Al Mezan Center for Human Rights is an independent, non-partisan and non-governmental
human rights organization established in 1999. Al Mezan is dedicated to protecting and
advancing the respect of human rights, with a focus on economic, social, and cultural rights,
supporting victims of violations of international law through legal initiatives, and enhancing
democracy, community and citizen participation, and respect for the rule of law in Gaza as
part of occupied Palestine.
5/102-1 Al Mena, Omar El-Mukhtar Street
Gaza City, Gaza Strip (occupied Palestine)
P.O. Box 5270
Telfax: +970 (0)8 282-0442/7
Al Eilah Building (1st Floor), Al Trans Square
Jabalia Camp, Gaza Strip (occupied Palestine)
P.O. Box: 2714
Telfax: +970 (0)8 248-4555/4
Qishta Building (1st Floor), Othman Bin Affan Street
Rafah, Gaza Strip (occupied Palestine)
Telfax: +970 (0)8 213-7120
© 2022 AL MEZAN CENTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
On 6 June 1967, Israeli authorities declared the Gaza Strip a closed military area
pursuant to a military order that remained in effect even after the signing of the Oslo
Accords. Significantly, Israeli restrictions on the Gaza Strip have begun as early as the
1990s, by means of a series of measures taken by the Israeli authorities, including
reducing the fishing zone in Palestinian territorial waters, preventing Palestinian
workers from Gaza from working in Israel, and imposing restrictions on the movement
of Palestinians through the Erez crossing.
With the outbreak of the Al Aqsa or Second Intifada on 28 September 2000, and
particularly starting on 9 October 2000, Israeli forces declared and imposed a closure
on the Gaza Strip and besieged the residential areas near the then-present Israeli
settlements, such as the al-Mawasi and al-Syafa areas, closed the great majority of
crossings, and altered the operation of some others. Following Israel’s
‘disengagement’ from Gaza in 2005, Israeli authorities closed the cargo section of
Erez crossing and completely shut down Sufa, Karni and Nahal Oz crossings, which
were replaced by Karem Abu Salem, Gaza’s only commercial crossing. Also, before
October 2000, the Rafah crossing—controlled by Israeli authorities until 2005—used
to operate 24/7 and only closed two days a year. However, since then, the crossing
has operated for a limited number of hours and for a few days a week. There have
also been periods when Rafah was closed for months.
When Hamas became the governing authority in the Gaza Strip in 2007, Israeli
authorities tightened pre-existing closure measures, doubled restrictions on the
freedom of movement and goods, and, on 21 June 2007, suspended Gaza’s Customs
Code. Furthermore, on 18 September 2007, the Israeli Security Cabinet declared the
Gaza Strip an ‘hostile/enemy entity’, thereby placing insurmountable obstacles to
access to civil remedy in Israeli courts for Palestinians from Gaza.
Israel’s closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip, which constitutes collective
punishment, prohibited under international humanitarian law,1 is implemented in the
context of Israel’s settler-colonial occupation of Palestinian territory (OPT) and its
system of racial discrimination, domination, and oppression against the Palestinian
people meeting the definition of apartheid under international law.
1 ICRC, IHL Database, Customary IHL Rule 103: Collective Punishments, available at:
During 15 years of Israeli closure and blockade on the Gaza Strip, Palestinians’
freedom of movement has been severely restricted, including by creating military nogo
areas or buffer zones on Palestinian land and waters known as ‘access restricted
areas’. In addition, since 2007, Israel has carried out four full-scale military offensives
against the Gaza Strip, killing some 4,041 Palestinians, including 1,005 children and
461 women over a period of 13 years (2008-21), and destroying tens of thousands of
homes, industrial and commercial facilities and infrastructure critical for the survival of
the civilian population, including electricity, water and sanitation networks and roads,
further deteriorating the humanitarian conditions and increasing poverty and
unemployment rates. In parallel with this, the population of Gaza, which amounted
to 1.5 Palestinians at the end of 2006, reached 2.1 million by the end of 2021, making
the Strip one of the most densely populated areas in the world.
This fact sheet, supported by figures, presents findings and indicators showing the
extent of Israeli violations over the 15 years of closure and blockade that have made
the Gaza Strip unlivable for its more than two million inhabitants.
§ Between 14 June 2007 and 14 June 2022, Israeli military attacks have killed 5,418
Palestinians, 23% of whom are children and 9% women, and injured thousands of
others; destroyed 3,118 commercial facilities, 557 factories, 2,237 vehicles, and
2,755 public facilities; destroyed 12,631 residential units and partially damaged
41,780 others. In addition, Israeli authorities have tightened restrictions on the
entry of construction materials into the Gaza Strip, thus preventing Palestinians
from rebuilding their destroyed homes.
§ Israeli forces also employed excessive and lethal force against Palestinian children
attempting to cross the perimeter fence and killed 15 children, injured seven and
§ Between 14 June 2007 and 14 June 2022, Israeli forces carried out limited
incursions into areas near the eastern and northern perimeter fence in Palestinian
territory some 872 times, flattening farmland and destroying crops. During the
same period, Israeli forces periodically targeted Palestinian agricultural workers,
killing 136. Israeli forces leveled and sprayed chemical pesticides at 33,100
donums of Palestinian farmlands.
§ The Israeli navy periodically targets Palestinian fishermen at sea by opening fire at
them, arresting them, seizing their equipment, persecuting them, and obstructing
their work. Between 14 June 2007 and 14 June 2022, Al Mezan documented 2,514
violations against fishermen, resulting in seven deaths, 179 injuries and 750 arrests.
The Israeli navy has also confiscated 237 fishing boats and sabotaged another 131
along with large numbers of fishing equipment and necessities.
§ The Israeli navy has repeatedly and extensively prevented Palestinian fishermen
from sailing in Palestinian territorial waters and has also repeatedly disallowed
fishing activities in the permitted fishing zone.2
§ Israeli authorities arbitrarily detain Palestinians seeking to cross into Israel through
Erez to reach the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, or to travel abroad crossing
as a means of entrapment. Between 14 June 2007 and 14 June 2022, they
arbitrarily arrested 204 Palestinians, including 48 higher education students and
employees enrolled in external training courses and colleges and 85 merchants.
§ Among the restrictions imposed by Israeli authorities is a capricious and
discriminatory permit system to which all Palestinians wishing to leave Gaza via
Erez must apply. One of the most vulnerable groups affected by Israel’s prohibitive
and complex permit regime are medical patients. Between 2010 and February
2022, Israeli authorities either rejected or delayed 30% of patients’ permit
requests. In addition, Israeli authorities at Erez arrested 43 Palestinian patients with
medical referrals and 28 of their companions after granting them exit permits. Al
Mezan figures show that in the past 15 years, 72 patients, including ten children
and 25 women, died after Israel denied or deferred their permits.
§ As a result of the Israeli restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip, the volume of
imports has dramatically dropped. In 2005, 111,480 trucks of imported goods
entered Gaza, quickly dropping to 26,838 in 2008. In 2020, 96,651 trucks of
imported goods entered the Gaza Strip, which can be explained considering
population growth and increased demand for services.
§ The volume of exported goods has also declined after the imposition of the
closure. While the Gaza Strip exported 9,319 trucks of goods in 2005, the volume
of exports decreased dramatically to 33 trucks in 2008. In 2020, the Gaza Stirp
2 The permitted fishing zone which the Israeli navy allows Palestinian fishermen to sail in ranges
between three and 15 nautical miles.
exported 3,118 truckloads of goods—which is around only one-third of the volume
before the closure.3
§ Since the imposition of the closure measures, Israeli authorities routinely banned
the entry of fuel to Gaza’s sole power plant, further exacerbating the existing
electricity crisis and prompting people to resort to the use of candles, kerosene
stoves, and power generators. This has caused many incidents of fire and
generator-related accidents which only in 2012 claimed the lives of 35 people,
including one woman and 28 children, and injured 36 others, including 20 children
and six women.
§ While Gaza’s electricity needs are estimated at between 600-660 mw, the supply
available is no more than 205 mw, which has led to electricity being cut off for
more than 16 hours a day at specific times during the past 15 years. The power
shortage crisis and Israel’s ban on fuel entry have prompted many municipalities in
the Gaza Strip to pump untreated sewage into the sea, causing water pollution. In
2021, a test carried out by Water and Environment Quality Authority showed that
75% of seawater along Gaza’s coastline, which extends to about 40 km, is
§ Gaza residents are also experiencing a serious crisis regarding the lack of safe
drinking water. Relevant authorities say that 96.2% of the water extracted from
Gaza’s aquifers does not meet the World Health Organization’s water quality
standards, especially in terms of nitrate concentration.5 Between 14 June 2007 and
14 June 2022, Israeli forces attacked and either destroyed or damaged 292 water
wells used for both domestic use and farmlands.
§ The living conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have deteriorated
significantly: in 2021, the poverty and unemployment rates stood at 53% and 47
%, respectively, while the food insecurity rate was 64%.
§ The education sector has also been affected due to the prolonged closure of the
Gaza Strip. Between 14 June 2007 and 14 June 2022, Israeli forces destroyed 536
schools and 32 university buildings and at the same time hindered the construction
of new education facilities, thus causing overcrowding of students in schools.
Today the average class size in an UNRWA school is 41 students compared to 39
3 Unpublished data from the Palestinian Trade Center accessed by Al Mezan on 5 June 2022.
4 See Al Mezan’s Annual Report on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Gaza Strip in 2021
at http://www.mezan.org/post/32937 (, available in Arabic only).
5 The Palestinian Water Authority, unpublished Report on Water sources in the Gaza Strip in 2021.
in public schools.6 Many educational facilities remain inappropriate for students
§ The realization of cultural rights in the Gaza Strip is declining, mainly because
Israeli-imposed restrictions have precluded the reconstruction of libraries and
cultural institutions destroyed during Israeli military attacks, including the national
library. The tightening restrictions have also increased the difficulties in developing
and updating the library’s book and periodical holdings and in organizing book
exhibitions involving outside publishers.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
While the Israeli government purports to justify the closure and related restrictions
under the guise of “security”, these policies demonstrate Israel’s intent to separate
and divide Palestinians and re-engineer the demographics of the entire Palestinian
population to assert its domination over them. Notably, this fact sheet considered
several violations of international law perpetrated by Israeli authorities within the
context of its sustained closure and blockade, including the use of excessive force
and recurrent military targeting of civilians and civilian homes, killing thousands;
arbitrary arrest and detention of children, patients, fishermen, and other vulnerable
groups; and the deliberate imposition on Palestinians in Gaza of inadequate living
conditions. As highlighted by Al Mezan in its report ‘The Gaza Bantustan – Israeli
Apartheid in the Gaza Strip’, these inhumane acts meet the definition of the crime
against humanity of apartheid under both the 1973 International Convention on the
Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and the 1998 Rome Statute
of the International Criminal Court.
Accordingly, on this grim fifteenth anniversary, Al Mezan reiterates its call on the
international community to uphold its moral and legal obligations toward the
Palestinian people by urging Israel to immediately, fully, and unconditionally lift its
closure and blockade and end all associated unlawful restrictions imposed on the
movement of people and goods to and from the Gaza Strip and to ensure
accountability and justice for widespread, gross, and systemic violations against the
Palestinian people, including for the crime of apartheid.
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