Gaza enters 10th year of Israeli-led blockade
The start of 2016 sees the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip entering the 10th year of the Israeli-led and internationally-backed blockade of the territory, which is exacerbated by Egyptian support. The blockade started in the wake of the 2006 Palestinian elections, which the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, won with an overwhelming majority. Local and international monitoring organizations described the Palestinian poll as one of the most transparent ever recorded. In Palestine, though, it is remembered with sadness as the election marked the internal political split and the start of the siege of Gaza.
The Israeli authorities closed all crossings into the territory, keeping only the Erez Crossing open for occasional pedestrian traffic (and it has been used to entrap people trying to cross), and Kerem Shalom for a few classified and highly-regulated goods. Egypt has been keeping the Rafah Crossing closed for most of the time. In 2015, the crossing was only open for 21 days; just 10,000 Palestinians were allowed through, among them pilgrims, patients and students.
The Israeli authorities imposed severe restrictions on patients and their companions travelling through Erez. Human rights groups have recorded the arrest of several patients or their companions while using the crossing into Israel. Attempts are made by the Israelis to blackmail people into becoming informers in exchange for being allowed to cross.