On 05 April 2011, the Israeli occupation authorities totally closed Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) commercial crossing for alleged security reasons. They have accordingly imposed a ban on the delivery of different needs necessary for more than 1.5 million civilians living in the Gaza Strip. The continued closure of the sole commercial crossing of the Gaza Strip portends a real humanitarian crisis that may negatively affect civilians' lives due to the chronic shortage of strategic goods, especially medicines, fuel, food items and humanitarian aid.
According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights' (PCHR) documentation, the signs of a real crisis have been witnessed in the health sector due to the severe shortage in medicines and medical supplies. According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, more than 150 types of medications have run out, and another 65 types of medications are expected to run out within the next three months. The medications that have run out are important to treat patients. The shortage of these medications may lead to serious results and deaths. Expired medications include medicines necessary for patients suffering from Thalassemia and patients suffering from hepatitis, psychiatric medications and other important types. In the same context, 135 types of disposables and medical supplies have run out while 41 other types are about to run out and are barely enough for three months. The types that have run out include supplies required for diagnostic cardiac catheterization and therapeutic cardiac catheterization, supplies required for chemotherapy, surgical suture and other supplies.
In addition, the cooking gas crisis has been renewed due to the continued closure of Karm Abu Salem crossing. Gaza's 29 cooking gas distribution stations have continued to be shut down and thousands of cooking gas cylinders have been accumulated in cooking gas distribution stations. According to the General Petroleum Corporation, since the beginning of the current month, only 210 tons of cooking gas (20 tons per day in average, representing 6.6% of Gaza daily needs of cooking Gaza) have been supplied to Gaza. Gaza needs 300 tons of cooking gas daily. The Association of the Owners of Petroleum Products Companies stressed that the delivery of cooking gas to Gaza has been banned for 11 days and that cooking gas distribution stations ran out of cooking gas one month ago. It should be noted that the cooking gas crisis has been affecting Gaza civilians since last November. This crisis was created when the Israeli occupation authorities totally closed, on 04 January 2010, Nahal Oz crossing, which used to be dedicated for the delivery of fuel and cooking gas supplies to Gaza, and shifted fuel and cooking gas supplies to Karm Abu Salem crossing which is not technically equipped to receive Gaza's needs of fuel. Karm Abu Salem crossing, with its maximum absorptive capacity, can receive only 200 tons of cooking gas per day. In view of the current closure, the delivery of the limited quantities of cooking gas allowed into Gaza has been banned.
It should be noted that the Israeli occupation authorities have worked over the past three years to make Karm Abu Salem crossing, which is not appropriate for commercial purposes, as Gaza's major and sole crossing. For this purpose, on 02 March 2011, the Israeli occupation authorities totally closed al-Mentar ("Karni") crossing which is the major and largest commercial crossing in the Gaza Strip in terms of its absorptive capacity to receive Gaza imports and exports. In the beginning of 2010, the Israeli occupation authorities closed Nahal Oz crossing, east of Gaza city, which was dedicated for the supplies of fuel and cooking gas to Gaza, and shifted fuel supplies to Karm Abu Salem crossing. Three years ago, these authorities totally closed Sofa crossing, southeast of Khan Younis, and shifted humanitarian aid and food items which were delivered via Sofa crossing to Karm Abu Salem crossing. In view of the above, the PCHR:
- Warns of the consequences of the continued collective punishment policy adopted by the Israeli occupation authorities against Palestinian civilians; PCHR in particular warns of the continued closure of Gaza major and sole commercial crossing and of the ban imposed on the delivery of civilians' basic needs.
- Calls upon the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties to Geneva Conventions of 1949, UN bodies and the different international humanitarian organizations to take immediate and urgent action in order to exert pressure on the Israeli occupation authorities to open Gaza's sole commercial crossing, improve its absorptive capacity and allow the prompt flow of necessary needs including medicines, medical supplies and cooking gas.
- Through its follow-up of the situation at Gaza border crossings, PCHR notes that Karm Abu Salem Crossing cannot meet all needs of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip which used to be delivered via four commercial crossings. Karm Abu Salem Crossing is not appropriate to receive Gaza exports because it is not equipped to transport goods, its capacity is very limited and it is not commensurate with the number of truckloads of products that used to be exported via al-Mentar crossing before tightening the siege on the Gaza Strip in mid 2007.