Kerem Shalom crossing.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
In response to the IDF’s closing of the Kerem Shalom goods border passage
between Israel and Gaza on Monday, Gisha – the Legal Center for the Freedom of
Movement – released a statement questioning the logic of closing crossings as an
effective response to stopping rocket fire into Israel. Gisha essentially
implied that such policy strengthens Hamas.
The IDF closed the crossing
following the firing of three rockets from the Gaza Strip on Sunday, although
the Erez pedestrian terminal will remain open for humanitarian crossings, Army
Reports of the rocket attacks surfaced while Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was delivering a Holocaust Remembrance Day speech at
Gisha’s statement, entitled “Five Questions for the Defense
Ministry on Closing Gaza’s Crossings” gives a recent history of the issue,
quotes top Israeli security officials in favor of keeping the crossings open and
poses a number of questions regarding current policy.
According to the
statement, since the November 28, 2012 cease-fire between Israel and Hamas
following Operation Pillar of Defense, there have been four incidents of rockets
and mortars fired from Gaza at civilian areas in southern Israel.
three cases,” the statement continued, “Israel responded by closing the Kerem
Shalom goods crossing and putting additional restrictions on travel by
Palestinians to the West Bank and Israel.”
It also noted that Israel has
“reduced Gaza’s fishing zone from six to three nautical miles, in response to
Gisha expressed skepticism, not only about the legality of the
policy but also about its effectiveness, asking if there were any benchmarks to
monitor whether the policy is having any impact.
The statement said that
deliberate, or indiscriminate, fire at civilians in southern Israel by Hamas
violates international law and can be considered a war crime.
wrote, in light of the importance of distinguishing between civilians and
combatants, “preventing civilians from traveling or transferring goods, in
response to rocket fire by militants, also violates international law,
specifically the prohibition on collective punishment.”
The statement did
not draw an exact parallel between the actions, calling Hamas’ rocket fire a
“war crime” and referring to Israel’s border closings as a violation of
international law, but not as a war crime.
Pressed as to how Israel
should respond to rocket fire in such circumstances, Gisha’s director Sari Bashi
demurred, saying that she does not have sufficient security expertise to devise
But she emphasized that since 2010, Israeli security
officials have said that steps to expand access to Gaz via the commercial
crossings “increase the PA fund revenues by charging customs fees and other
taxes,” in contrast to the tunnel economy, taxed by the Hamas
Bashi also pointed out that outgoing Southern Commander Maj.-
Gen. Tal Russo recommended “opening the border crossings with the Gaza Strip to
allow passage of goods without restriction, in order to prevent international
criticism and rebuff the delegitimization of Israel in the world,” according to
At the same time, she said, whatever option would be
crafted, “international law is not just an ideal, it reflects reality and allows
engaging in combat,” but that where options are off-limits, the conversation on
a solution should recognize those limits.
In light of individual comments
by top Israeli security officials – that keeping the crossings open strengthens
moderate forces and weakens Hamas – the Gisha statement questioned whether
closing the crossings is essentially a policy that “strengthens
Gisha said it had forwarded these questions to the Defense
Ministry in the past without receiving an response.
In answer to a query
from The Jerusalem Post,
the IDF spokesman said that policy regarding closing
border crossings is made by other government officials, not by the IDF, which
merely implements policy once it is made.
Separately from closing the
crossings, the IAF hit targets in the Gaza Strip
last week in Israel’s first
retaliation since the truce was implemented.
Jerusalem Post staff
contributed to this report.