For years, Israel has been holding Palestinians from the oPt in incarceration facilities inside its borders, contrary to the international law prohibition on the transfer of protected persons outside the occupied country. Incarceration inside Israel causes a severe violation of the right to family life of both the inmates and their loved-ones, and it has been further aggravated as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On December 21, 2021, HaMoked together with Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) to demand the Minister of Public Security and the Israel Prison Service (IPS) put an end to the complete isolation of Palestinian inmates from the Gaza Strip incarcerated inside Israel. The petitioners requested the court to compel the renewal of family visits for all Gaza inmates, which were suspended following the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020. In this context, the petitioners noted that the number of people entering Israel from Gaza and the West Bank had been steadily increasing – including for visits to inmates from the West Bank – under a dedicated procedure intended to prevent the entry of individuals from the oPt who are diagnosed with Covid-19 or require quarantine. Therefore, the petitioners argued, failure to provide a similar possibility for the entry of inmates’ relatives from Gaza constituted unreasonable and wrongful discrimination.
On February 15, 2022, the State updated the Court that the IPS had decided that “the current rate of morbidity in the Gaza Strip allows at this time to reinstate visits to inmates whose family members live in the Gaza Strip…”. Therefore, visits would be resumed “except family visits to prisoners who are residents of Gaza who belong to the Hamas terrorist organization, who do not receive family visits [as of 2017]…”. It was further clarified that “the resumption of visits in practice depends on arranging the matter of escorting the families from the Gaza Strip to Israel, and that the relevant entities in the State are working to arrange the matter as soon as possible”. This presumably includes coordination with the ICRC, which operates shuttles for families from the oPt visiting inmates incarcerated by Israel.
* Family visits to inmates from Gaza were resumed on March 29, 2022, as before, by means of ICRC bus shuttles.