Over 1.7m Gazan Palestinians isolated from the world after Israel, Egypt close crossings

Gaza has become an open-air prison after Israel decided to close two border crossings with Gaza, after a rocket allegedly fired from the Palestinian enclave struck its territory.

The Israeli blockade comes a week after Egypt closed its border with Gaza. With all borders closed, more than one and a half million people in Gaza are now isolated from the outside world. They are prisoners inside the 360 square kilometers that make up the coastal Strip.

“The crossing points for people and goods, Erez and Kerem Shalom, have been closed until further notice except for humanitarian aid,” an army spokeswoman said.

She said that the measure was taken after a rocket fired from Gaza hit Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory on Friday, without causing any casualties or damage.

There was no claim of responsibility from any armed faction in Gaza. A military spokeswoman said forces were still searching for debris.

Senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouq early Sunday condemned the Israeli decision to close crossings into Gaza, calling it “collective punishment.”

“The justifications given by the (Israeli) occupation to shut down crossings are unacceptable,” Abu Marzouq said in a statement, adding that Israel’s decision violated international laws and conventions.

Instead of closing the crossings, he said Israel should establish more crossings in order to allow for greater freedom of movement for people and goods in and out of Gaza.

Friday’s rocket struck harmlessly was the first to strike Israeli-occupied territory since September 16, and the second since the end of the Zionist state’s devastating 51-day assault on Gaza.

For 51 days this summer, Israel pounded the Gaza Strip – by air, land and sea – with the stated aim of ending rocket fire from the coastal enclave.

More than 2,160 Gazans, at least 505 of them children, were killed – and 11,000 injured – during seven weeks of unrelenting Israeli attacks in July and August.

The Israeli offensive ended on August 26 with the an Egypt-brokered cease-fire agreement.

The ceasefire deal stipulated an end to hostilities, and Israel agreed to ease its devastating eight-year blockade on the Strip and expand the fishing zone off Gaza’s coast.

However, Palestinians accuse Israeli forces of regular ceasefire violations, with near-daily reports that navy soldiers have fired at fishermen off the coast of the enclave, and occasional reports of Israeli troops shooting and injuring Palestinians near the border.

The head of the Gaza fishermen syndicate accused Israel of constantly violating the terms of the agreement.

“Since signing the truce, the Israeli army has violated (the agreement) eight times, arresting fishermen and destroying a giant fishing boat, in addition to firing at fishermen on a daily basis,” he said.

On Wednesday, Israeli forces shot and injured a Palestinian man on the beach in the northern Gaza Strip.

Furthermore, Gaza is also littered with a large number of unexploded Israeli shells, one of which has recently killed 4-year-old Mohammed Sami Abu-Jrad from the northern Gaza city of Beit Hanoun.

Israel also agreed to allow construction material into Gaza. But two months after the war ended, no building material has entered Gaza due to Israel’s ongoing blockade.

Israel routinely bars the entry of building materials into the embattled coastal enclave on grounds that Palestinian resistance faction Hamas could use them to build underground tunnels or fortifications.

For years, the Gaza Strip has depended on construction materials smuggled into the territory through a network of tunnels linking it to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

A recent crackdown on the tunnels by the Egyptian army, however, has effectively neutralized hundreds of tunnels, severely affecting Gaza’s construction sector.

Egypt closes Gaza lifelines

On Wednesday, Egypt began setting up a buffer zone along its border with the Gaza strip in a move which will see about 800 homes demolished.

It comes in the wake of a suicide car bombing which killed 30 Egyptian soldiers in Sinai last week, the deadliest attack on the military since ousting Egypt’s former president Mohammed Mursi.

Following the bombing, Egypt immediately closed the Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip, the principal connection between Gaza’s 1.7 million people and the outside world.

In August, Egypt’s authorities have used an attack on the Egyptian military in Sinai as a pretext to start a campaign to destroy Lifelines into Gaza. Over 120 tunnels were blown up or filled in.

More than just being the only way for some products to make it into the over 1.7 million Palestinians living in the strip, the Gaza tunnels have become a major source of income for the transporters of goods. Egypt has closed Gaza’s lifelines.

Since the beginning of 2014 until the end of May, Rafah crossing has been opened only 14 out of 120 days, limiting access to humanitarian cases and for other authorized travelers – including foreign nationals and visa holders.

Gaza without goods

Abu Marzouq also criticized the Palestinian Authority for what he called a failure to arrange the entry of goods into Gaza.

“Where does the PA come in regarding this Israeli closure? And where does it come in regarding its responsibilities, especially after PA employees have resumed work at Gaza crossings?”

With all crossings closed, water and food supplies in the besieged Gaza Strip are dangerously low.

On Sunday,the Palestinian embassy in Caracas said in a statement that Venezuela will send 10 tons of humanitarian aid and medical equipment for the war-torn Gaza Strip.

A plane will carry the aid from Caracas to the Amman airport on Sunday, and the same plane will bring 100 Palestinian students who have been granted scholarships to study in Venezuela to the country, the statement said.

Last week, Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro said his country would grant 1,000 Palestinians scholarships for Venezuelan universities.

Linda Subih, the ambassador of Palestine to Venezuela, said in the statement that she and 31 young Venezuelan men and women would accompany the aid to Amman, after which it would be sent to Gaza.

Meanwhile, companies in Gaza have stopped providing the al-Shifa hospital with food for meals in protest against not being paid for five months, a hospital official said Saturday.

Nasr al-Tatar, the general director of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, told Ma’an the move was dangerous as it impacts both patients and medical workers.

The hospital owes 800,000 shekels (approximately $211,000) to the companies for food.

Al-Shifa hospital serves about 1,500 meals a day, and this number doubled during the Israeli offensive on Gaza in July and August.

Source: Al-Akhbar English

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