Prior to the start of the 11-day escalation in hostilities in May 2021, over 2 million Palestinians in Gaza were already under the Israeli government’s land, sea, and air blockade—a comprehensive closure amounting to a 14-year unlawful collective punishment under international law. The closure, rooted in severe restrictions on the freedom of movement of both people and goods, undermines all aspects of life in Gaza and results in a protracted humanitarian catastrophe. Through the policy, residents of Gaza are denied the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms and forced into profound levels of poverty, aid dependency, food insecurity, and unemployment. The construction, industrial and agricultural sectors are dramatically undermined and essential services, including education, health, WASH, environmental and electricity services, are collapsing. The energy sector has been the most affected as a result of Israel’s systematic targeting of electricity networks and the protracted and repeated ban on the entry of fuel, with devastating effects on the implementation of all related services and activities in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli authorities have full control over all crossings between Gaza and Israel and restrict access of Gaza residents to the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), including East Jerusalem. The Israeli-controlled commercial crossing is Kerem Shalom, which is used for the entry of goods necessary for the well-being and survival of Gaza’s population—including food, medicine and fuel—as well as basic materials needed for industrial businesses and factories, agriculture and fishing, and infrastructure and construction projects. However, as Israel maintains full control and discretion over all goods and people coming into Gaza, many materials—even essential ones—cannot enter the Strip because of Israel’s claim that they have dual civilian-military usage. The commercial crossing is also used for Gaza’s exports, especially of agricultural products, which are also highly restricted.
During the 11-day bombardment, the Israeli authorities completely closed the Kerem Shalom crossing, thus preventing the entry and exit of goods to the Strip until a ceasefire agreement came into effect on 21 May 2021, when the crossing was partially reopened. These measures seriously hampered the work of the industrial facilities in the Gaza Strip, left thousands of workers unemployed, and led to a substantial rise in the price of raw materials. These actions, as well as the other measures and policies that make up the Israeli closure regime, constitute an unlawful collective punishment of the protected Palestinian population that cannot be justified under any circumstances and amount to the crimes against humanity of persecution and other inhumane acts.
At the same time, the occupying power’s military attacks concentrated on civilians and civilian properties. Not just homes and persons, but also factories, industries, businesses, shops and farmlands, which, being civilian objects, are afforded protection against direct attack and excessive collateral damage under international humanitarian law, with violation of this principle rendering the attacks war crimes and likely crimes against humanity. In particular, according to Al Mezan’s documentation and field research, Israeli attacks during the 11-day offensive damaged more than 200 industrial and commercial facilities in Gaza. In addition to the regular shortages in materials and goods that residents of Gaza face, the vast destruction from those 11 days brought new shortages and needs for the population.
Both during and following the bombardment, the Israeli government increased restrictions and bans on necessary products, goods and materials and on exports. The everyday challenges that all members of the population face are therefore vast and increasing. This short briefing is intended only to give a snapshot of the impact of the current and recent escalation in closure restrictions.