Anticipating my report: the crossing Erez between Gaza and Israel is entirely different as assumed.
The building at the north-eastern point of Gaza has been finished 2007. The total area measures 35000 m2 and is 100% on Israeli land. The actual border runs some meter behind the building and is marked with a wall.
The crossing is open daily and precisely regulated when it may be used for specific persons. At fixed times from Gaza into Israel and vice versa and for entries into Israel because of medical reasons. For medical emergencies entry into Israel is provided as fast as possible. Staff do not belong to the IDF, police or border police.
Currently the crossing may be used by Arabs from Gaza, Yehuda and Shomron and from Egypt. Passage is by walking only, exceptions are ambulances. Foreign politicians, journalists and members of NGO require a permit from the Israeli government for entry into Gaza.
The control point Erez is open daily, including on Yom Kippur. During the war 2014 the IDF constructed a field hospital along the crossing for fast and competent treatment of casualties. Unfortunately Hamas hindered casualties to make use of it. In meantime the field hospital has been removed.
The maximum capacity for managing crossings are 45‘000 persons per day. This number has never been reached so far. On the contrary, after operation „ Protective edge“ the number of commuters decreased to about 400 per day.
For travelers from Gaza the procedure begins at the control point called „Chamsa Chamsa“ (Why this name has been chosen is left to the individual fantasy!) There documents only are checked before entering into the passage called „tunnel“.
The entry into the terminal Erez is already on Israeli territory. The „terminal building“ looks like one in an international airport. In this facility three inspections are carried out, while the luggage is checked on a conveyor belt and is handed over outside of the terminal.
- Control: screening of the documents
- Control: standard metal detector
- Control: bodyscanner
The top floor, protected by one-way windows is the actual control room. The employees are sitting in front of high resolution monitors where even tiniest objects can bee detected. The atmosphere is tense from concentration and speaking is banned. It was clear, that photographing was prohibited. The scene was ghastly because it was very quiet. In the controlled area where no employees, only one man appeared quickly asking a traveler to repeat a body scan.
If the luggage and the traveler are ok’ed, the procedure takes just a few minutes.
As soon as there is one single irregularity, maximum possible security measures are initiated: The traveler is singled out and the building is evacuated into both directions. It happened too often that terrorists were carrying explosives. Questioning does not prevent an attack, immediate action is required to prevent lives. Every second counts. In this area of the transit hall is a special detonation room for controlled explosions.
In order to increase the security within the terminal and for optimizing in case of attacks from Gaza, about 200 cameras are installed and many rooms are protected and secured.
When the traveler receives his luggage he may pass thru passport and visa control, separating him from Israel is now just a turns pile.
The total procedure takes maximum about 20 minutes, usually less.
Beside the Erez crossing the crossing Kerem Shalom for goods in the south, near the border with Egypt is open. Even when under heavy fire from Gaza, food and many other goods have been transported from Israel into Gaza. The number of trucks and amount of goods, and the number of commuters may be checked easily
The crossing in Rafah to Egypt is usually closed. Between Israel and Egypt, who both have a common enemy, Hamas, there is an intensive co-operation regarding security.
After operation „protective edge“ the terminal was heavily damaged, but Hamas refused to pay the damage. The chief of the terminal made it clear: „you, Hamas, pay for your damage or the border crossing will be closed“. After some days, while the crossing was closed, Hamas paid.
Three peculiarities must be mentioned:
Weekly about 120 students from Gaza are transported with buses thru Israel to the Allenby Bridge and from there to Aman for their studies.
About 350 – 400 Muslim men above 50 years old, travel every Friday morning with busses or taxis to Jerusalem to the Temple Mount for prayers and return the same day.
As mentioned before, President Dr. Mahmud Abbas will never return to Gaza. His villa at the beach has been taken over by Hamas and he is under constant threat to be murdered since he is considered to be a traitor.
Just a few kilometers from Gaza is the small city of Sderot. The still young city is since the terror with rockets within the range of deadly and destructive weapons. When the older houses were built there was no need and no law for shelters integrated in the house or flat. Nothing was foreseen, even not in larger buildings. Last year the municipality reacted and now every house has integrated safety rooms on every floor.
Because of the proximity to Gaza the warning time of a rocket attack his maximum 15 seconds. Last summer not every citizen of Sderot managed to reach shelter in time, and inhabitants were killed. The municipality reacted and built shelters at every bus station and children playground.
© esther scheiner, israel