Israel has imposed movement restrictions on the Gaza Strip since the early 1990’s. Restrictions intensified in June 2007, following the takeover of that part of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) by Hamas, when Israel imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Gaza, citing security concerns. Despite relaxation of some blockade-related restrictions in recent years, 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza remain ‘locked in’, denied free access to the remainder of the territory and the outside world. The blockade has undermined the living conditions in the coastal enclave and fragmented the oPt and its economic and social fabric. The isolation of Gaza has been exacerbated by restrictions imposed by the Egyptian authorities on Rafah, its single passengers crossing.
On 17 April, Gaza’s sole power plant (GPP) was forced to shut down completely after exhausting its fuel reserves and being unable to replenish them due to a shortage of funds. The shutdown occurred in the context of an ongoing dispute between the Palestinian authorities in Gaza and Ramallah on tax exemption for fuel and revenue collection from electricity consumers.
Flash Update: In the aftermath of the killing of a Hamas member on 24 March in Gaza City by unknown assailants, the Palestinian de facto authorities in Gaza are imposing new access restrictions, citing security reasons, which are negatively impacting already vulnerable sectors in Gaza. These restrictions are taking place before the upcoming Israeli national and religious holidays when the opening hours of the Israeli-controlled passenger and goods crossings are normally reduced.
In the Gaza Strip more than 95 per cent of the water extracted from the aquifer lying underneath it is unfit for human consumption. This stems mainly from long-standing over-extraction, compounded by infiltration of raw sewage and seawater. Chloride and nitrate levels in the water extracted in most areas exceed the levels recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for potable water by up to eight times. As Gaza’s population continues to grow, a 2012 UN report predicted that water demand in Gaza would increase by 60 per cent by 2020, while damage to the aquifer may become irreversible.
As part of the “policy of separation” between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the Israeli authorities prohibit the passage of Palestinians in and out of Gaza. Exceptions are made for certain categories - principally businesspeople, medical patients and their companions, employees of international organizations and specific humanitarian cases - who are eligible for exit permits, subject to security checks. The situation has been compounded by the restrictions imposed by the Egyptian authorities on the Rafah Crossing since October 2014 and the inability of the Government of National Consensus to assume control over of the Palestinian side of the crossings, due to the ongoing internal divide.
The main export/transfer season for Gaza’s agricultural produce began in December. The volume of produce leaving Gaza has risen since late 2014, following the easing of Israeli restrictions on the exit of goods to markets in the West Bank and Israel. Revenues in 2016 (up to 8 December) totaled $11.9 million, an increase of almost 80 per cent compared with 2015 ($6.7 million) and more than five times higher than 2014 revenues ($2.2 million). Despite this improvement, 2016 revenues are about half of those recorded in 2007 when the blockade was imposed.
Additional restrictions imposed by Israel from April 2016 on the entry of building materials into the Gaza Strip, have slowed the pace of reconstruction of homes destroyed or damaged during the 2014 conflict, and prolong the vulnerability of more than 10,000 families who are still displaced.