The most exceptional circumstances: HaMoked’s intervention on behalf of Palestinians stranded by the Coronavirus closure of borders
Following the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, many countries closed their borders. Jordan closed the Allenby Bridge border crossing connecting the West Bank to the rest of the world and Egypt closed Rafah Crossing, Gaza’s gateway to the world. Consequently, many Palestinian found themselves stranded far from their homes – whether in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip or elsewhere in the world. Israel clung to its habitual refusal to allow Palestinians to travel via its international airport (Ben Gurion). This despite the exceptional humanitarian circumstances, its responsibility for the welfare of the protected population and its duty resulting from its control over Gaza’s borders (other than Rafah). HaMoked received many requests for assistance and worked to enable stranded residents of the oPt to return to their homes via Israel.
Thus for example, on July 23, 2020, HaMoked filed an urgent petition to the Jerusalem Court for Administrative Affairs to demand Israel allow a Palestinian man to return from Abu Dhabi to his home in the Gaza Strip via Ben Gurion airport. This after for three weeks the military failed to respond to HaMoked’s request on his behalf. The man tried to return home via Egypt immediately after the outbreak of the pandemic, but due to the sudden closure of the borders, Egypt refused to allow his entry and he was deported back to the UAE. There, for months, the man was kept under supervision in conditions similar to detention, first at the airport and then at a hotel, where he was not allowed to leave his room. In the petition, HaMoked argued that the man had no way of returning home except via Ben Gurion. HaMoked stressed that military procedures allow for Gazans to travel via Ben Gurion in the most extreme humanitarian cases.
But the state persisted in its refusal and even brought about another delay by having the proceeding moved to the Beersheba Court for Administrative Affairs. Despite the extreme humanitarian circumstances and the severe breach of the man’s right to return to his country, the hearing was delayed time and again until it was scheduled for late October 2020. However, before that date, following media coverage
regarding his predicament, authorities in the UAE coordinated his return to Gaza via Egypt, during a brief opening of Rafah crossing. Thus after more than six months in detention-like conditions, the man finally returned home on September 30, 2020.
In several other cases, HaMoked succeeded to obtain permission for travel via Ben Gurion of Palestinians who could not return home. In one of the cases, after Israel refused to examine the request of a Palestinian man from Ramallah, HaMoked petitioned the court and in the framework of the proceedings, an agreement was reached, allowing the man’s return home via Ben Gurion (110294).
In another case, HaMoked succeeded to arrange the exit of a Palestinian cancer patient and her son, both living in the United States, who came to the West Bank for a short family visit and got stranded due to the health crisis (110713).