HaMoked to the HCJ: compel the military to allow a divorced Israeli citizen to accompany her young children to visit their father in Gaza המוקד להגנת הפרט
HaMoked to the HCJ: compel the military to allow a divorced Israeli citizen to accompany her young children to visit their father in Gaza
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Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who are married to Israeli residents or citizens cannot live in Israel with their spouses due to the restrictions of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law and the sweeping prohibition on family unification procedures with Gazans. The Israeli spouses and children must, therefore, divide their lives between Israel and Gaza. In most cases, it is a Gaza man married to a woman with Israeli status, and she must seek the military’s permission each time they want to enter Gaza to visit the father of the family. Moreover, once the children of such “divided families” turn 18, Israel prevents them from visiting Gaza ever again, except under special humanitarian circumstances, such as the father’s severe illness or death.

On January 21, 2021, HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) on behalf of a woman and her two children, aged 4 and 10, all three of whom are citizens of Israel, and live in Be’er Sheva. The ex-husband and father lives in the Gaza Strip. Since the parents divorced about two years ago, the children have traveled several times to visit their father in Gaza. Each time, the mother brought the children to their father in Gaza and then returned home to Israel. At the end of the visit, she traveled back to Gaza to pick up her children and bring them home, all with the permission of the military, and in line with the military procedure regulating the entry of members of divided families into Gaza.

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the children could not visit their father for almost a year. When finally, HaMoked submitted on the family’s behalf the customary request to allow the children’s visit and the mother’s entry into Gaza for the purpose of accompanying them until they are in their father’s care, the military refused. The grounds for refusal were as follows: “[The mother] is refused as she does not meet the criteria (as even you noted in your request, there is no family tie between the applicant and the resident of Gaza), it should be noted that having examined the circumstances detailed in your request, no room was found to deviate from the policy in the applicant’s case”.

The military did not ignore the fact that its refusal in this case caused a problem: how would the two children visit their father in Gaza without their mother bringing them? (and note that the father may not enter Israel to pick his children up himself). Therefore, the military’s response proposed a bureaucratic – heartless – alternative: “A request for an exceptional permit of entry without an accompanying parent may be filed” on the children’s behalf. The military had no qualms referring the family to apply for a special permit that would “enable” a four-year-old and a ten-year-old to travel without their mother through Erez Crossing, with all that this entails, and especially under the ominous circumstances of a pandemic.

In the petition, HaMoked said that the military’s refusal to allow the mother to accompany her children to Gaza constituted an unreasonable decision, which causes a severe violation of basic rights, primarily the rights to family life and freedom of movement, and is contrary to the principle of the child’s best interest.
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