February 25, 2020. The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced yesterday evening (February 24) that Gaza’s crossings with Israel, Erez and Kerem Shalom, are closed “until further notice.” The decision was framed as a response to rocket fire from Gaza toward Israel. Today Erez Crossing was closed to exit from Gaza other than medical patients and their companions, foreign nationals, and Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. Movement into the Strip from Israel was allowed.
Kerem Shalom Crossing, which operated yesterday as usual, was also closed today to transfer of goods in both directions other than entrance of fuel, medicine and humanitarian aid into the Strip. Israel also banned all access to the sea.
The last time Israel closed Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings was in November 2019. Israel routinely restricts access to Gaza’s sea space. It has imposed punitive reductions to the “fishing zone” it enforces in the Strip’s territorial waters twice since the beginning of 2020.
Deliberate or indiscriminate fire towards civilian population centers contravenes international law and is a war crime. Israel has an obligation to protect Gaza residents’ ability to exercise their basic right to freedom of movement, and at the very least, enable travel for humanitarian reasons. Barring concrete security needs, there is no justification for closing the crossings and prohibiting access to the sea. We call on Israel to keep Gaza’s civilian population out of the line of fire, respect their basic rights, and refrain from measures constituting illegal collective punishment.
Today Gisha sent an urgent letter (Hebrew) to Israel’s defense minister, COGAT, and the attorney general, demanding that they reverse the decision to close Gaza’s crossings and bar access to sea, immediately.