On 17 September 2009, following the announcement by Head of the Gaza DCO of the immediate cessation of processing applications made by organizations in the matters of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, eight human rights organizations in Israel wrote to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) requesting him to retract his decision and allow them to continue their work.
Human rights organizations which assist thousands of Palestinians seeking to enter and exit the Gaza Strip for various reasons are often the only means of representation at the disposal of these residents. As Palestinian residents in Gaza have no way of contacting Israeli authorities directly and as the Gaza DCO is the only organ authorized to grant their requests, indeed, the only way residents can receive a response or hasten processing of their applications is through human rights organizations.
The organizations stress that in many cases, it was only thanks to their actions that lives were saved and problems solved. Impeding their activities in the Gaza Strip may have severe ramifications. Thus, in the case of a nine-month-old infant who has suffered severe cardiologic problems since birth. The infant is routinely treated at Al-Nasser hospital in Gaza, however, as his condition deteriorated his doctors referred him for treatment at Shiba hospital – Tel HaShomer, where he had an appointment for 13 September 2009. On 28 August 2009, his family applied to the Gaza DCO through the Palestinian Civilian Committee to coordinate his exit from Gaza. Yet, until the day of the appointment, no response had been received from the DCO. Therefore, his travel in order to receive medical treatment was prevented. This is just one of many examples.
The organizations further note that the fact that the Palestinian Civilian Committee has no authority to grant permits or allow passage and that the authority for making decisions on applications rests exclusively with the Gaza DCO is undisputed; the army controls the Erez crossing. Severing contacts with human rights organizations prevents Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from presenting their arguments to the authority which is vested with the power to make decisions in their matters and assist in providing solutions for their humanitarian needs.
The organizations conclude that if the Head of the DCO and the COGAT do not retract their decision, they will have no choice but to look for other avenues for their work and may have to bring the matters of complainants from Gaza directly to the courts, without exhaustion of remedies vis-à-vis the DCO, as they had done thus far.To view the organizations’ letter dated 17 September 2009