This year, as is the case every year before the holiday, Israel causes difficulties for its citizens and residents who wish to visit with their relatives in the Gaza Strip along with their spouses and children under the age of 18. Israel forbids residents of the Gaza Strip to enter Israel and Israelis to enter the Gaza Strip. The result is an almost complete break up of family ties between relatives living in the Gaza Strip and those living inside Israel. The only times relatives can meet is during the Muslim or Christian holidays which families must, according to tradition, celebrate together.
In the past few years the visits have been taking place in a fairly orderly manner. Yet despite this, they are made possible every year only after HaMoked puts pressure on the authorities and often only after it files an urgent petition with the HCJ. Only then does the State succumb and deigns to act in accordance with its prior undertakings.
Criteria for allowing Israelis to enter the Palestinian Authority controlled areas of the Gaza Strip have been set in place during the second intifada and following petitions by HaMoked. As per holiday visits, the procedure agreed upon by the Respondent and the Petitioner stated that, barring individual security impediments, the Respondent would allow citizens and residents who wish to visits first degree relatives in the Gaza Strip for the holidays to enter it. The visitors may bring their children who are under the age of eighteen. Visits were to take place during Id Al-Adha and Id Al-Fitr for Muslims and Christmas and Easter for Christians. It was further agreed that the visits would not be limited to one a year and individuals could visit on both holidays even if they entered the Gaza Strip during the year for humanitarian reasons.
Visits to the Gaza Strip continued after the implementation of the disengagement plan and even after Hamas took office, according to the criteria that had been set. Thus, for example, over the past Easter holiday, the Military Legal Advisor to the Gaza Strip announced that holiday visits with first degree relatives would take place in accordance with the State’s undertakings in previous petitions.
On 2 September, 2007, ahead of the coming holiday, HaMoked requested to receive the procedure regulating the visits. On 1 October, 2007, HaMoked was notified, via telephone, that the Minister of Defence had not yet made a decision regarding Id Al-Fitr.
In light of the circumstances, HaMoked petitioned the HCJ on 3 October, 2007. In the petition, HaMoked claimed that the State was backing out of its previous undertakings, and was thereby violating the rights of its citizens and residents to religious freedom and family life. On the same day, the Court ordered the Respondents to submit their response to the petition by 8 October, 2007.