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Frozen rights: an unacceptable practice prevents Israelis spouses of Gaza residents from entering Gaza, despite the fact that they have a signed military permit to do so

The freeze on the entry to the Gaza Strip of Israeli residents or citizens who are married to Gaza residents – initiated in July 2015 – is one more aspect of Israel's strategy to weaken the ties between Palestinians living in Israel and their relatives in Gaza. Since the freeze started, very few entry permits have been issued by the military to Israelis seeking to visit their spouses in Gaza. Yet, recently – on top of the ongoing violation of the basic rights of such Palestinian couples, known as “divided families” – a new practice has now been adopted which prevents those who have managed to obtain such a permit from acting on it and entering Gaza for a periodic stay with their spouse there.

Following complaints from Palestinians from Israel who were not allowed to cross to Gaza through Erez although they had received entry permits under the “divided families procedure”, HaMoked contacted the Israelis’ desk at the Gaza District Coordination Office (DCO); the latter responded that a security directive had been issued on November 2, 2015, prohibiting entry of Israelis to Gaza. In a later response, dated November 12, 2015, to another letter by HaMoked, the military claimed that the entry of Israelis to Gaza posed an added security threat, and this had prompted the July 2015 directive on “limiting the exit of Israelis to the Gaza Strip”. Still, the military claimed that “the directive does not prohibit in a sweeping manner the exit of Israelis to the Gaza Strip, but limits the cases in which it is possible to issue an exit permit, and this, only in individual cases and in exceptional, unique and urgent circumstances”.

On November 18, 2015, HaMoked contacted the State Attorney’s Office to demand the renewal of the stay permits arrangement under “the divided families procedure”, and the immediate resumption of entry to Gaza by such spouses and their children – given that their entry had already approved. HaMoked asserted that banning Israeli women who are married to Gaza residents from entering Gaza was an improper practice, which caused much anguish to those who had gone through the lengthy period of security checks and waiting for a response, in eager anticipation of meeting with their spouses, who then suddenly discovered they must turn back at Erez Crossing because their permit was worthless. Despite HaMoked’s reminders to the military on this matter, no pertinent response arrived. HaMoked also stressed that the new practice effectively meant the rechecking of applicants whose entry to Gaza had already been approved – a check conducted upon their arrival at Erez, which, as a rule, “is contrary to the routine reality existing for years, whereby Israelis enter the Gaza Strip and leave there according to the ‘divided families procedure’”.

HaMoked recalls yet again that in the case of "divided" families, where one spouse is a Gaza resident and the other an Israeli resident or citizen, the freeze of entry to Gaza means the forceful separation between the spouses and between children and their parents; this, due to Government Resolution 3598 expanding the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, which leaves such families no option to realize their right to family life other than residing in Gaza or visiting there. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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