معبر بيت حانون
|Crosses||Israeli Gaza Strip barrier|
|Official name||Erez Crossing
|Maintained by||Israel Defense Forces|
The Erez Crossing (Hebrew: מעבר ארז, Arabic: معبر بيت حانون) is a border crossing on the Israel–Gaza barrier. It is located at the northern end of the Gaza Strip, on the border with Israel. The crossing is restricted to Palestinian residents under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority and to Egyptian nationals or international aid officials. Israel only permits Palestinian residents to travel via Erez in “exceptional humanitarian cases, exceptionally students and sportsmen traveling abroad, and also merchants.
The modern hangar-style building has an area of about 35,000 m2 (375,000 sq ft) and has a capacity of handling 45,000 people per day. It was completed in 2007 at a cost of $60 million.
The Erez Crossing is part of a complex that formerly included the Erez Industrial Park. The crossing connects Israel's Highway 4 with Gaza's Salah al-Din Road. Until the early 1970s, the rail line which connected Israel and Gaza also passed through Erez Crossing. Nowadays the railway in the Gaza Strip is dismantled and on the Israeli side, Israel Railways' active rail line ends about 4.5 km northeast of the crossing, though in the future it may be re-extended to the crossing to provide cargo service to the Gaza Strip.
Until September 2000, more than 26,000 Palestinian residents were able to travel to and through Israel daily (some 800,000 per month). After the start of the Second Intifada, this number dropped to less than 900 per day. In 2004, there were 43,440 crossings at Erez into Israel monthly on average. After Hamas' takeover of Gaza, the number dropped to 2,175 in 2008. After the Israel–Hamas cease fire in 2014, the number increased to 15,000 per month in 2015.
According to Gisha, there were 15,388 exits of Palestinians from Gaza via the Erez Crossing in January 2016 (the sole crossing for the population of about 1.9 million). Of them, 2896 were patients and their companions, 8183 were merchants, and 4309 were "others".
In April 2015, Al-Monitor wrote that Gazans are increasingly complaining about being blackmailed by Israeli security and intelligence services while seeking to recruit new Palestinian spies, by exploiting their need for work, money, medical treatment or travel. According to Col. Mohammed Abu Harbeed, information security specialist at the Gaza Interior Ministry, 70-80% of citizens passing through the Erez crossing were subject to recruitment attempts by Israel in 2014. He said they include merchants, patients, Gazans who are traveling for leisure purposes and students studying at foreign universities. A father of a seven-year-old boy who wanted to cross through Erez for chemotherapy in an Israeli hospital was blackmailed by an Israeli officer. The father told, the Israeli officer offered payment for a treatment in exchange for spying for Israel. After he had rejected the offer, he was denied an entry permit. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza revealed in September 2013 similar practices of arrest or pressure to let Gazans "choose between spying or returning to Gaza where they could die". A Gazan merchant traveling via the Erez crossing was offered financial support and significant tax benefits, in exchange for giving him information on the security headquarters in Gaza.
A woman who was sick and needed treatment was denied a travel request to the West Bank because she had a Jordanian passport, not a Palestinian one.
In April 2015, Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights reported an increasing number of Palestinian businessmen being detained while attempting to cross into Israel via the Erez checkpoint for routine trips. Israeli interrogators ask them questions about occupational backgrounds, social interactions and their affiliation with political parties. The human rights group found that intelligence operatives frequently attempt to force businessmen to disclose alleged information about armed factions within Gaza. They are humiliated and treated inhumanely and if they refuse to collaborate, they are stripped of their entry permits.
Also, Human Rights and Democracy Media Centre (SHAMS) reported in January 2016, that Israel uses the Erez crossing as a trap for Palestinian passengers. According to SHAMS, Israeli intelligence questions most of the Palestinian passengers with permits to use the crossing. The kidnapping of tens of passengers by Israel after questioning them was reported, some of them patients.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Erez crossing.|
- Exits of Palestinians to Israel and the West Bank via Erez Crossing. Gisha, January 2016
- Gaza Crossings’ Operations Status: Monthly Update, OCHA oPt, February 2016. Source here
- Rights group: Erez crossing a trap for Palestinians. The Middle East Monitor, 7 January 2016
- Between Gaza and Israel, a Border Crossing in Need of Travelers. JODI RUDOREN, New York Times, 4 September 2014
- Graphs Exits of Palestinians to Israel and the West Bank via Erez Crossing. Gisha, January 2016 (point the mouse on the date)
- Israel's spy recruitment puts Gazans in tough spot. Rasha Abou Jalal, Al-Monitor, 29 April 2015
- Will Israel’s Erez crossing supersede Rafah?. Asmaa al-Ghoul, Al-Monitor, 9 June 2015
- New Euro-Mid report documents Israeli harassment at Erez border crossing. Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, 12 April 2015