Response to Gisha’s Freedom of Information application regarding Gaza’s “buffer zone”
On January 6, 2015, Gisha sent the Public Liaison Officer at the Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) an application for information about the policy affecting the Gaza’s “buffer zone”, which is off limits to Palestinians (Hebrew).
After the completion of the “disengagement” plan in 2005, Israel instituted a buffer zone along the Gaza-Israel border fence. Palestinians are strictly prohibited from entering this area. After 2010, the area stretched 300 meters from the fence into Gaza’s territory and the entry ban was actively enforced by the army. However, testimonies indicated that the ban was in fact enforced on a larger area than officially declared. Because of the confusion and the inconsistencies between the testimonies and the military’s official declarations, Gisha periodically submits Freedom of Information applications on this issue.
When Operation Protective Edge ended, Gisha requested up-to-date information about the buffer zone and the entry ban, given possible changes to policy implemented after the hostilities. In the application, Gisha asked what is the farthest distance from the fence Gaza residents are permitted to approach, who may enter the area defined as off-limits and what procedures and guidelines are in place for coordinating entry into the buffer zone. We also asked what measures are taken to inform residents about current policy with respect to the buffer zone and what policy is in place with regards to farmers’ entry into the area for the purpose of cultivating farmland located in the buffer zone.
We received COGAT’s response on February 26, 2015 (Hebrew), stating that COGAT officials do not coordinate Palestinians’ entry into the “buffer zone” and that COGAT is not responsible nor has authority over issuing policy and operational directives with respect to IDF actions in this area.
Given this response, Gisha submitted a Freedom of Information application to the IDF Spokesperson regarding military policy affecting the buffer zone after Operation Protective Edge (Hebrew). No response has been received to date.