The Gaza Strip is often referred to as an open-air prison. Nearly two million Palestinians live in the Strip, one of the most densely population places on earth. The Gaza Strip is surrounded by a concrete wall that runs the entire land border with Israel, and an Israeli-enforced “Access Restricted Area” takes an additional 3km or so of Gaza’s most fertile land. The Mediterranean Sea on the west side is also monitored by Israel. Fishing is severely restricted and imports/exports are forbidden. Gaza’s airport has been in ruins since an Israeli military attack on it in 2001.
In fact, all methods of travel in and out of the Strip are tightly controlled by Israel with help from Egypt. The one exception – the underground tunnels – were largely destroyed in the 2014 war. On Egypt’s border, the state installed a one-kilometer “safe zone” enforced by a water trench to prevent the construction of new tunnels.
Denied movement of people and imports by water, land and sky, Gaza is left with one life-line to the rest of the world: official border crossings and a frequently used indicator of possibility for life and development in the Gaza Strip is the number of truckloads that go through the crossings. There are two border crossings on the Israeli side: Beit Hanoun (Erez in Hebrew) and Karm Abu Salem (Karem Shalom in Hebrew), and one on the Egyptian side (Rafah). Three other border crossings were closed since 2011.
Rafah crossing, which is rarely open, is limited to the movement of authorized travelers, including Palestinian medical and humanitarian cases. Beit Hanoun (Erez) is for aid workers and some authorized travelers including Palestinian medical and humanitarian cases. Authorized goods pass through Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom). However, the flow of goods into the Gaza Strip is not based on need or availability. In addition to restrictions on permitted categories of goods, the Israeli requirement to clear and control the entry of each truckload creates a complicated, expensive and inefficient process. After the 2014 war on Gaza, more Israeli restrictions were imposed on the types and quantities of goods allowed to enter, especially what Israel deems “dual use items” (goods Israel claims could be used for military purposes including aggregate, steel bars and cement). To fulfill Israeli security demands, the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) was established, but it has not proven effective at facilitating much-needed entry of much-needed reconstruction materials.
Is the number of truckloads allowed in/out of the Gaza strip a good indicator of possibility for life and development in the Gaza Strip? Is the percentage of construction materials entered a better indicator?
More detailed information could be helpful. For example, is the ratio of cement to gravel and re-bar appropriate? We hear stories from actors on the ground that people obtaining cement can’t always repair because they need other construction materials that are either unavailable or too costly, thus leading to selling of cement on the black market to pay for other necessities.
What about consumer goods entering the Gaza Strip under the Israeli siege? Gazans report that nearly all consumer goods are Israeli, which demonstrates how the occupied Palestinian territory is a profitable and literally captive market for Israel. It would be useful to monitor the percentage of imports to Gaza that are Israeli and the net profit to Israel, not to mention the economic impact on the Palestinian economy.
Due to the blockade, there are also very limited ‘exports’ out of Gaza (around 200 truckloads per year, including those transferred to West Bank). This ensures the economy of Gaza continues to be dependent on Israel and vulnerable to shocks.
In order to hold relevant institutions accountable for fulfilling their obligations, we need to have data that is clear and comparable. If you have more insights into this issue, especially verifiable sources of data or analysis of the data that does exist, please comment below or email us.