Middle East Monitor / January 4, 2022
The Israeli occupation forces have arrested 75 Palestinians in total last year at the Erez Crossing between Gaza and Israel, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Centre for Studies.
The Israeli army bans Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from entering the 300-meter area adjacent to its border with the enclave and shoots or arrests anyone who breaches it.
The Palestinian Prisoners Centre for Studies observed that the number of arrests last year was the same as the year 2020, during which 76 Palestinians were arrested, despite the enclave not being under direct occupation like the occupied West Bank.
Researcher, Riad al-Ashqar, Director of the Centre, stated that the Israeli occupation forces use the Erez Crossing as a means for collective punishment.
He added that the Israeli forces blackmail Palestinians to work with the occupation by providing information in exchange for allowing them to cross, especially patients and merchants.
Al-Ashqar noted the arrest of 35-year-old Walaa Muhammad Mustafa al-Rifai, from Maghazi in the Gaza Strip, while accompanying his wife, who is ill with cancer.
They had attempted to reach the Makassed Hospital in occupied Jerusalem, where his wife had previously obtained a medical referral for treatment there and had obtained Israeli permits that allow them to pass through the checkpoint to reach the hospital for treatment.
However, the Israeli forces arrested Walaa and transferred him to Ashkelon Prison for investigation.
Al-Ashqar also expressed concern for Israel’s heavy naval presence, restricting any traffic in and out of the enclave as well as the distance Gaza’s fishermen can travel to fish, severely affecting the livelihoods of some 4,000 fishermen and at least 1,500 more people involved in the fishing industry.
Palestinian fishermen often suffer from multiple Israeli violations, including attempting to sink Palestinian boats in the sea, firing at them, as well as narrowing the fishing area for long periods.
Gaza has been under a strict Israeli siege for 14 years and has been subject to repeated Israeli onslaughts during that period which have led to wide scale damage, high rates of unemployment and poverty.