HaMoked to the GOC Southern Command: the decision to freeze visits of Israeli citizens and residents to the Gaza Strip should be revoked immediately
On July 23, 2015, it was reported on the media that the GOC Southern Command accepted the recommendation of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), and ordered to limit the visits of Israeli residents to the Gaza Strip; this, against the backdrop of the disappearance of two Israeli citizens who had entered Gaza without coordination or permit about ten months earlier, and have been missing since then without a trace – and "in view of the security situation in the Gaza Strip".
On July 26, 2015, HaMoked was approached by Israelis who were informed for the first time of the decision of the GOC Southern Command, upon their arrival to the Erez Crossing, carrying with them an entry permit to the Gaza Strip which had been issued to them by the military, in order to visit their family members living there. In an inquiry conducted by HaMoked by telephone vis-a-vis the Gaza District Coordination Office (DCO) it was informed that applications of Israelis wishing to return to their spouses and children in Gaza in the framework of the "divided families procedure
" would not be processed, and that the permits of Israelis staying in Gaza by virtue of said procedure would not be renewed – until further notice. It was also advised that only specific exceptional and urgent cases would be examined on their merits, such as visits of immediate family members who were hospitalized due to severe illnesses. On the very same HaMoked sent a letter to the COGAT and demanded he reconsider the offensive decision, in view of its harsh ramifications on the families divided between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
As there has been no change in the situation, HaMoked wrote
again, on August 4, 2015, to the GOC Southern Command and demanded immediate renewal of the visits to the Gaza Strip, according to the procedures established in this matter. HaMoked emphasized that for families with one spouse a Gaza resident while the other a an Israeli resident or citizen (divided families), the freezing of visits to Gaza meant a forced separation between spouses and between children and their parents, in view of the fact that according to government resolution No. 3598
regarding the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, the only viable option for such families to realize their right for family life was by living in Gaza or visiting it. HaMoked pointed out in this context that throughout the years, the "divided families procedure" was largly applied also in times of conflict, and reminded that the individuals visiting Gaza in accordance with the current procedures were members of the Palestinian nation whose immediate family members resided in Gaza. In view of the above, HaMoked emphasized that the concern for the safety of the individuals visiting Gaza had no basis and was contrary to the circumstances and the long term routine.