2017 was the worst year in terms of Palestinians seeking to travel outside Gaza in three years, the Israeli human rights NGO Gisha – Legal Centre for Freedom and Movement revealed yesterday.
According to a new report, the Strip has not seen such high restrictions on Gazan's freedom of movement since the Israeli assault on the besieged enclave as part of "Operation Protective Edge" in 2014. Gisha presented ten measures implemented in the past year that have further limited travel through the Erez crossing (Beit Hanoun).
[The measures were] introduced with little to no justification provided as to their purpose and, it appears, no consideration of the impact they would have on the lives of Gaza's residents
the report read.
The measures include significantly extending the processing time for permits, a new order preventing Palestinians leaving with electronic devices, food and toiletries, security blocks preventing ill patients, humanitarian workers and traders from travelling, a ban on travel for Friday prayers in Jerusalem and recipients of permits for foreign travel increasingly made to sign a commitment not to return for a year.
According to the report, the number of exits by Palestinians via the Erez crossing in 2017 dropped by 51 per cent compared to 2016; last year Israel permitted only 5,963 exits on average per month, compared with 12,150 in 2016 and 14,276 in 2015. The number of valid trader permits also dropped by 85 per cent in this period, from more than 3,500 in 2015 to 551 last year.
According to Gisha, such actions reflect a change in Israel's policy of enabling the residents to survive to some extent.
"Following '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," the report stated
"Israel's access policy vis-à-vis Gaza does not reflect this recognition," it continues. "In fact, since the end of 2015 and throughout 2017, restrictions on freedom of movement were exacerbated; further impeding travel to and from Gaza and making this year the worst for access since 2014."
The report comes a day after Israeli security officials warned that Gaza is on the verge of collapse, which could prompt an "uncontrollable blow up" from the besieged enclave.
According to Haaretz, last year the number of trucks passing between Israel and Gaza has been reduced by half; about 95 per cent of Gaza's water is undrinkable; unemployment in the Strip is inching towards 50 per cent.