Gaza Blockade since 2007

Under the blockade, Israel has banned these items from entering Gaza:

fruits, vegetables, wheat, sugar, meat, chicken, fish products, dairy products, animal feed, hygiene products, clothing, shoes, canned fruit, fruit juices, chocolate, coriander, shampoo, jam, candles, books, musical instruments, paper, livestock, cows, donkeys, wheelchairs, dry food items, crayons, stationery, soccer balls, macaroni, tomato paste, lentils, batteries for hearing aids for deaf children, diesel fuel, gasoline, cement, glass, steel, bitumen, wood, paint, doors, plastic pipes, metal pipes, metal reinforcement rods, aggregate, generators, high voltage cables, wooden telegraph poles – these basic items are rejected by Israel as “luxuries”. At one time the only fruit allowed was bananas.

Israel has restricted humanitarian supplies from aid organizations into the Gaza Strip; up to half of all medicines and medical items in Gaza are completely depleted or below one month’s supply.

The blockade of the Gaza Strip refers to a land, air, and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip by Israel and Egypt from 2007 to present.

Gazans have access to around four hours of electricity a day, 90% of Gaza’s water is unsafe to drink, 47% of Gazans don’t have enough food, unemployment stands at 45%, youth unemployment is at 58%, 10% of young children are stunted by chronic malnutrition.

Since June 2008, Gazans are no longer granted passports, thereby “preventing tens of thousands of Palestinians from being able to travel abroad”. In August 2008, the first NGO-organized attempts to breach Israel’s maritime closure of the Gaza Strip occurred when two vessels, containing activists from the Free Gaza Movement and International Solidarity Movement, sailed from Cyprus towards Gaza, carrying hearing aids and balloons. The boats reached Gaza on 23 August 2008 after the Israeli government allowed the boats free passage. Four more voyages occurred from October until December 2008, as passengers were transported another boat called the “Dignity”, a 66-foot yacht owned by the Free Gaza Movement. The Dignity was rammed three times while it was sailing in international waters by the Israeli Navy and significant damage was incurred. In 28 October 2008, the Dignity, carrying 26 activists and medical supplies, docked in a strip harbor without interference. Israel had initially decided to stop the vessel, but the decision was made to let it through just before it reached Gaza. The Dignity sailed to Gaza four times before it was attacked on December 30, 2008 in international waters, as it sailed towards Gaza to deliver medicine and medical help. In August 2008, it was reported that Israel despite the ceasefire was still allowing in very few goods.

A WikiLeaks cable from the US embassy in Tel Aviv dated 3 November 2008 revealed that Israel still maintained the economy of the Gaza strip “on the brink of collapse” without “pushing it over the edge,”. The cable said that “Israeli officials have confirmed to Embassy officials on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.”

As of July 2009, Israel said it is making the humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza one of its top priorities. The amount of goods Israel allows into Gaza is one quarter of the pre-blockade flow.

According to the World Health Organization, the shortage of essential medicines and equipment has been the primary obstacle to providing adequate health care in the Gaza Strip since the 2012 conflict. Gazan hospitals had a shortage of more than 50% of “medical consumables” even before the conflict. Workers in some hospitals reported having to sterilize and re-use single-use equipment due to the lack of critical items. Palestinian hospitals are unable to meet the need of their patients due to economic underdevelopment and the varying strictness of the Israeli blockade. According to B’Tselem, the blockade, which not only restricts Gazans’ access to Israel but also communication between Gaza and the West Bank, has denied Gazan fishermen access to 85% of the waters they have been guaranteed access to.

The International Committee of the Red Cross also notes that “90% of Gaza’s 4000 fishermen are now considered either poor (with a monthly income of between 100 and 190 US dollars) or very poor (earning less than 100 dollars a month), up from 50% in 2008.” Nezar Ayyash, head of Gaza’s fishermen’s union, is quoted as saying that he has been arrested and his boat confiscated several times.

According to the Palestinian Fishermen’s Syndicate, there are 3,800 registered fishermen in the Gaza Strip. Only 2,000 of them are currently working as a result of the restrictions, constant attacks and growing cost of fishing equipment. Since 2000, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights has documented 1,283 attacks on Palestinian fishermen, including 1,192 shooting incidents that led to the death of 8 fishermen and to the injury of 134 fishermen. During these assaults, 656 fishermen were detained, and 209 boats were confiscated.

During the 2014 Israel-Gaza Conflict, 108,000 people were displaced, almost all of whom are still living in UNWRA refugee camps or inadequate improvised shelters. 28 schools, numerous wells, and other important civil infrastructure like major sewage and electricity plants were destroyed during Operation Protective Edge.

Almost all of Gaza’s liquid fuel and about half of its electricity are supplied by Israel, while Gaza’s sole power plant runs on crude diesel supplied by Israel. In late October 2007, the Security Cabinet of Israel decided to cut diesel exports to Gaza by 15% and gasoline exports by 10%, and to create targeted electrical outages for 15 minutes.

The Oslo Accords interim peace agreements between the Palestinian Authority and Israel specify Israeli security control over Gazan airspace and coastal waters. Gazan air space is controlled by radar. Unmanned aerial surveillance drones regularly patrol, there are regular overflights by Israeli fighter jets and a surveillance balloon is tethered near the Erez crossing.

In September 2014, Turkey proposed sending a powership to Gaza to ease the shortage of electricity but in December 2014 Israel rejected the proposal stating that the infrastructure in Gaza was not compatible with the ship.

An Israeli government document stated,

A country has the right to decide that it chooses not to engage in economic relations or to give economic assistance to the other party to the conflict, or that it wishes to operate using ‘economic warfare’.

On 24 January 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council released a statement calling for Israel to lift its siege on the Gaza Strip, allow the continued supply of food, fuel, and medicine, and reopen border crossings. According to the Jerusalem Post, this was the 15th time in less than two years the council condemned Israel for its human rights record regarding the Palestinian territories. The proceedings were boycotted by Israel and the United States. Prior to this, U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, described the blockade as “collective punishment”, saying, “We all understand the security problems and the need to respond to that but collective punishment of the people of Gaza is not, we believe, the appropriate way to do that.”

On 15 December 2008, following a statement in which he described the embargo on Gaza as a crime against humanity, United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard A. Falk was prevented from entering the Palestinian territories by Israeli authorities and expelled from the region. The Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Itzhak Levanon said that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur was “hopelessly unbalanced,” “redundant at best and malicious at worst.”

In August 2009, U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay criticised Israel for the blockade in a 34-page report, calling it a violation of the rules of war.

In March 2010, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stated that the blockade of Gaza is causing “unacceptable suffering” and that families were living in “unacceptable, unsustainable conditions”.

A UN Fact Finding mission in September 2009 led by South African Judge Richard Goldstone (the Goldstone report) concluded that the blockade was possibly a crime against humanity, and recommended that the matter be referred to the International Criminal Court if the situation has not improved in six months.

In May 2010, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated that the formal economy in Gaza has collapsed since the imposition of the blockade. They also stated that the “restrictions imposed on the civilian population by the continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip amount to collective punishment, a violation of international humanitarian law.”

In June 2010, United Nations envoy to the Middle East and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair stated that “The policy of Gaza is counter-productive and what [Israel] should be doing is allow material in to rebuild homes and sanitation and power and water systems and allow business to flourish. Nor do we in fact do damage to the position of Hamas by harming people in Gaza. People are harmed when the quality of service is poor and people cannot work.” He also called for Hamas to stop the “terrorism coming out of Gaza”. In the same month, Robert Serry, the UN special envoy for Middle East peace process, also said that “The flotilla crisis is the latest symptom of a failed policy. The situation in Gaza is unsustainable and the current policy is unacceptable and counter-productive, and requires a different, more positive strategy. The closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip needs to come to an end. There is now a welcome international consensus on Gaza.”

In the September 2011 Palmer Report, the UN investigative committee for the 2010 Flotilla to Gaza said that the Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza is legal under international law. Later that same month, five independent U.N. rights experts reporting to the U.N. Human Rights Council rejected that conclusion, saying the blockade had subjected Palestinians in Gaza to collective punishment in “flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law.”

In May 2015, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor issued a report discussing the situation in Gaza 9 months after the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict. The report touched on the continuity of Gaza blockade was on the cost of relief, recovery and reconstruction due to last summer’s war which reached $4 billion, as international donors pledged $3.5 billion for Gaza’s reconstruction, only $954 million had been disbursed as of early April. The report also shed light on the UNRWA financial crises that threatened the stability of its operation in Gaza which probably further affect the humanitarian situation in Gaza Strip. The report accused the Egyptian authorities in joining Israel imposing Gaza siege. According to the report, Egypt had closed Rafah crossing 66% of the time in 2014, 100 days from the beginning of 2015 to May of the same year. As the world’s attention has shifted away to other pressing issues, the report warned that, if the international community does not re-shoulder its responsibilities, Gaza will blow up into another war. The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor urgently calls on the international community to take a practical steps to end the blockade on Gaza. The monitor also called the Egyptian government to open Rafah crossing, without any restrictions. Finally the monitor called for Support the Palestinian call for a commercial seaport in Gaza that guarantees the free import and export of goods and private international travel.

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