Israel restricts imports into Gaza through border crossing, prohibits exports
July 11, 2018
First Posted on July 10, 2018 Courtesy: The Knife Media
On Tuesday, Israel began enforcing restrictions on goods that pass through the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza, after announcing them the previous day. All exports from Gaza through the crossing were banned and imports can only include food, medicine and “humanitarian equipment.” The decision was made in response to incendiary kites and balloons that have been sent across the border into Israel by protesting Palestinians, Israel said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said while announcing the restrictions on Monday that Israel would “weigh down heavier on Hamas’s leadership, effective immediately.” He said there would be “additional steps” taken, saying he would not “go into details.”
Palestinians have been protesting the partial naval, air and land blockades that Israel and Egypt have imposed on Gaza since the 1990s and strengthened in 2007, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Israel said the fires from kites and balloons sent across the border have caused about $2.5 million in damage to Israeli farmland. Israeli officials said by mid-June, 412 fires had been started by incendiary flying objects, The New York Times reported. The Israeli army said it has used drones to shoot down 670 of the kites and balloons.
Israel has not used lethal force against people launching incendiary devices, the Times reported. It has fired warning shots and destroyed vehicles belonging to the people involved.
Hamas, the political organization that governs Gaza and has an armed division, has “encouraged” the launching of incendiary kites, according to the Times. Hamas called the crossing restrictions a “crime against the people of Gaza.” Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another armed group in Gaza, called the restrictions on the crossing a “declaration of war.” Israel and the U.S. consider both groups “terrorist” organizations.
During the first half of this year, 48,424 trucks brought imports through the Kerem Shalom crossing, according to United Nations figures, an average of about 268 per day. About a third of the trucks contained food and medical supplies, the Times reported. About 40 to 50 trucks containing Gaza exports would leave each day when the crossing was open to exports, Al Jazeera reported. Construction materials and clothing imports would be prohibited under Israel’s order, while cooking gas would not, according to Al Jazeera.
In addition to restricting the border crossing, Israel said it would be restricting Gaza’s fishing boats in the Mediterranean Sea, requiring them to stay within six nautical miles from shore. Israel had permitted the ships a nine nautical mile range for the past three months. Gaza has 4,000 registered fishermen, according to Nizar Ayash, head of Gaza’s fishermen’s union.
Palestinians in Gaza began protests on March 30 for the “right to return” for Palestinians whose ancestors lived in Israel before the May 1948 war between Israel and neighboring countries. Israel has not granted Palestinians the right to return. Israeli forces have reportedly killed at least 120 Palestinians since those protests began, with snipers shooting protesters who approached the border fence with Israel. Israel says it is protecting its borders. Some of the protesters launched incendiary kites and balloons as part of those protests.
In June, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution saying it “deplores the use of excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” by Israel against Palestinian civilians, “particularly in the Gaza strip.” The U.S. has said Israel has the right to defend itself.
Gaza has a population of more than two million people.