Palestinian boys stand by a fence at the Erez Crossing, October 2017.
(photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS)
The past year was the worst in regard to the movement of Palestinians in and out of the Gaza Strip since Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, according to a report released on Monday by the human-rights NGO Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement.
Gisha presented 10 measures taken by Israeli authorities that limited the movement in and out the Gaza Strip through the Erez Crossing. They were “introduced with little to no justification provided as to their purpose and, it appears, no consideration of the impact they would have on the lives of Gaza’s residents,” the report says.
The list of measures includes a significant extension to the processing time for permits, leaving thousands of applications pending with no response; a new directive prohibiting Palestinians from exiting the Gaza Strip with electronic devices, toiletries and food; freezes on travel to the US Consulate; mandatory shuttle services to the Allenby Bridge Crossing over the Jordan River; “security blocks” preventing travel for patients, traders and humanitarian workers; an increase in the frequency and severity of “security interviews” at Erez; trader permits canceled as new approvals were declined; travel for Friday prayers in Jerusalem remaining blocked; and recipients of permits for travel abroad increasingly made to sign a commitment not to return for a year.
According to the report, the number of exits by Palestinians via the Erez Crossing in 2017 dropped by 51% compared to 2016. It shows that the monthly average in 2017 was only 5,963 exits, compared to a monthly average of 12,150 in 2016 and 14,276 in 2015. It also shows that the average monthly number of exits in 2014 was 6,270.
The number of valid trader permits dropped dramatically, by 85%, during this period – from more than 3,500 at the end of 2015 to only 551 in December 2017, according to the report.
“Following Operation Protective Edge in 2014, there was a noticeable shift in the rhetoric of Israeli security and political officials acknowledging that well-being in Gaza and its economic development are linked with Israel’s security,” the report says.
“Israel’s access policy vis-à-vis Gaza does not reflect this recognition,” it continues. “In fact, since the end of 2015 and throughout 2017, restrictions on freedom of movement were exacerbated, further impeding travel to and from Gaza and making this year the worst for access since 2014.”