The Israeli Siege on the Gaza Strip during the first quarter of year 2008
On January 17th, 2008, the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave his orders to the Israeli Occupation Army to isolate the Gaza Strip from the outside world as well as of all its outlets by totally closing all crossing points and passages leading to the Strip. Israel aim went beyond causing the Palestinian residents there to suffer these collective punishment practices but it intended to subjugate their humanity. This report focuses on the total closure imposed by the Israeli Occupation Forces on the Gaza Strip and its impacts on the civilians and their living conditions during the first quarter of the year 2008.
The Israeli Crossing Points surrounding the Gaza Strip
The Gaza Strip is connected to the outside world through seven crossing points; each designated to certain function but all of which are under complete control of the Israeli Army. The following are the crossing points surrounding the Gaza Strip.
1- Beit Hanun (Erez) Crossing Point
During the first quarter of this year: January- March 2008, the Israeli Occupation Army completely closed Beit Hanun crossing for 82 days, during which medical emergencies, and members of International and humanitarian organizations had restricted access through the crossing point.
In the case of medical emergencies, patients had to walk more than one kilometer to reach the Israeli side of the crossing where they have to wait for long hours before they are allowed to access. Furthermore, since June 2007, more than 136 Palestinians mostly children died because of lack of proper medical services in the Gaza Strip and the fact that Israel refused their travel to receive treatment in hospitals abroad.
2- Al Shaja’iya (Nahal Oz) Crossing Point
Nahal Oz crossing point is located in Al Shaja’iya neighborhood east of Gaza city and is designated as an entry gate for Gaza’s share of fuel. During the reported period from January- March 2008 the Israeli Government completely closed the crossing for 21 days and opened it for few hours. The Israeli companies and particularly Dur Allon Company stopped supplying the Strip with fuels due to the Israeli Defense Minister Barak orders to do so. As a result the electricity generation plant has completely stopped and more than 57 ambulances related to the Palestinian Ministry of Health have also stopped due to the lack of fuel.
3- Al Mintar (Karni) Crossing Point
Al Mintar crossing is located east of Gaza city and is under full Israeli control. During the reported period the Israeli Occupation Army completely closed Al Mintar Crossing for 65 days and 17 days the crossing was partially closed. The closure of this crossing point caused serious shortage of basic food supplies such as flour, cooking oil, milk, and medicine among other food stuff. Naturally, this has led to an overall increase in the prices to reach unparalleled levels.
The Palestinian economy collapsed due to the Israeli closure of the crossing points and due to the restrictions imposed on importing and exporting of goods from and to the Gaza Strip such as agricultural and industrial products. The poverty in the Strip also reached more than 80% and the unemployment rate increased to 40% as many employees were forced to leave their jobs due to the lack of materials.
4- Al Qarara (Kesufiem) Crossing Point
Al Qarara crossing point is located between Khan Yunis and Deir Al Balah Governorates and is under full Israeli control. This crossing point is designated as an Israeli military base of operations and a lunching point of Israeli bulldozers and tanks incursion into the Gaza Strip. Al Qarara crossing was completely closed after the Israeli so-called disengagement from Gaza in August 2005.
5- Al ‘Awwda (Sufa) Crossing Point
Sufa crossing point is located to the east of Rafah city and is designated for the entry of goods and raw materials. During the reported period the Israeli Occupation Forces closed the crossing for 33 days and reopened it partially for 49 days in an attempt to enter basic food stuff (rice, oil, peas and flour) supplied by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). It is worth pointing out that the Strip daily needs at least two hundred trucks of goods.
6- Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) Crossing Point
Karem Abu Salem crossing point was completely closed for 52 days during the reported period and was partially reopened for 30 days. The Israeli Authorities have imposed restrictions on exporting goods from the Gaza Strip through the crossing point such as strawberry and flowers. The Israelis repeatedly push to reclassify the function of this crossing point to be the exit and entry point for Gaza residents instead of Rafah International crossing points.
This crossing point was used several times for the entry of humanitarian aids and goods due to the closure of Al Mintar commercial crossing.
7- Rafah International Crossing Point
Rafah Crossing Point is very important to the Gazans since it is the Gaza Strip's only crossing-border point to the outside world. It is located south of Gaza on the Palestinian- Egyptian borders. The crossing point has been closed for more than 291 days since June 2007, ever since Hamas took assumed control of Gaza and consequently Rafah crossing point, and that is when Israeli intervened to close off the crossing point. Strip. This has led to serious crisis for those Palestinian who need to get out or get back in Gaza, thus thousands of Palestinians (students, patients, etc) were forced to wait at the area between Egypt and Rafah for deliberations allowing them to enter or leave Gaza. See Map
The Israeli closure and its Impacts on the Gaza Strip
The closure imposed by the Israeli Government on the Gaza Strip severely affected the Palestinian economic, political and social aspects. Palestinian civilians were deprived from their basic rights of health, education, work and from being able to live appropriate life.
Impacts on the Health sector
Palestinian hospitals and medical centers are suffering from the shortage of medical services and certain medicines due to the Israeli closure on the Gaza Strip as being an isolated enclave. Many healthcare centers are facing the threat of being closed if the current situation continues in the Strip as they can not provide medical treatment to patients who are at the same time not able to travel to hospitals abroad or to the West Bank. Hundreds of patients died at the Israeli crossings waiting for their permission from the Israeli side to receive medical treatments.
Impacts on the Educational sector
The education sector in the Gaza Strip has been sharply affected by the Israeli closure. Thousands of students are no longer attending schools, universities or other educational institutions abroad because of the Israeli control over the crossing points. Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and cultural rights (ICESCR) of 1966 recognizes the right of everyone to education. This is to be directed towards 'the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity', and enable all persons to participate effectively in society. Education is seen both as a human right and as 'an indispensable means of realizing other human rights'.
Impacts on the economical sector
The Israeli daily practices on the Strip and the closure of the crossing points surrounding the Gaza Strip has directly affected the economical sector since many Gazans workers depended on work inside Israel. The Israeli harsh measures on the Strip is a clear violation of international humanitarian and human rights law such as Article 6 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and cultural rights (ICESCR) which recognizes the right to work defined as the opportunity of everyone to gain their living by freely chosen or accepted work.
The Israeli practices in the Strip did not stop here, everyday there is an Israeli incursion shelling to various areas in Gaza. More than 43 Palestinian houses were demolished and vast areas of cultivated lands were razed, thousands of fruitful trees were uprooted by the Israeli Occupation Army. Israel is planning to tighten its control over the Gaza Strip even more and more and for sure all crossing points will remain closed for the Gazans access until further notice.
The Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem