Amidst Israel’s continued policy of closure and isolation of the Gaza Strip, the Israeli authorities pursue arrest and coercion at Erez Crossing in attempts to extract information from Palestinians who need to move in and out of the Gaza Strip through crossings it controls. Recently, the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) arrested two Palestinian merchants within one week.
According to Al Mezan Center for Human Rights’ monitoring, at approximately 10 am on Tuesday, 16 February 2016, IOF arrested Mohammed Ahmed Al Bashiti, 35, a merchant of agricultural materials and resident of Khan Younis, after being summoned for an interview at Erez crossing by the Israeli security. In his statement to Al Mezan, Al Bashiti’s brother stated that at approximately 9 am on Tuesday, 16 February 2016, his brother Mohammed went to the crossing as scheduled for an interview by the Israeli security authorities, who asked for the interview. He did come back. Al Bashiti’s family received a phone call from the Palestinian authorities informing them that Mohammed had been arrested and being detained in Ashkelon prison.
At approximately 2 pm on Thursday, 18 February 2016, Israeli authorities arrested Fawaz Sa’eed Qandeel, 39, also merchant, while he was on his way to Israel on business for the Ahmed Qandel Company for General Trade. His family received a phone call from the Palestinian authorities informing them that the IOF had arrested Fawaz, who is a resident of Al Sheja’iya neighborhood in east Gaza City.
The IOF continues the long-standing practice of exploiting Palestinians' need for movement via crossings it controls; especially Erez crossing, to arrest and coerce Palestinians to provide information from them as they try to exit Gaza. According to Al Mezan’s database, in 2015 alone the IOF arrested 44 Palestinians in 38 incidents. Of them, 30 were merchants and four were patients. In 2016, the IOF has arrested four people, including Al Bashiti, and Qandeel.
Al Mezan strongly condemns the Israeli continuous siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, which amounts to numerous violations of the rights of Palestinians in Gaza, notably the right to freedom of movement.
Al Mezan calls on the international community to intervene and oblige Israel to respect its international legal obligations, including the prohibition of arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment. The closure of Gaza, as a mechanism that violates both human rights law and international humanitarian law, must be lifted without delay.