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14.9.2020

Following HaMoked petition to end the military’s routine and lengthy delays in opening Magen Dan agricultural gate in the Separation Wall: the authority to operate the gate will be transferred to the military police and the opening hours expanded

Palestinian farmers whose agricultural lands in the West Bank are trapped between the Separation Wall and the Green Line – areas Israel calls the Seam Zone – can only access their plots if they succeed in obtaining a permit from the military. This as part of Israel’s draconian permit regime implemented by the military in the Seam Zone – a regime which has recently deteriorated even further to become de facto dispossession.

Several dozen gates have been installed along the Separation Wall to connect between the separated parts of the West Bank. But each permit allows passage through just one or two gates, closest to the permit holder’s home. The agricultural gates have very limited opening hours; most are not even open every day.

On December 5, 2019, HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) on behalf of farmers from the communities of a-Zawiya and Mas’ha, to demand the military desist from its routine and lengthy delays in opening the “Magen Dan” agricultural gate. In the petition, HaMoked explained that for over two years, routinely, the military had not opened Magen Dan gate on time, leaving the farmers to wait for long periods until the soldiers arrive to unlock the gate. These delays damage the farmers’ agricultural work and force them to wait at the gate for the soldiers – from half-an-hour up to five hours – without any shelter from the elements. In the petition, HaMoked argued that there was no justification for these habitual delays and that they were causing significant damage to the daily routine of the local farmers, who sought to realize their basic right to access their plots of land. HaMoked also noted that this state of affairs ran contrary to Israeli case law and to the state’s undertaking before the HCJ “to enable, to the maximum extent possible, an easy entry of the inhabitants to the seam zone areas”.

On September 10, 2020, the state notified the court about the implementation of the military’s decision of February 2020 to transfer to the military police the responsibility for opening the gate, in the hope that this would end the problem of delays. It was further announced that the gate’s opening hours would be slightly extended – instead of 15 minutes three times a day, the gate would now be opened for half-an-hour in the morning, a full hour at midday and twenty minutes in the afternoon. Additionally, the state announced the gate would be opened also on Friday and Saturday. However, the state added that it intended to consider “the need to maintain the gate’s current status, as an agricultural gate open year-round, or convert it into a seasonal gate”, open just a few times a year.

HaMoked responded on September 13, 2020, saying that contrary to the state’s announcement, the military had that told HaMoked that the gate’s opening times would be reduced to just twice a day; this would exacerbate the farmers’ situation, as it would deny them the ability to go home during the day, to eat there or shelter from the rain. HaMoked also described a repeat of an incident during which the military sweepingly confiscated the permits of farmers at the gate, as an illegal punitive measure prompted by a recent updating notice HaMoked submitted to the court regarding the gate’s operation.

In the judgment, issued later that day, the court recorded the state’s undertaking regarding the transfer of responsibility and the extension of opening times, to 7 days a week and slightly longer opening periods. The court also noted that HaMoked reserves the right to turn to the court again if the need arises on this matter.
mail@hamoked.org.il (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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