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14.2.2021

HaMoked petitions the HCJ: the military must allow an 18-year-old Israeli girl one last visit to her father in Gaza, before barring her from regular visits

Residents and citizens of Israel who have one parent who is a resident of the Gaza Strip (usually the father), may only visit him there in the company of the Israeli parent (usually the mother), and only until they turn 18. Once they turn 18, Israel prevents the children of these “divided families” from visiting their fathers in Gaza; they can only get a permit in special humanitarian circumstances, which commonly means the father’s severe illness or death. The fathers themselves cannot live in Israel with their spouses due to the restrictions of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law and the sweeping prohibition on family unification procedures with Gazans. Thus, as a matter of routine, Israel severely infringes the basic right to family life of many young Israelis, who must separate from their father just as they reach adulthood.

Until they turn 18, the children in such families enter Gaza with their mother after receiving a permit from the military to enter Gaza, valid for six months. However, from recent cases HaMoked has handled, it appears that the military is acting in a stingy manner and pursuing a restrictive policy when dealing with requests of a child approaching majority who wishes to have one last visit with the parent in Gaza.

Thus, in one such case, HaMoked had to petition the High Court of Justice (HCJ) to demand the military allow an 18-year-old woman from the Negev (southern Israel) to visit her father in Gaza one last time. The visit request was filed by the mother 25 days prior to the daughter’s 18th birthday and was rejected two days after that date, on the grounds that she “does not meet the stipulated [age] criterion and cannot enter the Gaza Strip before she turns 18”. HaMoked clarified in its petition, filed February 11, 2021, that the petitioner’s mother had filed the request to allow her and her underage children to visit the father of the family in Gaza only in early December 2020, ahead of the daughter’s birthday, due to the combined circumstances of the Coronavirus pandemic and that fact the she had given birth to a baby girl earlier that same year.

In the petition, HaMoked also demanded that the military be required to examine such requests according to the child’s age on the request’s filing date, and not on the response date or the time the child can actually enter Gaza. HaMoked also demanded such requests be handled promptly, and not as happened in this case, where the response came after almost a month had passed and two days after the petitioner’s birthday. HaMoked clarified that such a request must not be rejected simply because the child would only be able to visit Gaza after turning 18, and added that the permitted period of the visit should not be shortened simply to prevent such a child from staying in Gaza after reaching the age of majority. HaMoked wrote in conclusion, “justice and law both demand the request be approved… otherwise, the [petitioner] and her father would be condemned not to meet each other in the foreseeable future, if at all”.

The petition is still pending. Beyond the individual case, the policy preventing young adults from seeing their father (perhaps permanently) is a severe violation of the basic right to family life and HaMoked is examining ways this whole policy can be challenged.

* On March 25, 2021, the State Attorney’s Office announced it had been decided, “beyond any legal obligation”, to allow the young woman to enter Gaza with her mother for a period of two weeks (while her mother and siblings were allowed to remain there until July 2021).

It was further stated that two new – and rigid – instructions had been published, whereby “When submitting requests for the entry of accompanying minors, it must be ascertained that the minors’ entry into the Gaza Strip would take place before they turn 18”; and that “response to requests for Israelis’ entry into the Gaza Strip will be given within 30 workdays from the day the request is received at the office”.
mail@hamoked.org.il (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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