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Data refutes claims Israel easing Gaza blockade

Palestinians in Gaza protest to end the Israeli siege on the Strip on 5 February 2019 [Mohammed/Asad/Middle East Monitor]
Palestinians in Gaza protest to end the Israeli siege on the Strip on 5 February 2019 [Mohammed/Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Newly-released data for June has provided a reality check to reported claims that Israeli authorities are easing restrictions on the occupied and blockaded Gaza Strip.

According to Gisha, an Israeli NGO which monitors and campaigns on freedom of movement, there was a total of 15,471 exits of Palestinians via Erez Crossing, up from 12,361 in May.

“The most significant increase was in the category of merchants,” Gisha noted.

However, the NGO added, recent media reports that “the quota of trader, or merchant, permits has been increased to 5,000”, are “false”.

“The quota was set at 5,000 permits following “Operation Protective Edge” in 2014 and has not changed since then. The quota has never been filled,” Gisha stated.

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Meanwhile, “the number of valid permits has also not increased” – though Gisha believed a report in Haaretz – that “increasing numbers of these ‘trader permits’ are actually held by day laborers from Gaza who enter Israel to work” – is likely correct.

“This does not reflect an official change in policy,” Gisha stated. “The official ban on the entry of laborers from Gaza into Israel, in place since March 2006, remains in effect and it’s our understanding that laborers have been entering unofficially since late 2014 or 2015.”

With respect to the movement of goods, the month of June saw a total of 7,273 truckloads of goods entering Gaza through Kerem Shalom (Karam Abu Salem) crossing, a decrease from 8,631 truckloads in May.

“The number of truckloads of goods that exited Gaza in June destined for markets in the West Bank, Israel and abroad also dropped slightly to 263 (from 296 in May),” Gisha said.

Addressing reports about “developments on entrance and exit of goods”, Gisha pointed out that “Palestinian sources say they have not been notified of any changes to the ‘dual-use’ list.”

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“From what we can tell,” Gisha says, “no changes have been made to the list nor has an updated list been published.”

“Recently, some steel cables and fertilizers were permitted to enter – but to a couple of select recipients – which does not mean that Israel has officially removed them from the list itself.”

New types of goods have been “permitted to exit the Strip for markets in Israel and the West Bank”, including “electric cooking pots (without the cables) and baby wipes to the West Bank and toys to Israel”, but only in a “sporadic” fashion, “and it is not at all clear if this reflects a change in policy”.

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