Human Rights Watch – (Gaza) – Israel’s sweeping restrictions on leaving Gaza deprive its more than two million residents of opportunities to better their lives, Human Rights Watch said today on the fifteenth anniversary of the 2007 closure. The closure has devastated the economy in Gaza, contributed to fragmentation of the Palestinian people, and forms part of Israeli authorities’ crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution against millions of Palestinians.
Israel’s closure policy blocks most Gaza residents from going to the West Bank, preventing professionals, artists, athletes, students, and others from pursuing opportunities within Palestine and from traveling abroad via Israel, restricting their rights to work and an education. Restrictive Egyptian policies at its Rafah crossing with Gaza, including unnecessary delays and mistreatment of travelers, have exacerbated the closure’s harm to human rights.
“Israel, with Egypt’s help, has turned Gaza into an open-air prison,” said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch. “As many people around the world are once again traveling two years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Gaza’s more than two million Palestinians remain under what amounts to a 15-year-old lockdown.”
Israel should end its generalized ban on travel for Gaza residents and permit free movement of people to and from Gaza, subject to, at most, individual screening and physical searches for security purposes.
How Israel’s Travel Ban Crushes the Dreams of the Palestinians of Gaza
Between February 2021 and March 2022, Human Rights Watch interviewed 20 Palestinians who sought to travel out of Gaza via either the Israeli-run Erez crossing or the Egyptian-administered Rafah crossing. Human Rights Watch wrote to Israeli and Egyptian authorities to solicit their perspectives on its findings, and separately to seek information about an Egyptian travel company that operates at the Rafah crossing but had received no responses at this writing.
Since 2007, Israeli authorities have, with narrow exceptions, banned Palestinians from leaving through Erez, the passenger crossing from Gaza into Israel, through which they can reach the West Bank and travel abroad via Jordan. Israel also prevents Palestinian authorities from operating an airport or seaport in Gaza. Israeli authorities also sharply restrict the entry and exit of goods.