Pathetically too little, too late: After a seven-year siege, in the wake of the attack known as Operation Protective Edge, Israel announces it is “easing” restrictions imposed on Gaza residents.
For more than a decade, and more so since Hamas took power in 2007, Israel has employed a policy aimed at isolating the Gaza Strip and cutting it off completely from the West Bank. As part of this policy, Israel imposes severe restrictions on freedom of movement to and from the Gaza Strip, tearing families apart, separating children from their parents and spouses from one another in the process. Israel does not allow Palestinians living in Gaza to move to the West Bank (unless they are orphaned children, chronic patients or elderly in need of nursing care, and this too, only if they have absolutely no relatives in the Gaza Strip, even distant ones, who can care for them). Travel for visits between the two areas is also near impossible.
Last September, after Israel earlier bombed dozens of Gaza homes with their inhabitants still inside and caused the death of more than 2,000 Palestinians during an attack dubbed Operation Protective Edge, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced the military would ease some of the restrictions at the Gaza-Israel crossings. However, as HaMoked soon found out, this was was nothing short of a mockery. Some the measures approved and published
in the COGAT’s orders, were increasing the daily quota of merchants permitted to leave the Gaza Strip from 120 to 200, raising the cut-off age for children’s eligibility to accompany parents on visits from Gaza to the West Bank and vice versa from 6 to 15, but they may still leave only if there is an “exceptional humanitarian need”. Humanitarian visits were “expanded” to include visits to grandparents (until now, permits were given only for visiting first-degree relatives, parents, children and siblings).
On October 1, 2014, Israeli news website Ynet
reported about secret talks between Israelis and Palestinians, in which some “dramatic changes in Israel's restrictions on Gaza” were being discussed. Yet, innocent readers should not be fooled by this. Gaza residents’ right to freedom of movement and their right to freely choose where they wish to live in their own country are not on the table. What is on the table is the possibility of “permitting men over 60 to enter Jerusalem for religious services during the Muslim holy days,” and “allowing Gaza-made produce and goods (namely, fish) to be exported to the West Bank”.
At the same time and in the same vein, the military’s spokesperson announced
that ahead of Eid al-Adha, “certain measures will be implemented for the benefit of the Palestinian population of Judea and Samaria Area and the Gaza Strip”, as part of “a policy aimed at improving the life of the Palestinian population”. As part of this policy, between 5 and 7 October, and only during this time, the military would allow a daily quota of 500 worshippers from the Gaza Strip, aged 60 and above, to travel to al-Aqsa Mosque. The military would also allow 500 residents of the Gaza Strip who are over 60 to visit first-degree relatives in the West Bank.