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Intervention by HaMoked prevented the deportation to the Gaza Strip of two Palestinians arrested in the West Bank. The authorities intended to deport the two men solely because their registered address is in the Gaza Strip: HaMoked opposes Israel’s abuse of the bureaucratic matter such as one's registered address for the purpose of deporting a person from their home. HaMoked cautions that this is an attempt to promote the policy of separation between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, contrary to international agreements and to the rulings of the Supreme Court

In the early hours of the morning of 27 May 2008, Israeli security forces – military and General Security Services (GSS, later known as ISA) – entered a residential neighborhood in the city of Qalqilya. The forces entered homes, forced the occupants out, and searched the empty apartments. At the end of the operation the forces held all the men outside and took their identity cards. All those who were born in the Gaza Strip or whose registered address was in that area were detained. Later, those men whose place of residence in the Population Registry was in the West Bank were released. Just two men remained in detention, their “crime” being that their official address is in the Gaza Strip, but they preferred to live in the West Bank. 

The two detainees have lived in the West Bank for many years. One, aged 33, moved from the Gaza Strip to Qalqilya as a child after his father died. He attended school in the West Bank, bought a home, married, and established a family. The other, aged 34, moved from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank when the “Safe Passage,” was open, before the outbreak of the second intifada. He has also married and established a family, and has lived in Qalqilya for approximately eight years. 

After learning that the two men had been arrested and that the authorities intended to deport them for being “illegal aliens in the West Bank,” HaMoked contacted the military and demanded that it halt the deportation proceeding. The military replied that if it received documents proving that the detainees effectively live in the West Bank, it would consider releasing them to their homes rather than deporting them to the Gaza Strip. HaMoked forwarded the necessary documents, while emphasizing its position: that all Palestinians have the right to live wherever they choose in the Occupied Territories, regardless of their place of birth or their address as registered in the Population Registry. Following HaMoked’s intervention, the detainees were eventually released to their homes in the West Bank. However, a notification from the military stated that the released detainees must “regulate their presence in the West Bank.” The military notification clarified that submission of an application to change the address does not constitute regulation of status, given its position that “the current policy does not permit residents of the Gaza Strip to settle in the Judea and Samaria Area.” Although it does not state so explicitly, the military’s notification effectively demanded that the two men obtain “permits to be present in the West Bank.” HaMoked is opposed to this demand. It goes without saying that the military will be more than happy if the released detainees choose to move to the Gaza Strip with their families. This will “rid” Israel of a few more Palestinians from the West Bank and transfer them to the prison that lies beyond Erez Crossing – the Gaza Strip. 

Until October 2007, the military and the State Prosecutor’s Office had never required Palestinians to hold special permits in order to be present in the West Bank. Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who wished to travel to the West Bank merely required an entry permit to Israel in order to travel to the West Bank. Since October, the military has repeatedly demanded that residents hold a permit to be present in the West Bank, and that presence in the area is conditioned on these permits. HaMoked’s position is that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are two parts of a single entity – the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Any resident may visit, reside, and settle in these areas as they choose, without intervention by Israel. 

It is worth noting here that in accordance with the Interim Accord, the Palestinian Authority is empowered to update the registered addresses of its residents in the Palestinian Population Registry. Israel, which holds a copy of the Palestinian Registry, is required to update addresses retroactively in accordance with notifications from the PA. Since the outbreak of the second intifada, however, Israel has ceased updating changes of address from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. The latest developments – the issuing of permits to be present in the West Bank, and the military operations to locate and deport Palestinians on the basis of their registered address – constitute a further step in Israel’s policy of separating the two areas. 

The incident described above is reminiscent of the behavior of dictatorial regimes. The military commander issued a provision requiring all Palestinians whose registered address is not in the West Bank to obtain a “permit to be present” in order to live in the West Bank. The provision was not published and no-one had any possibility of being aware of its existence or making the necessary arrangements. Then the military forces come to residents’ homes during the hours of darkness to enforce the provision. The provision itself is arbitrary, lacks any legal foundation, is contrary to the Oslo Accords, and is intended solely to implement Israel’s policy of separating the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In accordance with international law, the military commander has no authority to make decisions of this type; his function is to maintain security and order in the area for which he is responsible. 

To view the reply of the Legal Advisor for the West Bank dated 29 May 2008 (Hebrew) (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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