New draconian restrictions have been instituted for the few Palestinians who still have no option but to exit Gaza through the Erez Crossing Point into Israel as a place of transit: As of August 1, such persons are forbidden from exiting the Strip carrying electronic devices other than a cellular phone. In addition, Palestinians not exiting the Strip for “humanitarian reasons,” (mostly medical patients and their companions heading for an Israeli hospital or persons visiting family members imprisoned in Israel) will not be allowed to pass through with food “for personal consumption,” even though their transit abroad via Jordan involves long hours of travel outside of the Gaza Strip.
These directives were issued last week by the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA), the authority in charge of implementing the policy of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) at the Erez Crossing.
The restrictions on those transiting through Israel, who are in any case required to do so on direct shuttles from Erez to the Allenby Bridge Crossing into Jordan, mean that people leaving the Gaza Strip for long periods of time, like students, will no longer be allowed to carry electronic devices such as laptops or even electric shavers. This latter restriction also applies to Palestinian employees of international organizations, who regularly need to travel with laptops for their work.
In addition, all categories of Palestinians exiting Gaza are now forbidden to pass through the Erez Crossing carrying hard-sided luggage, and are barred from bringing with them toiletries of any type. Travelers who are not Palestinian are exempt from these restrictions, and are only obliged to declare any electronic devices included in their luggage.
The new directives were sent via e-mail to the intake coordinators at two Israeli NGOs, Gisha – The Center for Freedom of Movement — and HaMoked – The Center for the Defense of the Individual, only one day before they went into effect. They were not published on the “Status of Closure Authorizations” website where any new such directives are supposed to be published. According to Gisha “It is unclear how, why and through what process these restrictions were instituted, nor is it known who authorized them and to what end. The directive leaves no room for exceptions and no option of appeal.”
“As if it weren’t hard enough to get a permit, and as if the journey out of Gaza weren’t already a challenge, this new directive makes life just a little more difficult for Gaza residents. It’s hard to understand for what purpose there are standard security checks on luggage, toiletries, laptops and food at airports, train stations, and other transit terminals around the world. Those checks are necessary and we all cope with the extra time it takes for the sake of keeping our fellow passengers and ourselves safe. The new directive reveals that Israeli authorities are not willing to conduct these basic checks on items that all travelers need; that they do not appreciate that students and business people from Gaza need to travel with laptops like anyone else in the world. It can happen because Israel does not pay a price for inconveniencing Gaza residents, and just like that, from one day to the next, not even a sandwich can get through Erez Crossing,” Gisha said.