Center for the Defence of the Individual - Israeli military rejected HaMoked’s request to renew holiday visits for Israelis to their relatives in the Gaza Strip
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Israeli military rejected HaMoked’s request to renew holiday visits for Israelis to their relatives in the Gaza Strip

For over 25 years, from the beginning of the occupation in 1967 and until the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1994, Israel placed no restrictions on entry into the Gaza Strip of Israeli citizens and residents (the latter mostly Jerusalemites living under annexation). Thus, in effect, Israel allowed the renewal of family, social and commercial ties, which had been severed in 1948. However, following the second intifada, and more so after the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Israel started to drastically limit the entry of Israelis to Gaza, officially for security reasons, but in reality, also as part of its policy to isolate the Gaza Strip.

For many years now, Israel has allowed Israelis to enter the Gaza Strip for family visits only in cases of “exceptional humanitarian need” and for three days only. (The only exception to this is Israelis who are married to Gaza residents, who may regularly enter Gaza with their minor children pursuant to the “divided families procedure”.) An exceptional humanitarian need is defined by the military as visits to first degree relatives (siblings, parents/children, grandparents/grandchildren) who are severely ill or for participation in their wedding or funeral. This highly restricted policy has forced a hopelessly protracted separation between adult children and their parents, grandparents and grandchildren, nephews/nieces and uncles/aunts and so on. (It should be noted that HaMoked’s petition to expand the application of the “divided families” procedure to also include adult Israelis who have one parent who lives in Gaza was rejected by the High Court of Justice in 2023).

In view of the severe and longstanding harm to the right to family life of Israelis and their relatives in Gaza, HaMoked wrote to the Military on April 23, 2023, to request reimplementation of the procedure for holiday visits by Israelis to their relatives in Gaza. This procedure was drafted by the State Attorney’s Office in late 2004, and according to which, in the absence of an individual security preclusion, Israelis could enter the Gaza Strip with their spouses and minor children to visit their immediate relatives during the two major holidays of their faith (Id al Adha and Id al Fitr or Christmas and Easter). Israel stopped implementing the procedure in 2007, following the Hamas rise to power, and rejected all of HaMoked’s appeals over the years to re-allow such visits.

In its letter, HaMoked argued that in view of Israel’s significant change of policy regarding the movement of people between Israel and Gaza over the last year, family visits during the holidays should obviously be renewed as well. The policy change includes, among other things, the March 2022 government decision to set a 20,000 permit quota to employ Gazans in Israel. And indeed the traffic between the two areas over the past year has returned to the levels that existed prior to Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, and the number of Gazan entries, especially for work and business, now stand at tens of thousands each month.

HaMoked criticized the fact that a similar relaxation has not been adopted regarding the entry of Israelis into Gaza for the purpose of family visits, at the very least, during the religious holydays, in order to allow Israelis to meet their loved ones at least periodically, and thus to somewhat fulfill their constitutional right to family life. Alternatively, HaMoked asked that visits by Gaza residents to their relatives in Israel be allowed during the major holidays.

In June 21, 2023, the Ministry of Defense responded that “the policy on the entry of Israelis to the Gaza Strip is established according to ongoing and continuous evaluations that take into account the civilian-humanitarian needs alongside the security threats arising from these movements… it has been found that there is no room to change the present policy regarding the movement of Israelis into the Gaza Strip”.  

It should be noted that prior to the response, on May 29, 2023, in a military document entitled “Status of Authorizations”, the military expanded the criteria for entry of Gazans into Israel to possibly enable Palestinians from Gaza to visit their families in Israel/East Jerusalem during the holidays of their faith.

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