The Erez/Beit Hanoun crossing to Gaza is becoming a trap by the Israeli occupation to imprison Palestinians from Gaza, said Riyad Al-Ashqar of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Center for Studies, noting that arrests at the crossing are escalating once again.

In the beginning of 2015, 19 merchants seeking to trade and do business through the crossing were arrested; while the arrests then declined from May to July, said Ashqar, in August, 6 merchants, 2 international organization staff members, 2 patients traveling for treatment and one teacher were arrested at the crossing. With the ongoing siege on Gaza and the closure of Rafah crossing the vast majority of the time, Palestinians in Gaza are forced to seek treatment and trade through this crossing.

In order to pass through the crossing, Palestinians from Gaza must receive pre-approved permits from the Israeli occupation forces. In all of these cases, people traveled through the crossing with permits, only to be arrested after crossing and taken to interrogation and imprisonment.

Rabie Mustafa Almalakha works for Mercy Corps International; he was arrested without charge. Alaa Abdelkader Mohammed Bashir, 28, from Deir al-Balah, works in the United Nations Development Program. Travelling with colleagues to Ramallah for a UN training program, he was taken, interrogated for hours and then returned to Gaza without being allowed to pass.

Kamal Zaqout, 46, from Sheikh Radwan, had permits to travel for business (he sells electrical products) and was arrested after passing through the crossing. Tamer Boraim, 36, from Bani Suhaila east of Khan Younis; Sami Tabash, 52; Wael Odeh; Ziad Qatanana, all from Shujaiya neighborhood, were also arrested after receiving permits to travel for business, as was Muhammad Lutfi Shalfouh.

Ibrahim Adel Shaer, 20, a Palestinian throat cancer patient from Rafah in the Gaza Strip, was arrested at the crossing where he had received a permit to travel to Al-Khalil in the West Bank for further treatment. However, he was arrested by Israeli occupation, his father – who accompanied him – sent back to Gaza, while he was imprisoned in Asqelan prison. Fawzi Jaoudat Abdel-Al, 22, was similarly arrested as he traveled for medical treatment to occupied Jerusalem.

Teacher Ihab Abu Nahala, 27, from Gaza City, was traveling to Qatar where he had a contract to work as a teacher. He was arrested and accused of participation in the Palestinian resistance.

Ashqar said that the occupation forces are using the Beit Hanoun/Erez crossing as a trap to capture those it has declared “wanted,” urging international action and advocacy against these arrests but also to end the siege on Gaza and open Rafah crossing so that Palestinians from Gaza will be freed from this trap