GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Gaza Strip merchants on Thursday morning demonstrated in front of the Erez crossing in protest against new Israeli restrictions that have severely limited the number allowed to cross into Israel on a daily basis, witnesses told Ma'an.
A protester at the crossing near Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip told Ma'an that although around 1,000 Gazan merchants have permits to travel to Israel, recently Israel has been allowing no more than a few to cross on a daily basis.
"We collectively decided to abstain from entering in protest against the reduction," the protester said, noting that many were not being allowed through even though they have valid permits.
The group refused to go through the crossing on Thursday morning in order to highlight the new Israeli restrictions on their movement.
According to B'Tselem, a limited number of Gazan merchants are permitted into Israel and the West Bank via Erez.
Merchants had previously used the Rafah crossing to exit and buy goods to sell in Gaza, but the crossing has been frequently closed since Egypt's military overthrew Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi.
Israel has maintained a economic blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2007, severely limiting imports and exports into the coastal enclave of around 1.7 million people.
Until 2007, around 85 percent of Gaza-produced merchandise was sold in Israel, but after the imposition of the siege this figure fell to none. Gaza-based industries have faced severe difficulties as a result, as they can neither export their goods nor import replacement parts for local factories.
Hundreds of Gaza businesspeople, however, have permits to travel into Israel to negotiate the import of goods from Israeli companies, as the Gaza Strip is an almost completely captive market for Israeli companies.