Center for the Defence of the Individual - Further mockery: For the second time in six weeks, Israel “eases” restrictions, but keeps Gaza cut off from the world
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Further mockery: For the second time in six weeks, Israel “eases” restrictions, but keeps Gaza cut off from the world

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 and from the rest of the world. As part of this policy Israel does not allow Palestinians living in Gaza to move to the West Bank other in than in the most exceptional circumstances. Travel between the two areas for family visits is also near impossible.

Last September, after over the summer, Israel bombed thousands of Gaza homes and caused the death of more than 2,000 Palestinians, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced the military would ease some of the restrictions at the Gaza-Israel crossings, including an 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 in “exceptional humanitarian circumstances” from 6 to 15, and expanding “humanitarian visits” to include grandparents.

On October 15, 2014, the COGAT updated the orders governing passage, “easing” some additional restrictions on travel between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. However, this update, like its predecessor, fails to provide true relief for Palestinians’ travel needs both in Gaza and in the West Bank, focusing instead on extremely limited groups of individuals whose freedom of movement is still subject to all manner of conditions.

For example, medical patients may now travel from Gaza to the West Bank even when their condition is not classified as urgent, but subject to a quota of 20 such patients per day and, obviously, subject to screening. The orders renewed prison visits by Gaza residents whose relatives are incarcerated in Israel. These too are subject to various restrictions and criteria, including that only 50 prisoners can receive visitors at any given time. In addition, according to the revised protocol, members of the Palestinian national basketball, table tennis and running teams would now be able to travel to the West Bank or abroad, subject to a request made by the Palestinian Authority. These athletes join members of the national soccer team who were able to do so under the previous protocol.

The document refers directly to the Palestinian national consensus government, under the heading “Clarifying Directives Following the Establishment of the Technocratic Consensus Government”. The section is dedicated to protocols for requests for travel to the West Bank, the Gaza Strip or Israel’s international airport made by Palestinian VIPs from both parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, such as the Palestinian prime minister, ministers and members of parliament.

As stated, this “easing” of restrictions applies to an extremely small number of people and completely fails to meet the needs or respect the rights of the general Palestinian public. This time, like the last, the “easing” of restrictions is a mockery of Palestinians’ plight. Even after its deadly assault which left Gaza in ruins, Israel continues with its policy of isolating the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and from the rest of the world.