Israel Aid to Gaza

The Current Situation in Gaza

BICOM, 19 August 2007

Despite the Hamas takeover of Gaza in June, Israel continues to work to allow humanitarian aid, including food and fuel, into Gaza. Israel is also working to bring patients seeking urgent medical attention through to Israel for treatment in Israeli hospitals. All of this is done through the various Israel-Gaza crossings.

The following aims to gives readers a factual briefing on the situation surrounding the crossings into Gaza following Hamas’s takeover. It seeks to give a clear understanding of what has happened and what is happening regarding these crossings and the humanitarian aid that passes through them. It also outlines Hamas’s treatment of Gazans since their its takeover.

Map of Gaza crossings

A useful map of the Israel-Gaza crossings can be found here:

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/mapImages/438e0dfc5371d.pdf

The Crossings

There are six crossings into Gaza. They are:

• Kerem Shalom

• Sufa

• Erez

• Karni

• Nahal Oz

• Rafah

• Kerem Shalom has been the main transfer point for goods and humanitarian aid destined for the Gaza Strip since 15 June 2007. On 25-26 June, the crossing was closed due to rocket attacks from Gaza. On 9 July, Palestinians fired two mortar shells mortar shells at the crossing, one of them hit the crossing directly.

• The Sufa crossing is a back-up for Kerem Shalom, in the event of rocket attacks. Supplies, food and Red Cross medical equipment have passed through.

• The Erez crossing has also been opened to pedestrian traffic from Israel into Gaza and the transfer of medical patients and supplies. Erez is an international crossing open only for the passage of foreign and Palestinian employees of international organisations, diplomats, foreign journalists, Palestinians with dual citizenship and urgent humanitarian cases. Approximately 350 foreign nationals and several hundred Palestinian refugees have left the Gaza Strip, while Red Cross doctors and medical equipment have entered through it.

• Since 29 June 2007 the Karni cargo crossing has also been opened, with wheat being transferred to Gaza.

• The Nahal Oz crossing used for the transfer of fuels was opened in the middle of June for the passage of fuel and cooking gas into the Strip.

• Since Hamas’s takeover of Gaza in June, Fatah’s Force 17 which manned the Rafah crossing and the European Union which monitored it have been forced to withdraw. The crossing has been closed since 10 June, and an estimated 5,000 Palestinians are waiting at the Egyptian border to return to their homes in Gaza.

• Israel is open to the idea of Hamas allowing security forces loyal to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to return to run the crossing. If this is rejected by Hamas, Israel is also prepared to cooperate with an international organisation or a European monitoring team appointed to run the terminal for the Palestinians. Israeli and Fatah officials have recently appealed to the Turkish government to provide assistance and help maintain security at the crossings on the Gaza border.

Hamas’s response

• Hamas has responded by firing mortar shells at the operational crossings, and thus the capacity of the passages cannot be maximised. This has been recognised by United Nation’s Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) operations in the Strip, with John Ging, the director of UNRWA operations in Gaza, stating: “It is very clear the responsibility [to secure the passages] lies with the Palestinians and the Palestinian officials have to meet the security requirements.”

Israeli humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza

• The IDF remains heavily involved in humanitarian activity to Gaza, despite the Hamas takeover in June.

• Since the middle of June, thousands of tonnes of wheat, meat, milk, animal feed, medicines and medical equipment, fruit, rice, cooking oil, beans, sugar, salt, gas, petrol, and diesel for private and power plant use, basic commodities and other goods have been transferred from Israel to Gaza as humanitarian aid. Aid has passed from Israel to Gaza on a daily basis.

• The IDF has created a new mechanism, in conjunction with the Red Cross, to allow Palestinians in need of urgent medical care to enter Israel. Under this mechanism, Palestinians requiring medical treatment are escorted by the Israeli army to Israeli hospitals.

• All humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip is carried out in coordination with the Gaza District Coordination and Liaison Office.

Hamas treatment of Gaza

• The violence perpetrated by Hamas and its refusal to moderate its positions toward Israel are harming the people of Gaza. 120,000 Gazans are on the verge of unemployment, 75% of Gaza’s factories have shut down and there are 100,000 additional recipients of food aid.

• It has been noted by observers that Hamas has delivered increased security and order since their coup d’etat. However, this has been achieved through mass coercion and encroachments on personal freedom.

• Journalists and human rights advocates are disturbed by the curbs on freedom and dissent. Growing censorship of the press and the closure of many NGOs have accompanied Hamas’s ascension to power.

• Gaza security forces have forbidden any public demonstrations or meetings without special permission from Hamas authorities. This weekend, a peaceful protest against the latest curbs on freedom was raided and disrupted by Hamas militias. Reports state that Hamas forces used clubs and rifle butts to beat demonstrators, confiscating cameras and videotapes used by journalists who were covering the rally.

• Reports indicate many women are apprehensive about the implementation of stricter Islamic rules.

© 2007 – BICOM.

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