A gate at Kerem Shalom Crossing. Photo by Gisha
A gate at Kerem Shalom Crossing. Photo by Gisha

May 24, 2021. Kerem Shalom Crossing remains closed and Erez Crossing is operating in a limited capacity for exit of foreign journalists from Gaza as well as exceptional exit of two medical patients seeking treatment in Jordan and their companions. Entrance to Gaza is being permitted only for medical patients who received treatment outside the Strip and are returning, foreign journalists, and foreign staff of international aid organizations.

According to Gisha’s sources in Gaza, more than four million animals there are dependent on between 16-18,000 tons of feed that are transferred via Kerem Shalom Crossing every month. Between May 11-24, Israel allowed the transfer of only a small amount of animal feed (around 1,000 tons). The Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza updated today that following the closure of Kerem Shalom Crossing, there is now an acute shortage of animal feed. As a result, the amount of milk produced in the Strip will decrease by more than 50 percent if suitable feed is not immediately permitted to enter. According to the ministry, true to the time of writing, approximately 30 percent of hens in the Strip have died as a result of the feed shortage. There are concerns that the impact on the meat and dairy industry in the Strip will create a shortage in supply in the local market, and will lead to a dramatic increase in prices.

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May 23, 2021. Despite the ceasefire, Kerem Shalom Crossing remained closed today to transit of goods to and from the Strip. According to information provided to Gisha, Erez Crossing was also closed, with the exception of a small number of returning residents who had been stranded outside the Strip. The continued closing of the crossings by Israel blocks medical patients from receiving life-saving treatment, and prevents the return of bodies into Gaza and the return of Israeli citizens to their homes.

Today, media reports indicate that Israel decided to shut down Kerem Shalom and Erez (Hebrew) “until further notice.” Gisha strongly condemns the closing of Gaza’s crossings, which is illegal, immoral, and puts lives in danger. The decision bars all travel from Gaza, even in urgent humanitarian cases, as well as entry by international aid staff or by returning residents who had exited the Strip to receive life-saving treatment before Israel closed its crossings with Gaza. In addition, essential humanitarian goods and basic commodities are blocked from entering Gaza, including baby formula, medical equipment, and fuel for the power plant. Movement of people and goods, including humanitarian aid, has been made virtually impossible since May 11, causing severe harm to civilians. The closing of the crossings constitutes unacceptable and illegal collective punishment. Conditioning their opening on political developments is egregious and intolerable.

Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings were opened briefly by Israel on Friday (May 21): Limited entry of goods was allowed via Kerem Shalom, mainly medical equipment, food, and humanitarian aid. The goods had been slated to enter Gaza on Tuesday (May 18) but were prevented from crossing into Gaza. On Friday, Israel also permitted limited entry into Gaza via Erez Crossing, including for UN staff and a small number of foreign journalists. Since March 2020, Israel has prohibited travel via Erez Crossing almost completely, and since May 11, 2021, as far as Gisha is aware, Israel blocked travel even in serious humanitarian cases. In closing the crossings, in violation of both international and Israeli law, Israel is deliberately and knowingly denying Gaza residents access to the basic goods, including food, and humanitarian aid they need to survive this emergency.

Salah a-Din Crossing has operated over the past few days, allowing some passage of goods from Egypt into Gaza, mostly humanitarian aid, medicine and food, as well as limited amounts of fuel. Rafah Crossing is operating normally for movement of people between Gaza and Egypt.

The shortage of fuel has severely impaired the power plant’s functioning. Gaza residents are now receiving no more than 90 megawatts (MW) of electricity, which is enough for no more than three or four consecutive hours of power, followed by more than 16 hours of outage. According to estimates, actual demand for electricity in Gaza is 400 MW. Yesterday, the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company said it had repaired the damage to the power lines delivering electricity from Israel to Gaza, which had been badly damaged during hostilities. As far as Gisha is aware, damage to these lines on the Israeli side has not yet been repaired, despite requests from the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company. The result is a 75 MW shortfall in the volume of electricity Israel sells Gaza normally (120 MW). The announcement made by the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company stated Gaza’s power grid had suffered “unprecedented and large-scale destruction estimated at millions of dollars.”

The power shortage impacts all aspects of life in Gaza, including water supply, sewage treatment, and hospitals, which were at full capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic even prior to Israel’s attack on the Strip. According to reports from last Thursday (May 20), the Israel Electric Corporation workers’ union was refusing to conduct repairs on the Israeli side in order to exert political pressure “until the boys are returned,” referring to two Israeli citizens and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers held in Gaza. Gisha cautioned that this threat, if implemented, was an act of collective punishment, not only entirely immoral but also patently illegal under both international and Israeli law.

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May 20, 2021. Israel’s attack on Gaza continued today, as did rocket fire from the Strip towards Israel. According to the latest announcement from the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, the death toll in Gaza has risen to 232, including 65 children, and thousands more injured. In Israel, 12 people have been killed since May 10, as of noon yesterday, including two children.

According to various sources, Gaza’s crossings with Israel, Erez and Kerem Shalom, were closed today to movement of people and goods. According to media reports, mortar fire from Gaza towards Erez crossing continued yesterday, preventing the entry of medical personnel and the return of medical patients who exited the Strip to receive life-saving care before the hostilities began. Kerem Shalom Crossing also remained closed due to the security situation, and no goods were allowed to enter through it. Israel’s closing of Kerem Shalom has led, among other things, to a shortage of basic products and price inflation in Gaza. The crossings between Gaza and Egypt, Rafah and Salah a-Din, were open today for limited movement of people and goods, including small amounts of diesel for the power plant, purchased from Egypt.

According to reports, the central laboratory used to analyze coronavirus tests was damaged in an Israeli airstrike on May 17. The extent of the damage has not yet been determined, but the laboratory has stopped operating. It is not currently possible to undergo a test through the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza. Testing is only currently available through a small laboratory run by a civil society organization and limited to people who are waiting to exit the Strip via Rafah Crossing and therefore require an up-to-date COVID test.

In addition to the casualties and extensive destruction caused so far, there is serious concern over the possibility of another large-scale outbreak of COVID-19 in Gaza. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as of yesterday (May 19), there are about 47,000 people internally displaced in the Strip taking shelter in United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) schools and emergency shelters, in crammed conditions. The Ministry of Social Development in Gaza reports that an additional 28,700 displaced people are being hosted by other residents of the Strip. OCHA also reports that about 800,000 people in the Strip do not currently have access to safe drinking water. The three central water desalination plants are not functioning, affecting about 400,000 people. According to the Gaza Ministry of Public Works and Housing, 230 buildings, comprising 991 housing and commercial units, have been destroyed.

The Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO) reports that six of the ten main power lines from Israel, damaged during hostilities, are still out of commission. Current power supply in the Strip is 93 megawatts, out of a total need for 400 megawatts. According to OCHA, from the beginning of the escalation and until May 17, Gaza residents were receiving only seven hours of electricity every 24 hours. Damage to the electricity supply is also impacting Gaza’s water and sewage systems, further impairing living conditions for Palestinians in the Strip.

Gisha again calls on the Israeli authorities to stop the illegal and disproportionate use of force in Gaza, to open its crossings and to urgently allow the passage of people in humanitarian need, humanitarian staff, as well as humanitarian aid and essential goods. As a party to the armed conflict, Hamas has a duty to enable the passage of aid, and thus to stop firing at the crossings.

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May 18, 2021. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, a total of 213 Palestinians have been killed since the start of Israel’s attack on the Strip, including 61 children. There are reports of tens of thousands of people internally displaced within the Strip as a result of the bombings, and their numbers continue to climb. The humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate.

Today, for the first time since Israel closed Kerem Shalom Crossing to movement of goods on May 11, the crossing operated in a limited capacity for entry of goods into Gaza. Sources told Gisha that 50 truckloads of goods were slated to enter, including food, animal feed, humanitarian aid, and fuel. In the afternoon, the passage of trucks was halted due to rocket fire in the area. About five truckloads of animal feed and five truckloads of diesel fuel for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees entered the Strip before the crossing was closed. It is unclear whether the crossing will be opened again tomorrow.

Yesterday (May 17), 14 truckloads of aid, including food and medical supplies donated by Jordan, entered Gaza via Erez Crossing. The entry of three more trucks – mobile hospitals, also donated by Jordan – has been delayed, apparently because of logistical challenges related to the size of the trucks.

Israel continues to block travel to and from Gaza via Erez Crossing, preventing, among other cases, the entry of medical personnel, staff of international aid organizations, and journalists, as well as the exit of urgent humanitarian cases. Today, patients who had exited Gaza before the hostilities commenced were supposed to be allowed back into the Strip, but Israel closed the crossing following mortar in the area.

The crossing points between Gaza and Egypt, Rafah and Salah a-Din, were opened by Egypt on Sunday (May 16) after being closed for the Eid holiday. Yesterday (May 17), 48 truckloads of goods entered Gaza via Salah a-Din; 46 of them carrying gasoline, diesel, and cooking gas, and two of them carrying food and medical supplies. Both Rafah and Salah a-Din were opened today as well for movement of people and entry of goods. Some fuel entering via Salah a-Din has gone to Gaza’s power plant, but the amount entering is nowhere near sufficient for meeting actual demand for electricity production in the Strip.

According to the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company, as of this morning, the supply of power in Gaza stands at 109 megawatts, while actual demand is 400 megawatts. The decrease in the supply of electricity available to residents is caused by Israel’s ongoing closing of Kerem Shalom, as well as damage to the direct power lines from Israel. As of this time, there are areas of the Strip that are receiving no power whatsoever.

For years, the closure enforced by Israel has severely hindered Gaza’s economy, damaged its health system and other civilian infrastructure, and created dire humanitarian conditions for its residents. Gisha calls on Israel to stop the killing and destruction in Gaza. Israel must adhere to the provisions of international law at all times and protect the rights of Gaza residents living under occupation. It must enable passage of goods through Kerem Shalom, at the very least, for entry of food, humanitarian and medical aid, and fuel for the power plant. Israel must also open Erez Crossing and enable access for medical personnel and exit of patients, to prevent further unnecessary loss of life.

Under international law, Israel must allow passage of humanitarian goods and provide for the needs of the civilian population in Gaza as much as is required. Hamas, as a party to the hostilities, must also enable passage of aid. Indiscriminate fire on Kerem Shalom Crossing by Palestinian armed groups is prohibited fire on civilian targets and obstruction of transfer of humanitarian aid. It must stop immediately.