State of the Gaza Strip’s border crossings (01– 31 January 2017)
This report documents the state of Gaza Strip border crossings during January 2017. It also emphasizes that the Israeli closured imposed on the Gaza Strip for the 10th consecutive year continues and intensifies contrary to the Israeli claims of easing the closure.
At the level of Movement of commodities, the Israeli authorities continue to impose almost complete ban on the Gaza exports. However, in a limited exception, they allowed the exportation of 291 truckloads in January; constituting 6.4% of the total exports before the closure being imposed in June 2007.
Moreover, the Israeli authorities continued to impose tightened restrictions on the entry of 400 commodities into the Gaza Strip; most of which are basic goods and raw materials. The Israeli authorities also continue to impose restrictions on the entry of construction materials. In January, they allowed 87,770 tons of cement, 14,705 tons of construction steel and 245,804 tons of construction aggregate; 5.5%, 2.9% and 8.5% of the total construction materials needed for the Gaza reconstruction. Then entry of cooking gas continued to decrease as 5,611 tons were allowed on daily average of 181 tons; 51.7% of the actually needs of the population. The commodities movement from and into the Gaza Strip faced many obstacles, including closure of the sole commercial crossing for 8 days (25.8% of the total period).
At the level of Movement of persons, the Israeli authorities imposed new restrictions on the Gaza population, affecting civilians’ movement in quality and quantity. The number of rejected permits increased, so the limited numbers who were allowed to cross Beit Hanoun “Erez” crossing declined. The crossing was closed for 8 days (during 4 of which it was partially open for emergency cases only). Although the Israeli authorities allowed in January 1,195 patients with 1,113 companions from their family to travel via the crossing, the travel of dozens of other patients was obstructed (38% of the total applications) under various pretexts. Those patients were referred for medical treatment to the Israeli hospitals or the West Bank hospitals.
Furthermore, the Israeli authorities continued for the second month to prevent elderly people from performing prayers in al-Aqsa Mosquewhile they allowed 4.303 traders and 201 family members of the Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli jails. They also allowed 556 international organization workers and 270 travelers through al-Karamah crossing in addition to 719 persons with personal needs. It should be mentioned that these statistics do not represent the number of persons allowed to enter as the permit holders are far less than the passing times.
The Israeli authorities also continued to use Beit Hanoun “Erez” Crossing as a trap to arrest and blackmail the Gaza Strip population. In January, They arrested 3 civilians namely as trader Hazem ‘Abdel Hadi Ahmed Tuman (43) from Khan Younis, trader Medhat ‘Awwad Khaled Karam (51) from Gaza City and ‘Omer Nizar Abu Asad (25) from Deir al-Balah.
The report concludes that the Israeli claims about easing the closure are deceptive and not applied on the ground, aiming at institutionalizing the closure and make it internationally acceptable although the closure violates the international law, including the intentional humanitarian and human rights laws.
Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) Crossing
During the reporting period, Israel closed Karm Abu Salem, which is the sole commercial crossing, for 8 days (25.8% of the total period). On the days it was open, Israel allowed the entry of 18,427 truckloads, an average of 594 truckloads daily.
Israeli forces continued to impose a ban on the Gaza Strip exports to the West Bank, Israel and abroad with exception of limited quantities. During the reporting period, 291 truckloads were allowed for exportation to the West Bank, including 223 truckloads for the West Bank and 68 for Israel. The truckloads to the West Bank contained vegetables, stationery, furniture, clothes; and livestock hide (skin) while those to Israel included tomatoes, eggplants, aluminum and scrap. The rate of the Gaza Strip exports for January constitutes 6.4% of the exports before June 2007.
- Construction Materials
During the reporting period, the construction materials allowed into the Gaza Strip were limited and do not meet the minimal level of the Gaza Strip actual needs. Israel allowed 78,770 tons of cement, 14,705 tons of construction steel and 254,804 tons of aggregate according to the Ministry of National Economy in Gaza. These quantities do not respectively exceed 5.5%, 2.9%, 8.5% of Gaza needs for reconstruction. The majority of these quantities were entered for international organizations or Palestinian companies under strict monitoring mechanism under which Gaza reconstruction can be impossible. This data proves that UN Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism has failed to fulfill the minimum level of Gaza reconstruction needs as two years have passed since this Mechanism entered into force.
Table comparing the quantities of construction materials allowed into the Gaza Strip in January 2017, the actual needs and the Gaza Reconstruction Needs
|Description||Actual imports||Gaza reconstruction needs/tons||Percentage|
Source: Ministry of National Economy in the Gaza Strip.
During the reporting period, Israel allowed the entry of 10,753,000 litters of diesel; 3,572,000 litters of benzene and 11,432,000 litters of industrial fuel to operate the power plant in the Gaza Strip. During the reporting period, Israeli forces also prevented the entry of cooking gas for 8 days. During the days the crossing was open, Israeli forces allowed the entry of only 5,611 tons of cooking gas; a daily average of 181 tons. This amount represents 51.7% of the actual daily needs of the population, which is 350 tons according to General Petroleum Corporation in Gaza (EGPC). As a result, the quantities of cooking gas in all the gas stations declined and people have to wait for long periods to refill their cylinders.
Crossings Designated to the Movement of Persons
- BeitHanoun (Erez) Crossing
Israel continued to impose severe restrictions on the movement of persons via the Beit Hanoun crossing with the exception of limited categories: patients suffering from serious illnesses; Arabs holding Israeli IDs; international journalists; workers of international humanitarian organizations; business people; and persons travelling via al-Karama crossing. These categories are allowed to travel through the crossing under very complicated procedures. According to the Civil Liaison Office in the Ministry of Civil Affairs, Israel closed the crossing completely for 8 days (during 4 days of which, only urgent cases were allowed to travel via the crossing) during the reporting period.
During the reporting period, the Israeli authorities stationed at Beit Hanoun “Erez” crossing obstructed the travek if ziens of patients referred for medical treatment in the Israeli and West Bank hospitals under various pretexts, including security reasons, changing the companions, waiting for a new appointment and awaiting an Israeli reply following security interviews. in January, Israel allowed the entry of 1,195 patients and 1,113 companions according to the Civil Affairs in Gaza. It should be mentioned that the number of patients who applied for permits to travel via Beit Hanoun Crossing in 2016 was 26,280 applications; 16,277 were approved (61.84% of the total applications.)
In January, Israeli authorities allowed 201 family members of prisoners divided into 4 groups to visit 116 of their relatives in Israeli prisons according to the ICRC weekly statistics.
Family visits to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons in January 2017
|Day||Number of visitors||Number of children||Number of visited prisoners||Prison|
|09 January 2017||64||15||41||Nafha prison|
|16 January 2017||72||18||39||Ramon prison|
|23 January 2017||59||13||33||Nafha prison|
|29 January 2017||6||–||3||Beersheba prison|
The above table shows that the number of visitors is limited compared to the number of visits allowed under the prisoners’ deal. According to the agreement, each prisoner has the right to two family visits a month. With 350 prisoners in Israeli prisons, the number of visits should reach 700 monthly. However, the Israeli forces only allowed 116 visits (16.5%) in January. The same applies to the number of family members who are allowed to visit their relatives; the number of these members mounted to 201 in January whereas, the number should include 1,400 persons in case each prisoner is visited by 2 members of his family twice a month (13.3%).
The families were subjected to arbitrary practices, obstacles and immoral and degrading treatment. They also suffered from the Israeli provocative measures and the continuous threats to cancel their visits in the future if they did not obey Israeli orders. At approximately 08:00 on Monday, 16 January 2017, around 72 civilians from the Gaza Strip arrived at Beit Hanoun “Erez” crossing, north of the Gaza Strip, to visit their sons in Rimon prison in Israel. While checking their permits and IDs, Israeli forces detained around 10 Palestinian families; most of them were women, for 2 hours without questioning or telling them the reason behind their detention. They then allowed 9 of the above-mentioned families to join the rest families, while Mona Abu Hatab was prevented from entering and forced to return to the Gaza Strip. After the families visited their sons and then returned to Beit Hanoun “Erez” crossing, Israeli forces detained the same 9 families in the crossing. The families were detained from 17:00 to 20:20 without interrogation in light of the cold weather and sound of bombing heard in the vicinity of the crossing. This caused fear among the families, but an Israeli female soldier then told the families that those sounds are exercises for the Israeli soldiers. Due to this, Hanadi al-Najar fainted as she suffers from diabetes. Palestinian workers in the crossing gave her first aid and brought her juice. The families were then allowed to leave the crossing to Gaza.
- Other categories
During the reporting period, Israel allowed the entry of 4,304 traders, 719 persons for personal needs, 556 workers of international organizations into the Gaza Strip, and 270 travelers via al-Karama (Allenby) crossing. It should be mentioned that these statistics do not represent the number of persons allowed to enter as the permit holders are far less than the passing times.
Israeli Forces Arrest 3 Traders at Beit Hanoun “Erez” Crossing
- At approximately 14:00 on Sunday, 15 January 2017, Israeli forces stationed in Beit Hanoun “Erez” crossing, north of the Gaza Strip, arrested Hazem Abed al-Hadi Ahmed Toman (43), who is an agrictural materials trader married with 4 children and lives in al-Shayikh Nasir area in Khan Yunis. Hazem’s brother, Mohamed Toman (35), said to PCHR’s fieldworker that his brother Hazem headed to Beit Hanoun “Erez” crossing, to refer to the Israeli Intelligence Service in order to get a permit for entering the West Bank. When Hazem did not return, we contacted the Palestinian Liaison that told us Hazam was detained and he is now under arrest.
- At approximately 09:00 on Sunday, 15 January 2017, Israeli forces stationed in Beit Hanoun ‘Erez” crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, arrested Medhat ‘Awad Khaled Karam (51), who is a trader from Tal al-Hawa. The aforementioned has Karam Company for General Trading and Detergents located in al-Zaitoun neighborhood near the car market, east of Gaza City. It should be mentioned that Karam headed to the crossing for an interview with the Israeli Intelligence upon their request after he applied for a permit. He was then taken to an unknown destination.
- At approximately 12:00 on Tuesday, 17 January 2017, Israeli forces arrested Omar Nizar Abu Asad (25), from Deir al-Balah, while he was heading along with his mother, Asma al-Sayed Ali Abu Asad (50) to visit his brother Bilal (24), who lives in Ramallah. Israeli forces detained them in the crossing and then took Omar for interrogation. At approximately 15:00 on the same day, Israeli forces told Omar’s mother that her son is under arrest. They also withdrew her permit and told her that she was banned from entering Israel. They then forced her to return to the Gaza Strip.
Rafah International Crossing Point
- During the reporting period, Rafah International Crossing Point was closed for 27 days as a result of the Egyptian internal situation and the deteriorating security situation in north Sinai .Exceptionally, the crossing point was opened for only 4 days on varying periods. During the days it was open, 2,624 Palestinians travelled abroad while 3,098 retruned to the Gaza Strip in addition to 2,624 were returned by the Israeli authorities. This unveiled the reality of the situation in the Gaza Strip under the policy of collective punishment and the Israeli closure imposed over all border crossings, especially BeitHanoun crossing. Thousands of Palestinians, who registered for traveling via the crossing, are waiting for their turn to travel according to the Ministry of Interior in Gaza.
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:
- 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 the movement of civilians, to allow the civilian population of the Gaza Strip to reconstruct civilian property destroyed during Israel’s latest offensive on Gaza and to enable them to enjoy their fundamental civil and political rights, as well as their economic, social and cultural rights;
- Promptly and urgently intervene to ensure respect for international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and to put an end to the deterioration of living conditions across the Gaza Strip;
- Compel Israel to put an end to measures of collective punishment against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip, including the tightening of the closure of Gaza’s border crossings;
- Cancel the UN Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, as it failed to alleviate the suffering of those affected by the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, especially owners of houses and property that were completely destroyed, who have not received any compensations or construction materials to rebuild their destroyed houses and property;
- 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 that: “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 by ensuring the implementation of the Convention’s provisions by the State of Israel, in order to ensure the protection of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip; and
- Call on the Egyptian authorities to take more measures to facilitate movement at the Rafah International Crossing Point, in particular by increasing the number of travelers and opening hours, and to find a solution for the thousands of Palestinians wishing to travel via the crossing, particularly during the summer when the number of travellers doubles.
- Reminds that the Israeli-imposed closure on the Gaza Strip is one of the gravest violations and collective punishments committed by Israeli forces against Palestinians in the Israeli occupation history. This inhumane and illegal closure constitutes a man-made disaster and is a part of an ongoing war crime against the Palestinian civilians.
 Source: The Ministry of National Economy in Gaza