6 September 2023 |Reference 56/2023
Over the past three days, Israeli authorities have increased their collective punishment measures by suspending the export of industrial and agricultural goods from the Gaza Strip through the Karem Abu Salem crossing to Israel, the West Bank, and abroad. Karem Abu Salem is the only functioning commercial crossing between Gaza and Israel. This punitive measure is impacting thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, including workers, farmers, factory owners, shopkeepers, and traders, who are now unable to export and sell their products, and further damages the already fragile economic situation in Gaza.
In a recent and significant development, the Palestinian General Administration for Borders and Crossings announced that the Israeli government has decided to block all exports from the Gaza Strip through Karem Abu Salem, effective Tuesday morning, 5 September 2023, until further notice. Palestinian economic institutions and trade unions strongly condemned this decision and expressed their concern about the potential negative impact on Gaza’s economy.
There are growing fears that if this decision persists, it will result in substantial losses for Gaza's commercial, industrial, and agricultural sectors. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Economy, the annual value of exports from Gaza's various economic sectors is estimated at USD 134 million. The export ban imposed by Israel threatens to disrupt the flow of many goods and jeopardize the livelihood of thousands of workers engaged in various economic sectors. The Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture has emphasized the damage this decision causes to workers in the agricultural and fishing sectors—which provide livelihoods for some 60,000 families—and has quantified the losses at around one million shekels per day.
Israel's decision comes amid mounting calls for the opening of trade routes to ensure the free flow of goods from Gaza. The 2020 report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on ‘The Economic Costs of the Israeli Occupation for the Palestinian People: The Impoverishment of Gaza under Blockade’ clearly emphasizes the urgency of removing the economic constraints and the blockade that have hampered the Palestinian economy. The report stresses the importance of achieving sustainable growth by allowing Gaza’s economy to trade freely with the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory—i.e., the West Bank, including East Jerusalem—and with the Arab and global markets. In addition, it calls for the complete removal of all restrictions on Palestinians' right to freedom of movement to and from the Gaza Strip.
Al Mezan warns of the serious repercussions of Israel’s sudden decision, which affects more than two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. This recent move is accompanied by restrictive measures on production activities, embodied in the prohibition on the entry of certain goods and commodities under the pretext of being ‘dual-use items’. These restrictions not only amplify the losses and commercial deficit but also worsen the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. In the second quarter of 2023, the unemployment rate was 46 per cent of the labor force. Israel's latest decision is expected to further undermine efforts to develop economic sectors and lead to the destruction of income-generating businesses.
Accordingly, we call on the international community to take immediate action to end Israel’s policy of collective punishment, by lifting the closure and blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip for 16 years and all illegal restrictions on the free movement of people and goods to and from Gaza.
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