Israeli blockade on Gaza tightened in July, new figures show

New data released by a United Nations agency and an Israeli NGO has confirmed that Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip actually tightened during July.

UN OCHA’s monthly update for July reports that the number of crossings at Erez was 15 per cent below the 2016 monthly average, and just 30 per cent of the monthly average in 2004.

The organisation noted that “the largest decline, 27% compared to average during the first half of 2016, was recorded among traders.”

Meanwhile, at the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, a total of just 157 truckloads of goods exited for sale outside of the Gaza Strip, down on the average for the first half of 2016 – and just 20 per cent of the equivalent figure in 2005.

With regards to entry of goods, Kerem Shalom operated for 19 out of 26 scheduled days, with the volume of imports also down compared to the monthly average during the first half of 2016. Construction materials made up 60 per cent of all truckloads of goods entering Gaza during July.

Rafah, meanwhile, was opened for just three days during the month. The Egyptian authorities have kept the Rafah crossing shut for all but 53 days since October 2014.

Israeli NGO Gisha recently updated its ‘Gaza Cheat Sheet’, which begins by noting that in the 2nd quarter of 2016, the unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip was 41.7 per cent, and 57.6 per cent among young people. More than 70 per cent of the population relies on humanitarian aid.

According to Gisha, “Israel allows civilian goods to enter Gaza, other than an extensive list of items that it defines as “dual-use”, which it claims may be used for military purposes.” This list includes “dozens of items needed for industry and maintenance of civilian infrastructure.”

Gisha notes that the 2016 monthly average of exits of Palestinians via Erez represents about 2.8 per cent of the monthly average of exits of Palestinian labourers alone in September 2000.

“Erez Crossing is the only crossing through which people are permitted to travel between Gaza and Israel, and thus to and from the West Bank”, Gisha states.

In addition, “through its control of the Palestinian population registry, Israel retains indirect control over the issuing of Palestinian passports, which are required for travel through Rafah.”

Gisha also addresses Israel’s attacks on Palestinian civilians on land and at sea. “Since Operation Protective Edge, the fishing zone has been limited to six nautical miles from the coast with the exception of a temporary expansion to nine miles in April – May, 2016”, the NGO state.

“The size of the ‘buffer zone’ on land, which is off-limits to Palestinians, stands at 300 meters from the border with Israel, but according to correspondence with Israeli officials, farmers can enter lands up to a distance of 100 meters from the border, with unspecified coordination.”

Middle East Monitor