In response to a Freedom of Information application filed by Gisha, COGAT provides data regarding “split families” living in the Gaza Strip
On April 4, 2015, Gisha filed a Freedom of Information application (Hebrew) with the Gaza District Coordination Office (DCO) Freedom of Information officer, regarding the regulations and arrangements involving “split families”, i.e., families that split their lives between the Gaza Strip and Israel because one partner is a resident of the Gaza Strip and the other a citizen or resident of Israel. In our application, we asked, inter alia, what the procedure is for submitting an application for a Gaza stay permit on the basis of a “split family” status, and how many Israeli citizens or residents are currently in the Gaza Strip with such a permit.
On August 6, 2015, close to the 120-day deadline stipulated in the Freedom of Information Act for responding, the officer’s response (Hebrew) arrived. He began by stating that the relevant regulations regarding split families appear in the 2011 Defense Ministry policy document (Hebrew) which establishes the criteria for the movement of people between Israel and the Gaza Strip, as well as a new procedure dated June 2015 entitled “Procedure for Processing Applications by Israelis to Enter the Gaza Strip” (Hebrew). (The regulation has not been made public on the COGAT website but appears on Gisha’s website as a public service).
Elsewhere in his reply, the Freedom of Information officer stated that Israeli citizens/residents who are members of a “split family” receive a permit to enter and temporarily remain in the Gaza Strip which is valid for up to six months, unless the permit states otherwise because of a restriction. Average processing time for first-time permit applications is a week to 45 days, and the answer is provided in writing in Hebrew. The officer also stated that the permit does not allow the holder to return to Israel and then re-enter the Gaza Strip. Every entry into the Gaza Strip requires a renewal of the permit for an additional six-month period. Renewal requests are normally processed within 10 days on average.
The officer’s response indicates that as of August 2015, there were 470 Israeli citizens/residents with a permit staying in the Gaza Strip. The DCO recognizes about 180 of them as members of “split families”. The officer confirmed that in the past seven years (excluding 2009), COGAT received 2,003 first-time applications for a Gaza stay permit, and that 1,655 renewal applications were submitted over this time period, approximately one third of which (559 applications) in 2009 alone.