A new report by Gisha – The Legal Center for Freedom of Movement – entitled 2017: Tightening of the Closure, summarizes the measures imposed by Israel during the past year to further limit the movement of people to and from the Gaza Strip via the Erez Crossing. The report includes new or intensified measures, introduced with little or no justification cited, and, it appears, no consideration of the impact they would have on the lives of Gaza’s residents. The continued closure of the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt, along with the tightening of Israel’s already restrictive permit regime, has further reduced the already scarce opportunities for travel open to residents of the Strip.
Following Israel’s deadly 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. However, Israel’s current access policy vis-à-vis Gaza does not reflect this recognition.
The number of exits by Palestinians via the Erez Crossing dropped in 2017 by 51 percent compared to 2016. The monthly average in 2017 was only 5,963 exits compared to a monthly average of 12,150 exits in the previous year, and 14,276 exits in 2015. The average number of exits per month in 2014, the year of Operation Protective Edge, was 6,270.
According to Gisha “The closure imposed on Gaza by Israel for over a decade has severe, far-reaching implications for the lives of Gaza’s two million residents, obstructing economic development and crushing hope. Sweeping, arbitrary, and incomprehensible restrictions on movement must cease, immediately; 2018 must be the year when Israel’s long-failed access policy changes substantively to reflect the real needs of the civilian population in Gaza and its fundamental, universal right to freedom of movement.