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Entry into Gaza from Israel and Jerusalem



       In long term military occupation, the needs of the local population receive extra validity.
HCJ 393/82 Jam'iat Iscan Al-Ma’almoun v. Commander of the IDF Forces in the Area of Judea and Samaria

From the beginning of the occupation at the end of the war in 1967 and until the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1994, there were no restrictions on the entry of Israeli residents and citizens to the Gaza Strip. Thus in effect, Israel allowed the renewal of family, social and commercial ties, which had been broken in 1948. For more than 25 years, until the transfer of powers to the Palestinian Authority, the gates of the Gaza Strip remained open.

In May 1994, after the signing of the Oslo Accords, the General Entry Permit into the Gaza Strip was suspended, and entry of Israeli residents and citizens was conditioned on receipt of personal permits from the military commander. In 1995, the Gaza Strip was fenced off, and with it began the gradual restriction of Israelis' freedom to travel into and out of Gaza. The restrictions imposed by Israel fractured the fabric of life which had evolved during the years when Gaza was open for entry and exit.

Families in which one spouse is an Israeli spouse and the other is a Gazan (hereinafter: divided-families), found themselves in an unacceptable situation, where part of the family became dependent upon a military permit in order to reside in their home in Gaza. HaMoked made great efforts to arrive at an arrangement allowing Israelis from divided-families to keep on maintaining both an adequate family life in Gaza, and their ties with their families in Israel. Under the procedure formulated thereby, the Israeli spouses were given three-month permits of stay in Gaza, extendible at the Erez District Coordination Office. In September 2000, with the outbreak of the second intifada, Israel suspended the procedure and imposed various restrictions on the entry into Gaza of members of divided-families, among them, making entry conditional on continuous presence for various periods. In March 2004 Israel began to demand from Israelis entering into Gaza that they sign a document whereby they pledge not to return to Israel for a period of three months. This constituted a violation of both international law (article 12 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1967) and of Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty (article 6). The order was revoked following HaMoked and Adalah's joint petition to the High Court of Justice (HCJ 5076/04).

Even after the closing of the Gaza Strip to entry by Israelis in 1994, Israel allowed Israeli citizens and residents to enter during the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha and the Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter. The holiday visits were the only opportunities throughout the year for the rare family meetings. During the second intifada, Israel stopped this custom. Following several interventions by HaMoked and petitions to the HCJ, in the framework of the Abajian case (HCJ 10043/03), the state undertook to allow the holiday visits and it was even agreed that if the visits would not take place for whatever reason, they would be rescheduled to a later date. Nonetheless, in recent years, almost every holiday, HaMoked had to petition the HCJ to get the state to uphold its commitment. The state also guaranteed it would allow Israeli residents and citizens to enter Gaza in cases where "an exceptional humanitarian need exists" provided it concerns an immediate relative, however, in such cases also, the state does not uphold its obligation.

On September 12, 2005, the forces of the Israeli military withdrew from the Gaza Strip and all military orders relating to the Gaza Strip were cancelled including the order banning entry to Gaza, but in reality, no substantial change followed–under the Disengagement Implementation Law, Israelis were banned from entry to Gaza, and the authority to issue entry permits to Gaza was given to the GOC Southern Command, subject to the instructions of the Minister of Defense. The criteria for granting permits remained the same as it was before the disengagement, but permits are given sparingly. It should be noted here that in HaMoked's view, the ban on entry to Gaza by Israelis for the purpose of visits to their spouses, children and families, in fact exceeds the purpose and essence of the Disengagement Law. The Law was intended only to allow the implementation of the disengagement plan and to prevent entry of settlers and other Israeli who might disrupt the implementation.

Israel's official stance is that its residents and citizens do not have a vested right of entry into Gaza. Israel claims that entry to Gaza Strip areas requires by law the approval of the GOC southern Command, and whenever entry permit is refused, it does not constitute a breach of freedom of movement, deriving from Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. Such a perception ignores the close ties between areas of Israel and Gaza–a historical tie, which despite having been broken for 19 years following the 1948 war, was been revived by Israel after 1967. This stance also disregards the human rights which stem from the familial, social, cultural and ethnic ties between Palestinians who live in Israel and their kindred in the Gaza Strip. But perhaps the entire purpose of the Israeli policy is to weaken and sever these ties.



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