Q&A: Israel’s blockade of Gaza

When did Israel impose the blockade?

Israel hermetically sealed Gaza in June 2007, when Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic group, violently seized the enclave from the rival secular Fatah movement of Mahmoud Abbas, the western-backed Palestinian president. Israel’s aim was to weaken Hamas, which it – along with the US and European Union – considers a terrorist organisation. It also wanted to end rocket attacks from Gaza on southern Israeli communities and secure the return of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Gaza militants a year earlier. Israel, which controls all of Gaza’s border crossings except for Rafah, which is managed by Egypt, has since allowed the entry of what it terms as basic humanitarian supplies while forbidding any Gazans except for patients in need of medical care, a few businesspeople and some university students from leaving or entering the strip. Egypt has also kept its crossing mostly shut to people or goods.

So what’s not allowed into Gaza?

Israel keeps secret its guidelines on how it differentiates between humanitarian necessities for Gaza’s 1.5m residents and non-essential luxuries, citing security reasons. Its choices, however, are often baffling. Food products prohibited from entering include jam, chocolate, biscuits, potato chips, fresh meat, coriander and industrial margarine, according to human rights groups. Other banned goods include musical instruments, pens, notebooks, toys, cars, fridges and computers, as well as building materials like cement, iron, gravel, marble and some wood. Additionally, Israel only allows in just over half the weekly industrial fuel needs for Gaza’s only power plant, as well as less than half of the region’s necessary monthly gas supply, according to activists.

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