Thursday, April 02, 2020

Israel arrests patients crossing the Erez checkpoint from Gaza

By Editor - October 17, 2012
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Erez checkpoint]

With the Gaza Strip under siege for its fifth year, traveling in and out of the tiny coastal enclave remains a difficult process. Although there are four border crossings, only two operate as pedestrian crossings, offering the limited number of Palestinians who are allowed to cross through a window to a world outside of Gaza.

To the south of the Strip, the infamous Rafah border crossing with Egypt remains the only crossing available to Palestinians in Gaza to the outside world. According to Gisha, between the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006 to Hamas’ takeover of the Strip the following year, Israel closed the crossing 76% of the time.

It is notoriously known for its impromptu closings which result in hundreds of travelers stranded on either side, which led to students missing their semesters, employees unable to get back to their jobs in the affluent Gulf countries, and many sick people find their lives in jeopardy as they are refused the urgent required medical attention that the sparsely supplied hospitals in Gaza do not have.

After Mohammed Mursi won in the Egyptian presidential elections, many people took to the streets in Gaza to celebrate, passing out sweets and chanting in support of Egypt. The impression was that a new Egyptian government led by the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot from, would start a new page of strengthened relations and closer diplomatic ties.

However, the Rafah border crossing still maintains a degree of unpredictability due to the charged atmosphere regarding recent raids from the Sinai into Israel, with the latter blaming the Gaza Strip for the “intruders.” There is however a notable improvement in the number of days it is kept open on a regular basis.

Moreover, Palestinian women and the elderly do not require Egyptian coordinating papers in order to cross into Egypt, unlike their male counterparts between the ages of 18 to 40 who fall in the category of not being holders of foreign passports or residency papers, patients, or students.

The Erez checkpoint, also known as the Beit Hanoun crossing, is located in the north of the strip and is the only crossing for Palestinians in Gaza to the 1948 territories (what is now called Israel) and the West Bank.

The crossing was built to allow 20,000 people to pass through every day, but with the severe Israeli restrictions on travel for Palestinians, the reality sees no more than 20 to 30 people crossing through, including foreign journalists and aid workers.

Israeli authorities allow a trickle of Palestinians, mostly patients or traders, to cross through either into Jerusalem or the West bank after granting them the hard to get special coordinating papers.

Patients are usually allowed one or two escorts to accompany them, usually family members. They endure long hours waiting to pass through the Israeli side, with strip searches not being uncommon. Palestinians also risk the chance of being on the receiving end of arbitrary arrests and/or interrogations, according to The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights.

The same center has released a press statement, calling out Israel’s arbitrary arrest and interrogation of Palestinians crossing through the Erez checkpoint, and noting an increase in the total number of arrests in the year of 2012 to six, four patients and two escorts.

Since the beginning of January 2012 until September, 258 Palestinians have been subjected to interrogations or “security interviews” at the Erez checkpoint.

The most recent arrest came on October 3rd, 2012. 44 year old Khalil Jibran Ahmad Najjar was traveling with his sick brother to cross the Erez checkpoint in order to reach a hospital in the West Bank. They arrived at the checkpoint at 7 am, and two hours later passed through to the Israeli side only for a telephone call from the District Coordinating Office in Beit Hanoun (Erez) led to the arrest of Khalil by the occupation forces.

From the press statement:

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights expresses its strong condemnation of the arrest of the patient escort Khalil Najjar. It denounces the continued policy of arbitrary arrest by the occupation forces as well as the interrogation of Palestinian citizens wishing to travel through the Beit Hanoun crossing, and sees this policy as an exploitation of their suffering and difficult circumstances, particularly for patients referred for treatment in hospitals in the West Bank or within the Green Line. This practice is in violates the legal obligations of an occupying entity, as imposed by the rules of international humanitarian law, particularly the fourth Geneva Convention.

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