The Gaza Strip is a region on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea that is part of the State of Palestine and under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority but is governed by the Palestinian nationalist organization and militant Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist movement Hamas. It borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the east and north. The presence of Israeli territories on the east and north geographically separates the area from the Palestinian region of the West Bank. Furthermore, because Israel controls the entrance and exits to its land, air, and sea borders under a blockade, in addition to a land blockade with the border with Egypt, the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are technically cut off from the rest of the world.
Why is the Gaza Strip Under a Blockade: Supposed Justifications for Cutting off the Area from the Rest of the World
Israel has occupied several Palestinian territories since the Six-Day War of 1967. These include the Gaza Strip which was captured from the military governorship of Egypt. The Letters of Mutual Recognition of the Israel-Palestine Liberation Organization placed the area under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority beginning in 1993.
However, despite this agreement, there was still a significant Israeli presence in the area. A 2004 opinion of the International Court of Justice included the Gaza Strip as part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Israel voted for a disengagement plan in 2005. Both Israel and Egypt also imposed a temporary land, air, and sea blockade from 2005 to 2006.
A permanent Gaza Strip blockade was imposed by Israel and Egypt beginning in 2007 following the completion of the Israeli disengagement plan and when Hamas took control of the area during the Battle of Gaza and replaced the Palestinian nationalist and social democratic political party Fatah and other Palestinian Authority officials with its members.
Blockade By Israel
Israel has a far-reaching blockade that encompasses land, air, and sea borders. The Israeli government has reinforced further the existing Gaza-Israel barrier that was first erected in 1994 to prevent the infiltration of terrorists into its territories. The land blockade includes specified a no-go and high-risk zone, two layers of fences of barbed wires, an underground concrete barrier, concrete walls in several areas, and sensors.
Furthermore, Israel has also enforced a naval blockade of the Port of Gaza and the coastline through the Israeli Navy while also controlling the Gazan airspace through the Israeli Air Force. The Israel-imposed Gaza Strip blockade has restricted Palestinian inhabitants of the area from exiting or crossing to other Palestinian territories in the West Bank while also impeding the flow of basic goods and other important items such as medical supplies.
Israel has justified its imposition of a blockade. It argues that it is a needed measure to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons and other military equipment into Gaza. Furthermore, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared in 2010 that he opposed lifting the Israeli naval blockade to prevent bolstering Hamas. This declaration does not include land blockage. The Palestinian Authority has criticized the overall Israeli blockade since.
Blockade By Egypt
The Egypt-imposed Gaza Strip blockade centers on a land blockade. Remember that it borders the Gaza Strip to its northeast. There is a 12-kilometer-long border that separates the two territories and a buffer zone along this border which is about 14 kilometers long. The Rafah Border Crossing is the only crossing point between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Egypt reinforced the border with a steel wall in 2009 with the help from the United States.
Other measures have also been undertaken as part of the imposition of the blockade. These include placing thousands of troops and border guards on the border. The Egyptian government has also flooded hundreds of smuggling tunnels that were used to transport goods and weapons between Gaza and Egypt. It also limits the movement of people and goods across the Rafah Border Crossing through stringent checkpoints and quotas.
Egypt rationalizes its Gaza Strip blockade based on the perceived threat from Hamas. It has maintained that the organization has remained an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian Government has declared that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization. Removing the blockade would allow the smuggling of weapons inside Gaza while also enabling the free movement of terrorist actors between the two territories.
What is the Extent of the Gaza Strip Blockade: Important Pointers About the Ongoing Blockade By Israel and Egypt
Israel and Egypt have maintained that the Gaza Strip blockade is important to prevent Hamas from gaining significant traction in the region while also undermining the influence of the organization by confining its geographic scope. However, because of the strict implementation and the socioeconomic impacts, the two countries have been criticized.
The blockade has been described by the Palestinian Authority and other international observers as a form of collective punishment on a civilian population. This comes from the fact that the Gaza Strip has been cut off from the rest of the world. Palestinians from the area do not have the freedom to travel. Some have described the area as an open-air prison.
It is also important to highlight the fact that the Gaza Strip blockade has depressed the local economy. Israel controls the cross-border trade. It also controls access to potable water and electricity. The population in the Gaza Strip has been dependent on humanitarian aid and has suffered from shortages in basic goods such as food, building materials, and medicine.
The prevailing justification behind the blockade of the Gaza Strip boils down to the presence of Hamas and its control over the area. The Palestinian nationalist organization and militant fundamentalist movement has been regarded as a terrorist organization. Hamas has also figured in numerous instances of armed clashes with Israeli forces.
Furthermore, as part of the overall historical and current affairs between Israel and Palestine, the strict imposition of blockade by the Israeli government is also an inalienable aspect of the longstanding territorial dispute between the two countries. Easing the blockade requires solving some of the pressing issues haunting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.