How Israel controls movement of men and material in and out of Gaza | Data

The number of exit permits provided to travel to Israel or through it reduced significantly in the 2000s and remained low in the 2010s

November 02, 2023 09:30 am | Updated 04:03 pm IST

A Palestinian man walks past shuttered shops during a general strike in Nablus in the occupied West Bank, on October 18, 2023, a day after a rocket hit a Gaza hospital killing hundreds.

A Palestinian man walks past shuttered shops during a general strike in Nablus in the occupied West Bank, on October 18, 2023, a day after a rocket hit a Gaza hospital killing hundreds. | Photo Credit: AFP

Two Data Points published last week explored the impoverished nature of the Palestinian territories, especially Gaza, and how Israel controls employment, trade, water and electricity in both Gaza and the West Bank. This third and concluding part of the series on the Israel-Hamas conflict also explores how Israel controls the economy of the Palestinian territories, but focuses only on Israel’s control of exits and entry points, which determines trade and movement of men for employment and other needs.

With entries and exits by air and sea banned, only three crossings — two controlled by Israel and one by Egypt — are available for movement in and out of Gaza. In 2022, 4.24 lakh people were allowed to exit from Gaza to Israel or through Israel to the West Bank. The total estimated population of Gaza in mid-2022 was 20 lakh. In other words, one in five people were allowed to exit once in 2022. The more than 4 lakh exit permits issued in 2022 is the highest in about two decades; the previous high of 5.21 lakh was recorded in 2004. These numbers pale in comparison to the 60 lakh exits recorded in 2000.

Chart 1 | The chart shows the exits of people from Gaza to or through Israel (M=million, k=1,000).

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As can be seen in Chart 1, the exit of people permitted to Israel or through it took a dive in the 2000s and remained low in the 2010s due to escalation of hostility at various points in time. In 2008, only 0.26 lakh permits were issued, the lowest ever. In 2006, after Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections and started controlling Gaza, Israel stopped most workers from entering the country. This is significant because Gaza lacks industries and most workers found employment in Israel or its settlements. Due to lack of permits, Gaza’s labour force participation rate dwindled in the following years reaching 35% in 2021, among the lowest in the world, as recorded in the Data Point last Monday. Of those who are looking for jobs in Gaza, half are unemployed. These are direct consequences of the decline in exit permits.

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Not just workers, but patients from Gaza who need to cross Israel to access services in the West Bank get delayed for their appointments. In 2022, only two out of every three applications submitted for referral patients to exit Gaza were approved by the time of appointment. Given that Gaza has only 13 hospital beds per 10,000 population, which is among the lowest in the world, this restriction assumes more significance.

Chart 2 | The chart shows incoming goods to Gaza in terms of truckloads from Israel (k=1,000).

The Data Point published last Wednesday showed that in 2021, half the exports from Palestinian territories went to Israel and over 80% of its imports came from Israel. Therefore, restriction of goods movement can impair the Palestinian economy. Data show that in 2022, over 74,000 truckloads of goods were allowed into Gaza by Israel, the lowest since 2014. Chart 2 shows that goods to Gaza from Israel reduced to the lowest levels immediately after the Israeli blockade in 2007. Goods which Israel may consider as having a military use are denied entry.

Gaza’s import dependency on Israel for petrol, diesel, and cooking gas was high before 2018. With Israel scaling down fuel and gas exports to Gaza post-2018, Egypt has taken its spot.

Chart 3 | The chart shows petrol and diesel (in litres) which came into Gaza from Israel and Egypt.

There is severe restrictions on exports as well. In 2009, this was as low as 24 truckloads compared to 5,834 in 2022. While the number of truckloads allowed out of Gaza has improved in the last few years, the latest conflict could affect this.

Chart 4 | The chart shows outgoing goods from Gaza to or through Israel.

Source: “Movement in and out of Gaza in 2022” report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

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