The Israeli military has instituted a travel ban on food, toiletries and most electronic devices for Palestinians exiting the Gaza Strip.
The army sent the new directive to Gisha, an Israeli NGO that promotes freedom of movement for Palestinians, a day before it went into effect earlier this month.
The directive was not, however, published in the “Status of Closure Authorisations,” a document meant to inform Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank about restrictions on movement.
Even Palestinians traveling abroad, who must take a bus directly from the Gaza border — through Israel — to Jordan, are subject to the new restrictions.
Palestinians in Gaza are no longer allowed to bring their laptops, toiletries or hard-sided luggage when exiting Gaza through the only regularly active passenger border terminal, Israel’s Erez crossing.
Even Palestinians traveling to conferences, for business or for studies abroad are not allowed to bring laptop computers.
“Every Tuesday there is an organised ride from Erez Crossing for those who want to travel abroad, which takes them directly to Allenby Bridge so that they can go on to Jordan. Most of [the passengers] are students, especially at this time of the year,” said Gisha’s Intake Coordinator Shadi Butthish.
He added: “These are people who are traveling to get graduate degrees because Israeli policy does not allow Palestinian undergraduate students to travel.”
“Naturally, they would need to take laptops and tablets with them on their travels,” Butthish continued. “Even USBs will need to remain behind in the Strip. People who are flying abroad for a few years won’t be able to bring their electric shavers.”
Non-Palestinians are exempt from the new restrictions, as long as they declare any electronic devices included in their luggage.
Israel has held Gaza under a strict blockade since 2007, after Hamas won an election in the Strip and took over the enclave.
Since then, it has restricted basic goods from entering Gaza, and has significantly limited the number of people who can enter and exit the Strip — effectively cutting it off from the rest of the world.
After the 2014 Gaza war, Israel pledged to join international efforts to rehabilitate Gaza, saying it would ease the passage of goods and people to and from the Strip, but it did nothing more than increasing restrictions and hardening life.