Israeli NGO Gisha, which focuses particularly on the blockade of the Gaza Strip, has "strongly" condemned recent remarks by Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, making the lifting of movement restrictions for the territory's residents contingent on Hamas' disarmament.
"The right to freedom of movement isn't Lieberman's to negotiate," Gisha said, noting that "Israel has a legal and moral obligation to allow access." The NGO's statement continued:
"The fact that he is willing to bargain the needs of civilians on a largely unachievable and unmeasurable goal is disheartening to say the least. As with his 'carrots and sticks' approach in other realms, if it smells like collective punishment, apparently it is.
Gisha noted that "there was a drop in exit of Palestinians via Erez during the month of September, including in the category of traders, as compared with the total for August and with the average monthly figure for the first half of 2016."
Recently, Gisha published a factsheet on the rise of "security blocks", preventing people from traveling via the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing in northern Gaza.
Although the NGO has not received "official information" to explain the "trend", in court proceedings state officials have apparently "made vague reference to the security situation in the West Bank, citing the need for increased scrutiny of applications for permits for Gaza."
Gisha added: "It's hard to make the connection between increased scrutiny and wholesale cancellation of hundreds of existing permits for individuals who have travelled regularly for years.
"Decisions appear arbitrary and several cases Gisha has brought were reversed once we encouraged oversight by journalists, diplomats or courts."