Israeli authorities are being urged to "facilitate maximum activity" at the Gaza Strip's only commercial crossing, a demand made all the more urgent in light of the coronavirus-triggered economic downturn.
Publishing a new factsheet on the Kerem Shalom (Karm Abu Salem) crossing, freedom of movement-focused Israeli NGO Gisha said that authorities have "a responsibility to allow the flow of vital items and humanitarian aid to the Strip, as well as foster conditions to allow for as much economic activity in Gaza as possible, even in these exceptional circumstances".
Gisha noted that, in the case of the occupied Palestinian territory, restrictions on movement related to containing the spread of the coronavirus, "come in addition to severe restrictions on movement of both people and goods that Israel has enforced for decades as a matter of policy".
According to Gisha, its new factsheet is based on "ongoing monitoring of movement and current research", and "provides analysis of the costs associated with Kerem Shalom Crossing serving as the exclusive route for movement of goods between Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank".
The document also covers "the difficulties associated with its problematic location, and changes to policy and practice that must be made to facilitate more trade and transit of essential goods."
Urging Israel to "remove the sweeping restrictions on movement of goods it enforces at Kerem Shalom", Gisha is recommending "a number of measures that can be implemented at the crossing to alleviate the economic crisis" in Gaza, "until the closure is lifted and the occupation is ended".
These measures include "opening additional commercial crossings in northern Gaza", "removing restrictions on types of goods that can exit the Strip and restrictions on days/hours for exit of goods", and "ensuring uninterrupted operations of the crossing and refraining from closing Kerem Shalom as a punitive measure".
Other measures include "reducing Kerem Shalom-specific fees and taxes", "building fuel storage tanks, refrigeration and storage facilities for goods at the crossing", and "enabling the transport of shipping containers through the crossing".