Hamas ‘pay-to-leave’ restrictions unlawful, says rights group
A Palestinian rights organisation criticised Gaza’s Hamas-led authorities Thursday after they imposed new restrictions on travel for businessmen.
The new rules forbid businesspeople from leaving Gaza through the Erez crossing into Israel unless they have paid all their water, electricity and other bills, the interior ministry recently announced.
The Independent Commission for Human Rights, a Palestinian NGO, said the move was a threat to Gazans' freedom of movement, calling it "contrary to law."
"It is a serious encroachment on the right of movement and travel," a statement said.
Iyad al-Bozum, an interior ministry spokesman said the restrictions were necessary at a time when Gaza was suffering from huge shortages.
"It is not reasonable that businessmen and traders are well off but don't pay their bills," al-Bozum told AFP.
The embattled enclave has seen chronic electricity shortages in recent weeks, with many homes receiving just four hours of power per day.
Thousands of Gazans took to the streets last week to protest the crippling shortages, in one of the largest demonstrations in years.
Security forces dispersed the protesters violently, with shots fired in the air and a number of journalists beaten up.
A prominent comedian was also detained last week after he posted on social media a call for Hamas to give up power.
Around 70 percent of Gazans do not pay their electricity bills, according to the United Nations, either through inability to pay or lack of enforcement.