Published on October 19, 2000
CLOSURE UPDATE NO. 24
Report by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
on the Closure Imposed by Israel
on the Gaza Strip
This is the 24th in a series of updates published by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights on the closure imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip. This update documents the effects of the ongoing total siege that has been imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip since September 30, 2000. Under such a siege, the Israeli occupation forces canceled the partial facilitation they made during the past two years on the movement of persons and commercial transactions. They re-closed all the crossings of the Gaza Strip into Israel, the West Bank and the outside world. As a result, Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip have been living in hard conditions. The Israeli occupation forces have been violating the right of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to free movement. The economic and social conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been deteriorating.
The total siege imposed by the Israeli occupation authorities has continued to be a hindrance to the access of necessary medical supplies into the Gaza Strip. Medicines are still in special stores in Al-A’rish, until the Israeli occupation authorities allow their entry into the Gaza Strip, after these authorities closed Gaza International Airport and prevented planes from landing on its ground. Some ambulances are still at the Egyptian side of the borders with Palestine. It is worth mentioning that the Gaza Strip started to suffer a shortage of ambulances, as a result of the increasing number of the wounded, and because several ambulances were fired at and destroyed by the Israeli occupation forces. If there had been enough ambulances, many lives would have been saved.
The siege is a hindrance also to transferring critical cases among the wounded into hospitals of Arab countries. On Tuesday, October 17, 2000, some critical cases of the wounded were transferred from Shifa’ Hospital into hospitals in the Arab countries after difficult negotiations with the Israeli occupation authorities, and some other critical cases are still waiting the permission for travel.
The Israeli occupation authorities have continued to deny the access of about 25,000 Palestinian laborers of the Gaza Strip to their work places in Israel. Despite issuing new permits for 15,000 laborers, they are denied access to their work places in Israel. These figures do not include those unorganized laborers. The Israeli occupation authorities have also denied the access of 3,000 laborers to their work places in Erez Industrial Zone.
Although Karni Outlet was reopened partially, drivers of 50 Palestinian trucks, which were transporting goods from inside the Outlet into Israel and the West Bank, were denied access to the Outlet and Israeli trucks were used instead of Palestinian trucks.
Commercial transactions of the Gaza Strip are still restricted under the siege imposed by the Israeli occupation authorities. This has led to more deterioration in the local economy. There are still restrictions on exporting agricultural products to markets in the West Bank and Israel, and to the Arab and international markets. The Israeli occupation authorities allowed the entry of only 60 trucks of vegetables into Israel, based on the same system followed in Karni Outlet – Palestinian trucks are unloaded and goods are transported by Israeli trucks. The Israeli occupation forces allowed also the entry of 40 vehicles of clothes into Israel, and two trucks of flour, wheat and other foodstuffs into the Gaza Strip, after they reopened the Outlet partially on October 15, 2000. So the number of trucks allowed to transport goods into the Outlet has been 102 of the original number of 450 trucks everyday, since the beginning of the current events. This has resulted in large losses for farmers who stopped cultivating fruits. Farmers of mulberry fear of an agricultural disaster because of the continued siege as the season of its cultivation is very close.
Local industry in the Gaza Strip are facing a hard crisis due to the continued siege, as the Israeli occupation forces have not so far allowed the export of the local industrial products to markets of the West Banks and Israel. Israel has also continued to deny the access of industrial raw material into the Gaza Strip. The entry of Palestinian trucks, which move in a convoy system (“Levoi”), have been denied. About 120 trucks were passing into Israel daily to transport cement and some foodstuffs. Closing Erez Checkpoint has caused construction in the Gaza Strip to stop, as there is no cement in the Gaza Strip because of the siege. Some merchants stated that 4 ships loaded with cement are still in the Israeli seaport of Ashdod waiting for permission to be unloaded. The Israeli occupation authorities denied the entry of about 800 containers of goods into the Gaza Strip, so they have been blocked in the seaport, and merchants have to pay revenues for storing them there. Merchant stated also that a ship loaded with cars belongs to Gazan merchants are still in Haifa Seaport, and they could not transport cargo into the Gaza Strip.
In light of the current crisis, some factories have stopped working partially or completely due to the lack of raw material. Factories sell only small amounts of their products only in the areas where they are, as the siege is very strict.
Prominent aviation companies, such as the Palestinian Aviation Company and the Egyptian Aviation Company have suffered great losses due to the siege, as most travelers have been forced to return their tickets. Some other companies, such as insurance companies, have given their staff periodical vacations, as their work decreased.
The siege may also affect the level of circulation in banks, which would inevitably affect the local economy negatively. Investments have also decreased.
In regard to foodstuffs, Mr. Abdel Fattah Hmeid, a director general of the Palestinian Ministry of Supplies, stated that, less than 5% of the foodstuffs imported from Israel are allowed into the Gaza Strip via Erez Checkpoint and Karni Outlet. These included: feed, frozen fish, cheese, frozen peas, soda water, juices, sugar, wheat, biscuits, rice, salt and flour. He added that 3,500 tons of rice, sugar and flour are still at Rafah Border Crossing, and have not been allowed into the Gaza Strip since October 18, 2000.
The Israeli occupation forces violated basic human rights when they reoccupied Rafah Border Crossing on October 16, 2000, drove out the Palestinian staff of the Crossing, killed an officer of the Palestinian security forces, and wounded 4 guards of the President. In carrying this out, they used tanks and combat helicopters. They prevented travelling from and into the Gaza Strip. The Israeli occupation forces had already reopened the Crossing on October 15, 2000, allowing travel only from the Gaza Strip into Egypt, just for special cases such as the sick, international passport holders and visit permit holders. Under the new procedure, the entry of medical support and ambulances will be restricted. Gaza International Airport was closed also until October 19, 2000.
The Israeli occupation authorities had denied the access of Palestinian newspapers from the West Bank into the Gaza Strip since October 13, 2000, until October 17,2000, so they have deprived more than 1 million people of reading and knowledge. On October 19, 2000, the Israeli occupation authorities denied the access of newspapers again.
Under the siege, more than 1 million people in the Gaza Strip have been living in a collective jail, as they lack their right to free movement to the West Bank and Jerusalem. The Israeli occupation forces at Al-Tuffah Roadblock in Khan Yunis separated the city from Al-Mawasi area, and the same happened at Tal Al-Sultan Roadblock in Rafah separating the town from Al-Mawasi area.
Thousands of school pupils are still denied access to their schools adjacent to Israeli military outposts, so they have been forced to move to other schools away from these outposts and away from home too. In addition, hundreds of students of the College of Education are still deprived of classes, as the campus was shelled by the Israeli occupation forces, and because the campus is near Israeli military roadblocks. Classes at all levels have been distorted because of the security situation, killings perpetrated by the Israeli occupation forces, and probable shelling of schools.
The Israeli occupying authorities continue to impose a total siege on the whole Palestinian territory. This policy of collective punishment against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is a blatant violation of internationally accepted standards of human rights. This policy has destructive effects on the lives of Palestinian on both the economic and social levels. PCHR holds Israel responsible for the destructive effects of this total siege, and considers such policy an aggression against the Palestinian people.