Defense Minister Ya’alon orders closure of Kerem Shalom Crossing

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December 25, 2013. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon ordered (Hebrew) the closing of Kerem Shalom Crossing, the sole remaining entry and exit point for merchandise into and out of the Gaza Strip. A Southern Command officer was quoted on Israeli news website Walla! as saying that the Kerem Shalom crossing serves as "powerful economic leverage" and that "we'll see how the gas shortage affects Gaza within 24 hours". According to the officer, "Israel wants to send a strong message to Hamas, and therefore Kerem Shalom will not be re-opened in the coming days".

Ya’alon said only recently (Hebrew) that "People who talk about peace and coexistence must talk about construction, about prosperity, about economy and not about destruction that leads to rockets being fired from Gaza". The closure of Kerem Shalom is preventing today, among other things, the planned entrance of a million liters of diesel and 200 tons of cooking gas.

On another occasion, the defense minister said: "Hamas decide to grow and export strawberries and not produce and export rockets and missiles". Sixteen tons of strawberries were scheduled for export to western Europe over the course of today and tomorrow.

Israel can and must protect its citizens, but if the closure of Kerem Shalom (as the officer's statements imply) is a punitive measure, it is worth remembering that this policy affects mostly civilians who are in no way connected to violent incidents. And just as international law forbids directly targeting civilians, so it forbids collectively punishing them.