HaMoked and B'Tselem petitioned the HCJ demanding to allow the entry of three B'Tselem workers into the Gaza Strip, in order to document and examine the humanitarian situation and the state of human rights following the fighting: the Court instructed the State to respond to the petition within 14 days המוקד להגנת הפרט
04.03.2009
HaMoked and B'Tselem petitioned the HCJ demanding to allow the entry of three B'Tselem workers into the Gaza Strip, in order to document and examine the humanitarian situation and the state of human rights following the fighting: the Court instructed the State to respond to the petition within 14 days
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After 22 days of fighting in the Gaza Strip in the framework of a military operation titled "Cast Lead," Israel announced a unilateral cease-fire on 12 January 2009, and Israeli forces began to gradually withdraw from the Strip. In the course of the fighting, some 1,300 Gaza residents were killed and thousands were injured, many houses and buildings were destroyed and substantial damage was caused to civilian infrastructure.

Immediately following the end of the fighting, B'Tselem contacted the Gaza District Coordination Office (DCO) requesting authorization for the entry of the organization's fieldworkers into the Strip, in order to document and examine the humanitarian situation and the state of human rights after the intense fighting. The organization's representatives met with Minister Herzog, who was appointed government coordinator of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, and appealed to him to work towards enabling the fieldworkers' entry to the Strip.

On 1 February 2009, HaMoked contacted the Gaza DCO, requesting entry permits to the Strip for B'Tselem's workers. Since that time and until 25 February 2009, the army provided no substantive response. HaMoked's representative contacted the army by phone, but these appeals produced no response as well, and there was no alternative but to submit a petition to the HCJ. Meanwhile, a response provided on behalf of minister Herzog stated that human rights organizations "are not included under the umbrella of humanitarian aid of which Minister Herzog is in charge," and that in order to obtain entry permits to the Strip one must "directly contact the Ministry of Defense which is responsible for this matter." However, the response stated that "an inquiry made by this office with the Ministry of Defense indicated that the instructions of the GOC Southern Command, who is in charge of security in the Strip, absolutely prohibit the organizations' entry, for reasons of personal safety."

Defense of human rights is one of the foundations of a democratic regime. The realization of human rights depends on the existence of a series of social safety nets, at the head of which is, of course, the judicial system, whose duty it is to defend these rights and actively oppose their violation. The task of defending human rights also depends on the education system - which is in charge of creating a political culture that upholds the principle of human liberty – as well as on a free press and on human rights organizations that are active, efficient and effective. These are some of the foundations needed for safeguarding human rights. B'Tselem operates mainly by collecting, examining and distributing information. This activity is vital for ensuring the right of the public – in Israel and abroad – to learn of the reality and the state of human rights in the Gaza Strip. Freedom of information – and the right to provide information to the public – are protected rights, and take precedence over other interests. The State's conduct in this regard arouses suspicion of an attempt to impede the work of human rights organizations and disrupt their vital activity – which, for obvious reasons, often inconveniences Israel.

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