Israeli Ban on Gaza Exports Constitutes Illegal Collective Punishment

Palestinian economy minister Khaled Assaili demanded on Tuesday that Israel lift a ban on exports from the Gaza Strip imposed over what Israel called an attempt to smuggle explosives, saying it would hit thousands of families and ruin precarious livelihoods in the blockaded enclave. Israel said on Monday it was temporarily stopping commercial goods from leaving Gaza after inspectors found several kilograms of “high-quality explosives” in a shipment, hidden in the lining of clothes.

Palestinian fishermen near the port of Gaza (Photo: Gisha)

Gaza exports are estimated at $134 million per year, mostly to Israel and the occupied West Bank, according to the ministry of economy and the Israeli move would impact 60,000 families of farmers and fishermen. It estimated daily losses at one million shekels ($263,000).

In an urgent letter sent Wednesday to Israel’s Minister of Defense Yoav Galant, and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Ghassan Alian, Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, demands that the decision to block all exit of goods from Gaza via Kerem Shalom Crossing be reversed immediately. “Any further restrictions imposed on movement of goods through Kerem Shalom not only constitute illegal collective punishment, they also have an immediate impact on the population already living in fraught humanitarian conditions in the Strip and on the Palestinian economy”.

“The decision is entirely unjustified, especially given the fact that thousands of civilians, including traders and workers in the agriculture sector and other fields, are being punished for no fault of their own for a single incident that has nothing to do with them. This indicates that the decision stems from punitive objectives, and constitutes abuse of your control over the crossings,” Gisha cautions in the letter. “What is more concerning still is the fact that the period in which the crossing will be closed to exit of goods is unknown and has not been made clear, despite the disastrous implications for Gaza’s population.”

Gisha emphasizes that “the decision is illegal, standing in contradiction to judgments by [Israel’s] High Court and even to Israel’s self-proclaimed commitments. It leads to unwarranted, disproportionate and unreasonable infringements on the rights to dignity, freedom of movement, to livelihood, harming thousands of civilians and generally disrupting trade and industry in Gaza.”