Israel is tightening its collective punishment of the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s defense ministry announced on Monday it will be closing the Kerem Shalom checkpoint, the only place Israel allows goods in and out of Gaza, for all but “vital humanitarian aid” starting Tuesday.
On Thursday, Israel said it would also halt shipments of fuel.
Israel announced earlier in the week that it would be reducing the fishing zone from 15 to eight nautical miles off of Gaza’s coast.
Israel has never allowed Palestinians access beyond 15 nautical miles, despite the 20-mile zone stipulated under the Oslo accords signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the 1990s.
The ministry said its decision was in response to “recurring acts of terrorism.”
This comes after Palestinians in Gaza reportedly launched balloons carrying flammable materials towards southern Israel in recent weeks, causing fires.
No injuries were reported as a result of these balloons.
Deputy Prime Minister Benny Gantz, who also heads the defense ministry, echoed the ministry’s statement.
“Hamas can continue to inflate incendiary balloons and explosive balloons into the State of Israel, we are not ready to accept that and we closed the Kerem Shalom crossing as a result,” he tweeted.
Gantz blames Hamas for the launching of balloons, but suspending the delivery of fuel and the majority of imports and exports and restricting the permitted fishing zone targets Gaza’s economy and its two million inhabitants, half of them children.
This constitutes collective punishment – a violation of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and thus a war crime.
The Israeli rights group Gisha condemned Israel’s “acts of blatant collective punishment, which have absolutely no connection to concrete security needs.”
Some 350 trucks were slated to be blocked for entrance on Tuesday, according to the Palestinian Coordination Committee for the Entry of Goods.
They were carrying “items such as cement, wood, steel beams, gravel, tiles, glass and aluminum for the construction and industrial sectors in the Strip,” Gisha reported.
Israel’s fuel ban will lead to severe electricity shortages in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinians in Gaza already operate on just 10 hours of electricity per day. Those hours are expected to drop to eight to four hours of electricity per day, the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights warned.
At a time of scorching summer heat, this is a direct assault on people’s well-being, said PCHR.
“This threatens to turn the lives of the two million residents of the Gaza Strip in their homes and workplaces into hell, and prevents them from practicing their lives normally in light of the high temperatures and humidity levels in the Gaza Strip,” PCHR said.
The Salah al-Din gate, through which Egypt allows limited goods to enter Gaza, is operating as per usual.
Earlier this week, the Israeli military also shelled observation posts controlled by Hamas, the resistance organization running the interior of the besieged Gaza Strip.
Israeli media speculated that incendiary balloons from Gaza could be a sign of frustration that Qatar is slated to halt its aid to Gaza in September.
Since 2018, Qatar has poured millions of dollars into the Gaza Strip to help impoverished families and pay for the enclave’s power plant.
Qatar was supposed to halt its aid to Gaza in March, but pledged $150 million for an additional six months in light of the pandemic.
Mossad chief Yossi Cohen is reportedly negotiating with Qatar to extend its aid shipments for an additional six months.
While this aid may help in the short term, it also relieves Israel of its responsibility as the occupying power and keeps Palestinians in Gaza on a survival drip-feed allowing Israel to make no meaningful change in its blockade of the territory.
Meanwhile, Israeli occupation forces have ramped up demolitions of Palestinian structures in the occupied West Bank.
So far this month, Israel has demolished nearly 40 structures and forcibly displaced more than 100 Palestinians, according to the United Nations monitoring group OCHA.
Most demolitions took place in occupied East Jerusalem and near the occupied West Bank city of Hebron.
Since the beginning of the year, Israel has demolished more than 400 Palestinian structures and displaced 500 people.