Despite widespread calls for increased humanitarian aid and economic activity, the approximately 1.8 million people living in the Gaza Strip have been further isolated from the outside world following Israel's closure Sunday, and Egypt's closure last week, of border crossings into the Palestinian territory.
The Israeli Defense Ministry stated Sunday it has closed its Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings to Gaza in response to a single rocket fire from Gaza, which resulted in no injuries, deaths, or damages. Gisha, a legal center that advocates for Palestinian freedom of movement, reported Monday that both passages remained closed for a second day, save for extremely limited transport of fuel in and medical patients.
The U.S.-backed Egyptian government last week shut the Rafah crossing into Gaza and commenced destroying Egyptian nearby homes to create a so-called "buffer zone" along the border.
Palestinian rights campaigners warn that the closures are especially dangerous as traumatized and displaced Gaza residents struggle to rebuild from Israel’s recent seven-week military assault in which 2,000 Palestinians—at least 75 percent of them civilians—were killed.
"As winter approaches, and in the wake of the recent military operation, civilians in Gaza are increasingly vulnerable. Israel, like dozens of donor countries, has recognized the obligation to allow Gaza’s urgent reconstruction," the statement from Gisha continued. "Unfortunately, this latest act of closure as a response to rocket or mortar fire can be interpreted as collective punishment and represents a disturbing and dangerous regression to a policy that has harmed hundreds of thousands of civilians and also proven ineffective."
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) reports that 18 of the school building they administer in the Gaza Strip are currently serving approximately 32,419 internally displaced Palestinians. "The critical immediate priority in Gaza remains the reconstruction of people’s homes," writes the agency.
Meanwhile, Defence for Children International-Palestine reports that Gaza residents are scrambling to assemble classrooms following the mid-September start to the school year. At least 26 schools were destroyed in the offensive, 228 were damaged, and another 31 schools continue to serve as shelters for displaced people.
"I think it's shameful that Israel continues to its now seven-year siege on the people of Gaza, following the deadly war and all the destruction created through the war—of houses, factories, and schools," Ramah Kudaimi of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation told Common Dreams. "This is in an additional amount of suffering placed on people in Gaza."
"This means they are not able to get materials to rebuild homes, and they are having to deal with shortages in food, medicine, electricity, and clean water," Kudaimi continued. "In the past seven years, Israel has conducted a massive bombing campaign against Gaza at least three times. People are not being given the opportunity to rebuild their lives."