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State of the Gaza Strip’s Border Crossings 16 – 30 September 2010

Three months have passed since
Israel’s declaration on the alleged easing of the illegal closure regime
imposed on the Gaza Strip. However, to
date, the civilian population has not felt any significant changes regarding
the closure imposed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). Although the entry of goods has increased in
quantity and quality, most of the goods allowed into the Gaza Strip are
consumables which are already available in the Gaza Strip. IOF have continued to impose a ban on the
entry of strategic goods, especially raw construction materials, which are
necessary for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and raw materials used for
production. IOF have also continued to
impose a complete ban on the export of agricultural and industrial goods
produced in the Gaza Strip. As a result
of the ongoing stoppage of production and the lack of development opportunities,
the Gaza Strip remains dependant on humanitarian aid.

 

According to documentation collected
by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights’ (PCHR) the IOF have reduced the
number of truckloads allowed into the Gaza strip via Karm Abu Salem and
al-Mentar crossings during September 2010. While the daily average trucks allowed to cross into Gaza increased
slightly during August to approximately 142 truckloads daily, the average daily
truckloads allowed during September was reduced to 110 truckloads marking a
decrease of 23% compared with August. This daily average continued to drop during the reporting period as PCHR
registered 99 truckloads in September i.e., 70% of the daily average of
truckloads allowed during August. It
should be noted that before tightening the closure on the Gaza Strip in
mid-June 2007, IOF allowed approximately 450 truckloads into the Gaza Strip
daily. This number is four times higher
that the number of truckloads allowed into the Gaza Strip during
September. 

 

IOF allowed the entry of many
foodstuffs which are already available in the Gaza Strip’s markets. They also allowed the entry of limited
quantities of other goods such as wood, aluminum, glass, electric and gas
ovens, electric cables, air conditioners, some construction tools, ceramics,
marble, plastic chairs, clothes, shoes, and limited quantities of construction
materials and cement for UNRWA. PCHR
notes that as long as Israel allows the entry of specific goods and bans
strategic ones, especially raw and construction materials, the situation in the
Gaza Strip will continue to deteriorate and no significant changes will take
place regarding economic and social conditions of the civilian population. 

 

IOF has continued to delay the
implementation of their own decision to allow the importation of cars into the
Gaza Strip. In July they declared that they would lift the ban on the entry of
small cars and that they would allow 60 cars weekly into Gaza. During the reporting period, IOF only allowed
the entry of 40 new cars in two groups after a 2-year ban imposed on the entry
of cars. 

 

During the reporting period, closure
of the crossings increased because of Jewish holidays (Yom Kippur and
Sukkot). As a result, supplies of
industrial fuel required to run the Gaza Power Production Plant were reduced. The Plant was forced to turn off one of its
turbines for several days because IOF refused to supply required industrial
fuel during the Jewish holidays. Gaza

 

 

Electricity Distribution Company
announced the reduction of power supplies to the Gaza Strip due to the power
shortage resulting from the suspension of the operation of one of the turbines
in the Power Production Plant and explained that this situation was caused by
the reduction of industrial fuel quantities allowed into the Gaza Strip. 

 

UNRWA Commissioner-General, Filippo
Grandi, described the current conditions following Israeli claims of easing the
closure:

 

"… The recent easing of
restrictions on the importation of consumer goods is a welcome development and
has brought some benefit to the people of Gaza, even if the boost to the formal
economy is limited to a few sectors and falls far short of the free flow of
goods and people envisaged in the November 2005 Agreement on Movement and
Access. Most Palestinians, however,
still face harsh conditions of isolation. Few, if any, can avoid the effects of paralyzed public services, a
collapsed formal economy, and the physical and psychological threats from the
conflict. It is self-evident that
further, bolder measures are needed to open Gaza to the world and in particular
to the West Bank, with which it is intended, along with East Jerusalem, to form
a Palestinian state, while reviving its economy and placing its people on the
road to recovery. The closure of Gaza’s
borders has been the direct cause of debilitating, widespread poverty. Over sixty percent of Gazans live below the
poverty line, some forty percent are unemployed, and eighty percent rely on
food handouts…. This has had multiple
negative consequences. Let me just
mention here, by way of example, one impact that it has had on education: we
have permission to build only a handful of the 100 new schools needed for
refugees in Gaza; this year we had to turn away almost 40,000 refugee children
for lack of space, and the problem will be compounded by the average annual
increase of 8,000 students among the refugee population. We are forced to “double shift” almost all of
our Gaza schools, administering one school in the morning and a second in the
afternoon. We shall now have to start
triple shifting, or create even more schools out of shipping containers …. Now we have one school in Gaza where 850
students are enrolled.[1]"

 

The closure imposed on the Gaza
Strip, which is now more than three years old, 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 instruments to which it is a party, such as
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

 

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 closure
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 closure that may become
internationally accepted and institutionalized. This new policy is just a means to appear to ease the closure with the
effect of institutionalizing the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip with
international approval. In fact, this
policy managed to circumvent the rules of the international law, including the
International Humanitarian Law and the International Human Rights Law. 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 will remain economically, 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 (16 – 30 September 2010):

 

· Rafah International Crossing Point

 

During the reporting period, Rafah
International Crossing Point remained open. People could travel from and to the Gaza Strip. During the reporting period, 6,124 persons
traveled abroad, 4,733 persons entered the Gaza Strip, and 497 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 44,845, while 46,348 persons have
entered the Gaza Strip.[2]

 

It should be noted that the Egyptian
authorities opened the Rafah International Crossing Point on 1 June 2010 after
it had been closed since 12 June 2007 by IOF. Since then, the Egyptian authorities have allowed the movement of eight
categories via the crossing as follows: (1) Patients officially referred
by the Palestinian Authority to Egypt for urgent medical treatment; (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 "special coordination from the Egyptian authorities"; (6) Palestinians
holding valid residency permits in Egypt; (7) International delegations,
including human rights delegations and diplomatic delegations; and (8) International
journalists, and Palestinians holding diplomatic passports.

 

Crossings Connecting Gaza with
Israel

 

· Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing

 

IOF have continued to close Beit
Hanoun crossing for the movement of Gaza civilians while they opened the
crossing for the movement of limited categories which are: (1) patients
suffering from serious medical conditions and transferred to hospitals in
Israel and/or the West Bank; (2) Palestinians holding Israeli ID; (3)
international journalists; (4) workers of international humanitarian
organizations; (5) traders and businesspeople; and (6) those wishing to travel
via al-Karama International Crossing Point on the Jordanian border. These categories of persons travel via the
crossing under very complicated procedures and they are sometimes forced to
wait for long hours. According to the
Civil Liaison Office of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, IOF completely closed
the crossing for these categories of persons for six days. The crossing was closed for 11 days for Gaza
traders and was only opened for four days to allow the movement of
approximately 120 traders – an average of eight traders daily. It should be noted that approximately 150
traders used to be daily allowed to travel via the crossing prior to June 2007.

 

 

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 six days. During the partial opening of the crossing,
approximately 200 patients were allowed to pass via the crossing; i.e. an average
of less than 14 patients daily. This figure represents 40% of the total number of
patients who were allowed to travel via the crossing during the first half of
2006. As part of its policy aimed at
reducing the number of Palestinian patients who are allowed to receive
treatment in hospitals in Israel and/or the West Bank and Jerusalem, IOF have
continued 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 claim that these patients
do not need urgent medical treatment stating that 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.

 

IOF have also continued to impose
tight restrictions on the movement of journalists, diplomats and workers of international
humanitarian organizations. During the
days the crossing was open, IOF allowed 33 journalists, 17 diplomats and 253
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.

 

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 710 Gazans detained in Israeli jails. The denial
of family visits, imposed since 6 June 2007, constitutes a violation of
international law, especially Article 116 of the 1949 Forth Geneva Convention
relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war which stipulates
that: "Every internee shall be allowed to receive visitors, especially
near relatives, at regular intervals and as frequently as possible. As far as is possible, internees shall be
permitted to visit their homes in urgent cases, particularly in cases of death
or serious illness of relatives."

 

· Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) Crossing

 

Goods and Aid: during the reporting period, Karm
Abu Salem crossing was partially opened for eight days to allow the entry of 1,305
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. Fuel and food items for local businesses were
also allowed into the Gaza Strip via the crossing during the time of its
partial opening. 

 

According to the Ministry of Economy,
IOF allowed the entry of 522 truckloads of goods that were previously banned. They included clothes, shoes, glass,
refrigerators, electric and gas ovens, electricity cables, construction tools, ceramic,
marble, furniture, plastic chairs, aluminum and wood and spare parts for
cars. IOF also allowed the entry of 27
truckloads of cement for UNRWA. The
goods allowed into Gaza do not meet even the minimal needs of Gaza’s civilian
population. The number of truckloads allowed to enter also contradicts Israeli
claims regarding doubling the number of truckloads allowed to Gaza. Furthermore, the crossing was completely
closed for seven

 

 

 

days (46.6% of the reporting period). Karm Abu Salem crossing has been closed for 551
days since 18 August 2008 when the crossing was designated by Israel as the
Gaza Strip’s major commercial crossing.

 

Fuel: According to data made available to
a PCHR fieldworker by the General Department of Petroleum, IOF completely
stopped supplying the Gaza Strip with the industrial fuel needed for the Gaza
Power Plant for seven days. During the
days that the crossing was open, IOF allowed the entry of 3.7 million liters of
industrial fuel into Gaza, a quantity that sufficed to operate the Plant at 70%
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%).

 

Also during the reporting period,
IOF allowed 1,400 tons of cooking gas into the Gaza Strip over nine days; an
average of 93 tons daily over the reporting period. The supply of cooking gas to the Gaza Strip
stopped completely for six days. IOF did
not allow the entry of benzene or diesel during the reporting period.[3] It should be noted that the entry of benzene
and diesel supplies had been 120,000 liters and 350,000 liters daily
before IOF 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

 

Al-Mentar crossing was completely
closed for 12 days (80%), and it was partially opened to allow the entry of
limited quantities of grains and fodder for three days (20%). As reported by the Ministry of Economy to a
PCHR researcher, during the partial opening of the crossing, IOF allowed the
entry of 63 trucks, carrying 2,457 tons of grains, and 130 trucks, carrying 4,319
tons of fodder into the Gaza Strip. The
number of days of complete closure of the crossing has mounted to 886 since 13
June 2007, when Hamas took over 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

————————————-

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

 



[1] Keynote address by
Filippo Grandi, UNRWA Commissioner-General in the ‘Gaza-Palestine: Out of the
Margins’ conference organized by the Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute in Birzeit University, 1- 2 October 2010.

[2] During the reporting
period, the Egyptian authorities facilitated the return of the bodies of two
Palestinians who died in Egyptian hospitals.

[3] 31,000
liters
of benzene were allowed into the Gaza Strip for
UNRWA.