Security Prisoner
Security Detainee
Administrative Detainee
Total
7.7.2004

The Israeli GOC Southern Command has suspended the directive which conditions visits by Arab residents and citizens of Israel to their spouses in Gaza upon their pledging to remain there for three months in which time they may not enter Israel

Press Release


Following a petition by HaMoked and Adalah:

The Israeli GOC Southern Command has suspended the directive which conditions visits by Arab residents and citizens of Israel to their spouses in Gaza upon their pledging to remain there for three months during which they may not enter Israel


* The HCJ ruled that the petitioners may reserve their claims and may return to the court should it be decided to renew the directive


Following a petition filed by Adalah and HaMoked, the GOC Southern Command has suspended the directive which conditions the issuance or extension of an entry permit to Gaza sought by an Israeli resident or citizen for the purpose of visiting the spouse and/or children living in the Gaza Strip, upon a pledge not to return to Israel and remain in Gaza for three consecutive months. At the hearing, GOC Southern Command also announced that henceforth, every permit request would be reviewed individually, and that actual necessity of the directive would be examined. Consequently, the High Court of Justice (HCJ) did not rule on the legality of the directive and pronounced that the petitioners may reserve their arguments and return to the court should the GOC Southern Command decide to renew the directive following its examination.

The GOC Southern Command also declared that permits to members of divided families would also be issued when closure is imposed on the Gaza Strip.

The directive was recently issued by the GOC Southern Command, with the stated intent of limiting the use of the Erez Checkpoint. Adalah and HaMoked appealed to the legal advisor of the Southern Command to demand the immediate cancellation of the directive, but received no response.

The petition was filed on behalf of four families of couples where one spouse is an Israeli resident or citizen and the other a resident of Gaza.

In the petition, Adalah attorney Orna Kohn and HaMoked attorney Yossi Wolfson argued that in effect, the directive mainly harms Arab Israeli residents and citizens, for they are the ones who are married to Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. Note that the directive does not apply to Israeli citizens and residents who want to enter the Gaza Strip to visit the settlements. Hence, the petition asserts, based upon the test of reality, the directive constitutes discrimination based on ethnic identity, amounting to a violation against human dignity.

As is known, some Arab Israeli residents and citizens are immediate relatives of residents of Gaza, among them spouses, parents and children. Beginning in 1994, the GOC Southern Command has prohibited the entry of Israelis into the Gaza Strip, except to go to the settlements or pursuant to special permits. The permits are given by the GOC Southern Command in exceptional cases based on criteria that have never been published, and have become narrower over the years.

There has been one constant exception to this strict policy: the entry into Gaza by Israelis who are married to Gaza residents has continued even in times of severe tension, except for a few short breaks; this through the implementation of the procedure referred to by the Southern Command staff as "the divided families' procedure". Indeed, members of divided families have encountered countless difficulties in realizing their entitlement to enter the Gaza Strip, nonetheless, the principle of allowing members of divided families to maintain a family life has been maintained over the years.

"Now", the petition states "the Respondent also impairs this small benefit given to persons whose only desire is to continue their life’s routine, which is difficult in any case, by placing before them the cruel choice between their family and their country, between separation and transfer."

The petition details the severe repercussions of this directive on the lives of divided families, among them the petitioners' families. Thus for instance, as a result of the directive, Dr. Ibrahim A'ashur, an Israeli citizen living in Beer Sheva, has not seen his wife and five children who live in the Gaza Strip, for over three months. Dr. A'ashur's application for a permit to enter Gaza to visit his family was not answered, and he was told that when it would become possible, the permit would be issued provided that he guarantee not to return to Israel for three consecutive months. Similarly, Ms. Zulfa Housaini, an Israeli citizen who has been forced to divide her time between the Gaza Strip and Haifa, her request to grant Israeli status to her husband, a resident of Gaza, having been rejected, was forced to sign a document stating that she would not return to Israel for three consecutive months, as a condition for the extension of the permit which allows her to remain with children and husband in Gaza.

The petition argues that the new directive flagrantly discriminates against Israeli citizens and residents who are married to Gaza residents, and/or are parents or children of Gaza residents, in all matters relating to their constitutional rights to family life, dignity, equality, and privacy, as well as their constitutional right to enter Israel. The petitioners assert that the purpose of the directive is inappropriate, sweeping and unbalanced. The petition further argues that "in the given circumstances, the resultant harm is extremely grave. It severs families, separates parents from their minor children, and one spouse from another. It forces these families to make cruel, inhuman choices."
mail@hamoked.org.il (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

red-id | רד אינטראקטיב