Can’t get there from here

I am sharing this letter verbatim because it explains so well the current situation at the Rafah border between Gaza and Egypt.  Freedom of movement should be on the top of the agenda when the “peace talks” begin.

Human rights groups to DM Ya’alon: Respect Gaza residents’ right to freedom of movement

Monday, July 22, 2013

A group of Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations wrote to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Monday demanding Israel take action to allow Gaza residents affected by the new restrictions at Rafah Crossing to exit and enter Gaza.

Recent turmoil in Egypt has brought new restrictions on passage via Rafah Crossing. Since July 1, exit via Rafah has been reduced to less than one third its usual scope. As a result, more than 10,000 people are stranded in Gaza. An unknown number of others cannot exercise their basic human right to return to their homes, and they are unduly paying for involuntary stays in airports and hotels in foreign countries.

Currently, only medical patients with referrals from the Palestinian Ministry of Health and holders of a foreign citizenship or residence are allowed to enter Egypt from Gaza. Gaza residents present in Egypt are allowed to return home, but those still abroad are not being permitted to land at Egyptian airports. Because Israel does not allow passage to and from Gaza via the air or sea and limits passage via land crossings with Israel, Gaza residents have become dependent on Egypt as their gateway to travel abroad.

Students needing to reach universities abroad, Palestinian residents needing to return to their work places outside Gaza, businesspeople and medical patients without official referrals are all stuck.

Due to Israel’s control over the Gaza Strip, it has an obligation, under the law of occupation and human rights law, to enable Gaza residents to lead normal lives, including the opportunity to leave Gaza and return to it. If travel through Rafah is inadequate, Israel must allow Gaza residents to exercise their right to freedom of movement through other crossings, whether on land through the border crossings between Israel and Gaza or by sea and air, to the outside world. (emphasis added)

In the past, when traffic at Rafah was restricted, Israel allowed individuals to enter and leave the Strip via crossings with Israel, as part of a shuttle bus system and on an individual basis.

As the situation in Egypt remains volatile and restrictions at Rafah continue, the undersigned human rights groups calls upon Israel’s defense minister to immediately institute arrangements that will allow Palestinian residents of Gaza to exercise their fundamental right to freedom of movement.

Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement
PCHR – Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Hamoked – Center for the Defence of the Individual
PHR-Israel – Physicians for Human Rights – Israel
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights

Outside of the Rafah border crossing gate on the Egyptian side.

Outside of the Rafah border crossing gate on the Egyptian side.




Filed under Gaza, Israel, Occupation

5 responses to “Can’t get there from here

  1. Michael: So that I don’t forget to answer your question —- No, I do not know if these groups who signed the letter have considered writing to the Egyptian Defence Minister. But since their organizations are provided, you can certainly contact them directly. Right?

    Technically, Israel and Gaza are not at war. This is an occupation with one side enforcing an occupation, and the other side resisting. There are very different rules of engagement under international law for occupation v. war.

    But it certainly feels like a war. I know. I was in Gaza during the 8 days in November when the bombs were falling and the rockets were flying.

    Finally, you make the common mistake that many people make — which is to conflate the terms “Islamist” “terrorist” and “Hamas”. Hamas has repeatedly denied that it is responsible for the violence in the Sinai.

    Think of it this way —– Jews = Israelis = terrorists. We know that not all Jews are Israelis. And certainly not all Jews and Israelis are terrorists. But I have heard people conflate the three.

    By the way, “terrorists” are in the eye of the beholder. No one goes around with a sign on his/her neck “I am a terrorist.” Last November, as I was sitting in Gaza City listening and feeling the explosions day and night, it certainly seemed to me that the IDF were the terrorists.

    • I take it as a no. I think that if they’d want to help Gazans, they would appeal to the Egyptians as well, and mention it explicitly in the post, to draw attention to Egypt’s contribution to the suffering of civilians in Gaza. Therefore, I draw the conclusion that the aim of these groups is not to help the population of Gaza, but to draw negative attention to Israel.

      Since Hamas is responsible for Gaza, it is responsible for whatever comes out of it – towards Israel or towards Egypt. And of the fallout. Hamas tries all it can to eat of both plates – and rule a state (Gaza) and deny its responsibility for its actions. Anyway, its their beef with Egypt and I wish them success in sorting it out. The main point is – Israel is not a part of this dispute, despite attempts to use Israel as a leverage.

  2. “current situation at the Rafah border between Gaza and Egypt” . Why write to the Israeli Defence Minister then? I don’t read Israel in there, only Gaza and Egypt. Did they write to the Egyptian Defence Minister as well? Or do they expect Israel to be the only party humane enough to address the Egypt-Gaza border problems? How ironic.

    • Michael: Israel is the occupying power under international law, and so the responsibility to allow Palestinians in Gaza freedom of movement rests ultimately with Israel. There is no irony there at all.

      Israel and Egypt signed the Camp David Accords which I believe addresses how the Rafah border will be handled. The Egyptian military has always coordinated closely with Israel regarding the Rafah border crossing.

      If Palestinians had control of their airspace and their coastline, there would be no need to coordinate with Egypt or Israel.

      For now, Gaza is an open air prison.

      • – “Egyptian security forces closed the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt on Friday, after Islamist gunmen staged multiple attacks on security forces in Egypt’s troubled Sinai Peninsula.” The way I read it is that Hamas has problems with Egypt’s internal affairs and makes waves in Sinai, Egypt responds by closing the border and Israel is supposed to come to the rescue. I call that ironic.

        The restrictions on the use of airspace and coastal waters are fully legitimate, as Gaza and Israel are at war.

        You haven’t responded to my question – have the authors of the letter even considered writing to the Egyptian Defence Minister?

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