza patients who were allowed to travel via Beit Hanoun crossing during the reporting period was sharply reduced.  Israel allowed only 641 patients from Gaza to travel via the crossing; i.e., eight patients per day.  This represents a reduction by 53% in comparison with 2008, 60% in comparison with 2007, and 68% in comparison with 2006. 

· Approximately 900 Gazans detained in jails inside Israel have continued to be denied visitation rights for approximately two years. 

· Six patients from the Gaza Strip, including three children, a woman and two men, died due to the continued illegal closure.  So far, the number of Gazan patients who have died as a result of the denial of travel permits for treatment, delayed travel for treatment, or due to shortages of medicines in Gaza hospitals has increased to 61, including 18 women and 15 children. 

· Construction materials have continued to be unavailable in Gaza’s markets, although thousands of families are in pressing needs for these materials to reconstruct or rehabilitate their houses that had been destroyed during Israel’s recent offensive on the Gaza Strip. 

 

Following is a review of the most significant developments at Gaza border crossings between 11 March 2009 and 31 May 2009:

 

 

· Rafah International Crossing Point

 

· During the reporting period, Rafah crossing was completely closed for 74 days (81.4%), while it was partially opened for eight days (18.6%).  Since 12 June 2007, the crossing has been completely closed for 683 days.  During the reporting period, a number of patients and their companions were allowed to leave Gaza via the crossing to receive treatment in Egypt or abroad, and then return to Gaza following treatment.  Also a number of political leaders were allowed to enter to Egypt via the crossing to attend Palestinian national reconciliation meetings.  A number of solidarity delegations, and members of humanitarian organizations, were allowed to enter to and leave Gaza via Rafah crossing.  The following is a summary of Rafah crossing during the reporting period:

 

1. Foreigners, Foreign Delegations and Holders of Foreign Nationalities

 

The Egyptian authorities allowed several foreign delegations, mostly solidarity activists, to enter Gaza to provide help for the civilians and then leave Gaza via the crossing.  During the reporting period, approximately 300 solidarity activists and members of humanitarian organizations were allowed to enter Gaza.  Also approximately 700 foreigners, mostly representatives and members of humanitarian organizations; physicians and journalists, who had entered Gaza during Israel’s recent offensive and in its aftermath, were allowed to leave Gaza via the crossing upon concluding their missions in Gaza. 

 

2. Transfer of dead Palestinians from Egypt to Gaza 

 

The majority of the injured who were transferred to Egyptian hospitals for treatment suffered horrific injuries.  Due to shortage of medical equipment, they were transferred under very cruel conditions.  As a result, most of the serious cases had arrived at Egyptian hospitals in very serious conditions.  In spite of intensive healthcare offered to serious cases, 18 wounded Palestinians died in Egyptian hospitals during the reporting period.   Egyptian authorities made the required arrangements to transfer the dead to Gaza via Rafa crossing. 

 

3. Injured and Patients

 

During the reporting period, the Egyptian authorities allowed approximately 700 Gazan patients suffering from serious and chronic diseases to enter Egypt for new or continuing treatment in Egyptian hospitals.  Concurrently, Israel reduced the number of Gaza patients who were allowed to access hospitals in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Israel via Beit Hanoun crossing.  Gaza hospitals were crowded with hundreds of patients and injured people who sustained wounds during the recent Israeli offensive; these hospitals suffered severe shortages in medicines and medical supplies and medical personnel.  Also during the reporting period, the Egyptian authorities allowed 1,400 patients and injured persons who finished their treatment in Egyptian hospitals to return to Gaza in groups during the closure days or during the partial opening of the crossing. 

 

4. Announcement of Exceptional Opening of Rafah Crossing for Eight Days

 

The Egyptian authorities announced the partial opening of Rafah crossing for eight days to allow a limited number of Gaza civilians to travel abroad or return to Gaza.  The movement during these eight days of exceptional and partial opening was as follows:

 

 On 18 March 2009, 219 Gazan civilians, mostly patients and their companions, were allowed to leave Gaza via Rafah crossing while 434 civilians stranded in the Egyptian side and patients and their companions were allowed to return to Gaza. 

 On 18 April 2009, the crossing was exceptionally opened to allow 304 civilians, who are patients and their companions; students enrolled in international universities and holders of foreign residency permits and nationalities, to leave Gaza via the crossing.  Also 324 civilians stranded in the Egyptian side and patients and their companions were allowed to return to Gaza.  The Egyptian authorities returned to Gaza 318 civilians who did not meet the requirements to access Egypt.  On the same day, seven truckloads of humanitarian aid were allowed to enter to Gaza via the crossing. 

 On 19 April 2009, the crossing was opened for the second consecutive day to allow 532 civilians, who are patients and their companions, students enrolled in international universities and holders of visas and foreign residency permits and nationalities, to leave Gaza via the crossing.  Also 172 civilians stranded in the Egyptian side and patients and their companions were allowed to return to Gaza.  The Egyptian authorities returned to Gaza 177 civilians who did not meet the requirements to access Egypt.

 On 20 April 2009, the crossing was opened for the third consecutive day to allow 543 civilians, who are patients and their companions; students enrolled in international universities and holders of foreign residency permits and nationalities, to leave Gaza via the crossing.  Also 23 civilians stranded in the Egyptian side and patients and their companions were allowed to return to Gaza.  The Egyptian authorities returned to Gaza 143 civilians who did not meet the requirements to access Egypt.  On the same day, a truckload of humanitarian aid was allowed to enter to Gaza via the crossing. 

 On 20 April 2009, the crossing was opened for the fourth consecutive day to allow 557 civilians, who are patients and their companions; students enrolled in international universities and holders of foreign residency permits and nationalities, to leave Gaza via the crossing.  Also 53 civilians stranded in the Egyptian side and patients and their companions were allowed to return to Gaza.  The Egyptian authorities returned to Gaza 72 civilians who did not meet the requirements to access Egypt.

 On 16 May 2009, the crossing was exceptionally opened to allow 587 civilians, who are patients and their companions; students enrolled in international universities and holders of foreign residency permits and nationalities, to leave Gaza via the crossing.  Also 576 civilians stranded in the Egyptian side and patients and their companions were allowed to return to Gaza.  The Egyptian authorities returned to Gaza 113 civilians who did not meet the requirements to access Egypt.  On the same day, 11 truckloads of humanitarian aid offered to the Ministry of Social Affairs were allowed to enter to Gaza via the crossing. 

 On 17 May 2009, the crossing remained opened to allow 544 civilians, who are patients and their companions; students enrolled in international universities and holders of foreign residency permits and nationalities, to leave Gaza via the crossing.  Also 240 civilians stranded in the Egyptian side and patients and their companions were allowed to return to Gaza.  The Egyptian authorities returned to Gaza 206 civilians who did not meet the requirements to access Egypt.  On the same day, the Egyptian authorities opened the crossing for the delivery of 26 vehicles, including 15 ambulances and a refrigerator car. 

 On 18 May 2009, the crossing remained opened for the third consecutive day to allow 418 civilians, who are patients and their companions; students enrolled in international universities and holders of foreign residency permits and nationalities, to leave Gaza via the crossing.  Also 87 civilians stranded in the Egyptian side and patients and their companions were allowed to return to Gaza.  The Egyptian authorities returned to Gaza 259 civilians who did not meet the requirements to access Egypt.

 

· Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing

 

Israel continued to impose severe restrictions on the movement, of patients, journalists, employees of international humanitarian organizations and those wanting to travel via Allenby Bridge on the border with Jordan.  During the reporting period, Israel completely closed Beit Hanoon crossing for 21 days.  Israel also significantly reduced the number of Gazan patients who were allowed to cross Beit Hanoun crossing during the reporting period. 

 

The most significant developments at Beit Hanoon crossing were as follows:

 

 Israel completely closed the crossing for the movement of Gaza civilians throughout the 82-day reporting period.  The crossing was completely closed for 21 days for members of diplomatic missions, employees of international humanitarian organizations, those wanting to travel via Allenby Bridge and Gazan patients with serious diseases.  Also Israel completely closed the crossing throughout the reporting period for Gaza merchants.  Approximately six months ago, Israel allowed a very limited number of merchants; at most ten merchants per day, to travel via the crossing. 

 Patients’ conditions: Israel completely closed the crossing for 21 days for the movement of Gazan patients who had medical referrals to hospitals in Israel and/or in the West Bank.  During the partial opening of the crossing, Israel allowed only 641 patients to travel via the crossing.  This indicates a reduction in the daily average of the number of patients allowed to travel via the crossing to 8 cases per day.  This reduction represents 53% compared to 2008, 60% compared to 2007 and 68% compared to 2006. 

 

5. Deaths caused by the closure: to date, the number of Gazan patients who have died as a result of the denial of travel permits for treatment, delayed travel for treatment, or due to shortages of medicines in Gaza hospitals has increased to 61, including 18 women and 15 children.  PCHR documented six new deaths, including three children, a woman and two men, as follows:

 

 

 

 

1. On 18 March 2009, Ihab Fou’ad Sharaf, 27, from Gaza city, died because he was denied treatment outside of Gaza. 

 

‘Isam Fou’ad Sharaf, who is the brother of the deceased person, stated the following to the PCHR fieldworker:

 

“In June 2006, my brother Ihab suffered kidney failure and was admitted to the intensive care unit at al-Shifa Hospital.  He stayed there for 21 days.  Doctors recommended him to make dialysis twice a week.  He committed to the dialysis for two years.  Then his health seriously deteriorated and he had to have an arteriovenous fistula operation to connect the artery with the vein.  He underwent this operation twice in Gaza; however, it failed.  Thus we began to apply to get him a medical referral for treatment outside of Gaza.  We managed to get a referral to al-Maqasid Hospital in Jerusalem on 15 July 2008.  we also applied to get permit to travel via Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing to get to the Hospital.  Throughout five months, we received no responses.  We then were forced to change the referral to a different destination.  On 23 December 2008, we got a referral to Naser Institute Hospital in Egypt.  Since the crossing [Rafah crossing] was closed, we could not travel to the Hospital.  And then as the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip began, things got more complicated and we lost hope to leave Gaza.  We were informed by authorities who were responsible for coordination that only the injured were allowed to leave Gaza for treatment abroad.  My brother’s health then severely deteriorated till he died on 18 March 2009”.

 

2. On 3 March 2009, Bushra Mahmoud Sayed al-Qishawi, 70, from southern Rimal in Gaza city, died as she was denied travel permit via Beit Hanoun crossing to receive treatment for cancer in a hospital in the West Bank. 

 

Mohammed Bashir Shafiq al-Qishawi, 35, who is the son of the deceased woman, told the PCHR fieldworker the following:

 

“My mother was detected to have stomach cancer in May 2008 after she had made medical examinations at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza city.  She immediately was referred on 20 May 2008 to get medical treatment in Tel Hashomer Hospital in Israel.  She managed to access the Israeli hospital where it was sure that she had cancer.  But they did not offer her any treatments claiming that she did not have financial coverage for the treatment from the Palestinian Authority.  She was returned to Gaza.  Later, we tried to get another referral, and we managed to get the referral to the Arab Care Center in Ramallah on 24 August 2008.  we applied several times to the Israeli side to get permit to travel via Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing.  However, we received no responses.  My mother’s health continued to deteriorate till she died on 3 March 2009 at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza city”. 

 

3. On 4 March 2009, Adham Jamal Abdul ‘Aziz Abu Dgheim, 22, from Beit Lahia town in northern Gaza, died because he was denied access to Egyptian hospitals to receive treatment for leukemia. 

 

 

 

Khaled Jamal Abdul ‘Aziz Abu Dgheim, 28, is the broth of the deceased man and he accompanied him since the beginning of the disease detection.  He told the PCHR fieldworker the following:

 

“My brother Adham was detected to suffer from leukemia after he had made medical examinations at al-Shifa Hospital in March 2004.  as soon as the disease was detected, my brother was referred to Naser Institute Hospital in Egypt to get medical treatment on 30 April 2004.  His treatment journey took approximately one month and then he returned to Gaza on 1 June 2004.  doctors at Naser Institute Hospital recommended him to follow a certain system to take doses and then return to the Hospital for checking every three months.  We committed to the recommended system and my brother’s health greatly improved.  On 18 December 2008, we got a referral to Naser Institute Hospital to make final examinations and be sure that my brother was totally cured.  We waited for the crossing to open, but the Israeli occupation forces launched their total offensive on Gaza and we were unable to leave Gaza via Rafah crossing.  My brother’s health deteriorated during the offensive.  We tried to get him outside of Gaza for treatment, but authorities that were responsible for coordination told us that the Egyptian authorities did not allow patients to leave Gaza and that only the injured in the offensive were allowed to travel via the crossing.  My brother’s health continued to deteriorate, and he was admitted to al-Shifa Hospital.  We applied to get a new medical referral and we managed to get it on 24 January 2009.  we waited for the Ministry of Health to make coordination for us to leave to Egypt.  We could travel on 2 February 2009.  My brother was immediately admitted to al-Salam Hospital in Cairo.  Because his conditions were seriously deteriorated, he was referred to Naser Institute hospital.  There, doctors told me that the delay of the chemical dose resulted in disease growth inside the body.  I was told that the diseases reached the nervous system and that his health conditions were very dangerous.  He stayed at the Hospital for 30 days.  He died on 4 March 2009”. 

 

4. On 7 March 2009, Sujoud Hani Wajih Abu Batnein, 8, from Khan Younis Refugee Camp, died because Israel delayed her access to an Israeli hospital to get treatment for a dangerous disease in her heart.  Throughout three months, three applications were submitted to the Israeli side to get permit for the child to travel via Beit Hanoun to the hospital.  None of the three applications was responded to. 

 

Hani Wajih Abdullah Abu Batnein, 39, is the father of the deceased child.  He is married and has six children.  He is a government employee.  He stated to PCHR the following:

 

“My daughter Sujoud suffered from a disease in her heart since she was born.  She underwent two surgeries in 2002 and 2004 in Bellinson Hospital in Israel.  I used to continuingly follow up her health conditions either in Gaza or in Israel.  In the end of November 2008, my daughter’s health deteriorated as a result of the imposed siege and shortages of medicines and medical supplies in the Gaza Strip.  Doctors recommended to get a referral for my daughter and take her to an Israeli hospital to undergo an urgent operation as she suffered from Tetralogy of Fallot[1].  This disease requires alternative artery transplantation from time to time and changing this alternative artery when needed.  This operation can not be conducted in Gaza.  Thus my daughter required urgent referral to an Israeli hospital.  Doctors who followed up my daughter’s health in Naser Hospital in

 

 

Khan Younis made arrangements with the External Treatment Department to get a referral for my daughter.  The referral with other required documents were submitted to the Israeli side to get travel permit.  However, we did not receive any responses.  We were forced to submit three applications, but none of them was responded to.  The organization that provided the financial coverage for my daughter treatment and which is in Jerusalem told us that the application was complete and met all the requirements, and that the Israeli side at Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing was responsible for the delay in responding to the application.  While we were waiting for the response, the Israeli occupation forces launched their offensive on the Gaza Strip.  All coordinates between the Israeli and Palestinian sides were suspended.  This continued for approximately one month.  After the offensive ended and some patients were allowed to travel for treatment, we did not receive any responses.  My daughter’s health continued to deteriorate till she died on 7 March 2009 in Mubarak Hospital in Khan Younis before we get  permit from the Israeli side to travel via Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing to access an Israeli hospital”.  

 

5. On 13 March 2009, Suleiman Ahmed Suleiman Abu Rjeila, 4, from Khuza’a village in the east of Khan Younis, due to unjustified delay caused by Israel to his access to an Israeli hospital via Beit Hanoun crossing for treatment. 

 

Mahmoud Ahemd Suleiman Abu Rjeila, 23, is the brother of the deceased child.  He is single and lives in Khuza’a village in the east of Khan Younis.  He told PCHR that:

 

“Approximately one year ago, my brother Suleiman began to suffer from a disease in his heart.  At that time he was 3 years old.  We continuingly followed up his health.  At the end of September 2008, his health deteriorated.  Doctors told us that his conditions were very dangerous and in continued deterioration.  Doctors said he was in pressing need for referral to receive medical treatment in an Israeli specialized hospital.  While we were making arrangements and preparing required documents, the Israeli occupation forces launched their total offensive on the Gaza Strip.  All medical referrals were suspended.  In the meanwhile, foreign medical delegations arrived at Gaza hospitals.  We showed my brother whose health was deteriorated to one of these delegations.  The delegates told us that his conditions were very serious and that he required urgent operation.  We were told that the capacities available at Gaza hospitals did not allow the execution of this operation.  Thus, we tried to travel to Egypt to treat him in Egyptian hospitals, and we prepared all the required papers.  However, we were told by the Egyptian side that cases such as my brother’s can not be referred to Egypt.  When the offensive stopped, we again tried to get a referral to an Israeli hospital.  At the time, we were required to look for a body to provide financial coverage for the medical treatment.  We managed to find this body in February 2009.  we made all the required arrangements, we were even informed that 8 March 2009 was determined as the date for my brother’s operation.  My mother accompanied my brother to Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing on 8 March 2009.  There, the authorities of the Israeli occupation returned them claiming that they were denied access on security backgrounds.  Then we phoned to the hospital to ask for a new appointment.  The hospital determined this new appointment on 23 February 2009.  In the meanwhile, my brother’s health continued to aggravate till he died on 13 March 2009; ten days prior to the date specified for his operation”. 

 

6. On 19 March 2009, Dina Mohammed al-Dreini, 5, from al-Sheikh Radwan district in Gaza city, died as her travel for treatment outside of Gaza was delayed. 

 

 

 

Ferial Abdul ‘Aziz Mustafa al-Dreini, 43, is the mother of the deceased child.  She is married and she is a housewife.  She used to follow up her daughter’s health conditions and told PCHR the following:

 

“On 16 December 2008, we detected that my daughter Dina suffered kidney cancer after she had undergone medical examinations at ‘Abdul ‘Aziz al-Rantisi Hospital because she had suffered swelling of the abdomen.  Immediately we began to treat her in Gaza hospitals.  As her health deteriorated, doctors decided to refer her to a hospital inside Israel for medical treatment.  We got her a referral to Ichelov Hospital in Tel Aviv on 17 March 2008.  Because Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing was closed at that time, we were not allowed to have access to the Hospital.  Later we renewed the referral and managed to have access to the hospital.  There, my daughter received treatment for three consecutive months.  Her health improved and we returned to Gaza.  Approximately one year later, she underwent medical examinations in Gaza.  Her health was reported to be good.  During the Israeli offensive, Dina suffered pains and her abdomen swelled.  We exerted best efforts to get her a referral to receive treatment outside of Gaza.  We managed to get the referral but we were not allowed to leave Gaza because all Gaza border crossings were closed during the Israeli offensive.  On 19 March 2009, Rafah crossing was exceptionally opened.  I managed to leave Gaza with my daughter.  On my way to Cairo, specifically near al-‘Isma’ilia city, I noticed that my daughter’s health was severely deteriorated.  Her body was cold.  I then immediately took her and returned to al-‘Arish Hospital where doctors told me that she died”. 

 

Journalists and Employees of International Humanitarian Organizations

 

During the reporting period, Israel imposed a ban on the entry of journalists and media representatives and members of international humanitarian organizations for 23 days.  After their military offensive, IOF allowed approximately 280 journalists and 1,400 members of international humanitarian organizations to enter Gaza under very complicated security procedures, including delaying the entry of many of those allowed to enter for several days. 

 

Prisoners’ Visitation Rights

 

For approximately two years, Israel has continued to prevent the families of Gazans incarcerated in Israeli jails from visiting their imprisoned relatives.  There are approximately 900 Gazans in prison in Israel, and this denial of familial visits, imposed since 6 June 2007, is a violation of international humanitarian law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention.   PCHR notes that 150 of the prisoners from the Gaza Strip had already been deprived of all visitation rights prior to the June 2007 suspension.   Israeli claims that this deprival of visitation rights is for security reasons.   The prison visitation program was, until its suspension by Israel, being facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which has protested against the continuing suspension of the program. 

 

 

 

 

· Al-Mentar (Karni) Crossing

 

Developments at al-Mentar crossing during the reporting period:

 

 Al-Mentar crossing was completely closed for Gaza imports for 64 days (78%), and it was totally closed for Gaza exports throughout the 82-day reporting period.  The crossing was partially opened for 18 days (22%) to allow the delivery of limited quantities of imports to Gaza.  During the partial opening of the crossing, IOF allowed the delivery of 890 truckloads of fodder and grains to the Gaza Strip. 

 Since 13 June 2007 to date, al-Mentar crossing has been completely closed for 531 days. 

 The continued closure of al-Mentar crossing has subjected 1.5 million civilians in the Gaza Strip to a humanitarian crises. 

 

· Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) Crossing

 

During the reporting period, Karm Abu Salem crossing was partially opened for 65 days (79%), while it was completely closed for 17 days (21%).  PCHR notes that Karm Abu Salem crossing has been closed for 167 days since 18 August 2008, the day when the crossing was re-opened and designated by Israel as Gaza’s main crossing.   During its partial opening, IOF allowed the entry of 5,321 truckloads of humanitarian aid and relief aid including foods, blankets and medicines offered by international humanitarian aid including WFP, ICRC, UNRWA, UNICEF and EU.  Food items for local traders were also allowed to enter to Gaza via the crossing during its partial opening. 

 

For the first time through several months, IOF opened the crossing for the exportation of 320,000 flowers.  On 30 March 2009, IOF allowed the Agricultural Cooperative Association in Beit Hanoun to export 260,000 flowers, and on the following day, 31 March 2009, 60,000 flowers were allowed to be exported. 

 

During the complete closure of the crossing, Israel banned the delivery of humanitarian aid and basic foods.  During its partial opening, the crossing operated at reduced capacity, and daily average of truckloads allowed to enter to Gaza amounted to approximately 84 truckloads. 

 

Nahal Oz Crossing

 

Nahal Oz crossing was completely closed for benzene and diesel supplies[2] to Gaza throughout the reporting period, and limited quantities of cooking gas and industrial fuel were allowed to enter to Gaza via the crossing.  Gaza continued to suffer from the chronic fuel crisis. 

 

Developments at Nahal Oz crossing, that is dedicated for the delivery of fuel supplied to Gaza, during the reporting period:

 

 

 Throughout the 82-day reporting period, Israel imposed a total ban on the delivery of diesel and benzene supplies to Gaza. 

 The crossing was completely closed for 29 days for all kinds of fuel derivatives.  Gaza suffered the expiry of fuel derivatives during this 29-day period. 

 Israel has continued to impose ban on the delivery of benzene for Gaza civilians.  On 10 December 2008, Israel allowed the delivery of 50,000 liters of benzene to Gaza civilians.  This was the last shipment of benzene that was allowed to Gaza and represented 4.1% of Gaza needs of benzene for December.  It should be noted that, before their decision to reduce the quantities of fuel supplies in last October, Israel used to allow the delivery of 120,000 liters of benzene to Gaza every day. 

 Israel has continued to impose complete ban on the delivery of diesel.  On 9 and 10 December 2008, Israel allowed the delivery of 400,000 liters of diesel to Gaza.  These were the last shipments of benzene that were allowed to Gaza and represented 3.94% of Gaza needs of diesel for December.  Diesel ran out from Gaza petrol stations several months ago.  It should be noted that, before their decision to reduce the quantities of fuel supplies in last October, Israel used to allow the delivery of 350,000 liters of diesel to Gaza every day. 

 Israel closed the crossing for 29 days for cooking gas, while the crossing was partially opened for 53 days to allow the delivery of approximately 13.333 tons of cooking gas, which represents 43.5% of Gaza needs of cooking gas for this 53-day period.  Gaza daily needs of cooking gas are 350 tons of cooking gas. 

 Although Israel limitedly increased the quantities of cooking gas allowed to enter to Gaza, this did not make any change to the shortages of cooking gas from which Gaza has been suffering several months ago.  All Gaza cooking gas distribution stations are still closed due to expiry of their supplies of cooking gas.  Cooking gas shortages affected many productive activities that need cooking gas to be conducted.  This effect ranged between partial effect, like in factories and workshops and marine fishing activities, and total effect, like in restaurants and chicken farms. 

 

Gaza imports of cooking gas in comparison with real needs

 

 

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

Real imports

3,926

3,543

5,863

Real needs

10,850

10,500

10,850

Percent of imports compared to needs

36.2%

33.7%

54.1%

 

 Israel closed the crossing for 29 days for industrial fuel.  During the partial opening of the crossing, IOF allowed the delivery of 28,721,113 liters of industrial fuel to Gaza Power Plant, which was enough to operate the Plant for this reporting period.  It should be noted that Gaza depends on three sources of power: the Gaza Power Plant provides 67-70 MW (34%), Israel provides 120 MW (58,5%) and Egypt provides 17.5 MW (7.5%).  The Gaza Power Plant is completely dependent on fuel sourced in Israel for its operation. 

 

 

 

Sofa Crossing

 

IOF completely closed Sofa crossing throughout the 82-day reporting period.   All basic goods, including humanitarian aid for UNRWA and the World Food Program (WFP), were banned during the reporting period. 

 

In addition, Israel banned the delivery of goods that had been allowed to enter Gaza following the Tahdiya’ or ‘Period of calm’ that came into force on 19 June 2008, and also prior to the Israeli military offensive on Gaza that started on 27 December 2008.   These goods included limited numbers of cattle, soft drinks, cement, iron tubes, gas bottles, wood, welding iron bars and textile cloth that had been banned for more than a year. 

 

In view of the data and documentation reported, PCHR calls upon the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilians in times of war, to:

 

1. Exert effective pressure on Israel to compel them to open all Gaza crossings, those used for commercial purposes and those used for civilian movement, to allow the civilian population of the Gaza Strip to rehabilitate or reconstruct their civilian objects that had been destroyed during Israel’s recent offensive on Gaza, and also to enable them to enjoy their basic 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 want to leave Gaza, including hundreds of patients who require treatment abroad, students enrolled in international universities, holders of residency permits in foreign countries, and other humanitarian cases, and for those who are stranded in Egypt to be able 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 taking place across the Gaza Strip.   

4. Compel Israel to restrain from collective punishments of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip, including tightening and restricting the closure of the Gaza border crossings.   

5. Remind the State of Israel of its obligations towards the civilians of the Gaza Strip, as the Occupying Power, as regards article 55 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention that 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 have a duty to commit to their obligation under article 1 of the Convention that provides for ensuring the implementation of the provisions of the convention by the State of the Israeli military occupation, in order to ensure protection to the Palestinian civilians of the Gaza Strip.   

 


[1] Congenital heart defect which is classically understood to involve four anatomical abnormalities although only three of them are always present.  It is the most common cyanotic heart defect and the most common cause of blue baby syndrome. 

[2] During the reporting period, IOF allowed the delivery of 900,000 liters of diesel and 100,000 liters of benzene for UNRWA.