Supreme Court upholds denial of request made by Israeli citizen to enter Gaza to accompany his wife, also an Israeli citizen, whose mother passed away in Gaza. HCJ 8656/15 Abu Thakafeh et al. v. GOC Southern Command
On December 16, 2015, Gisha filed a High Court petition (Hebrew) in the matter of two Israeli citizens, a married couple, who wanted to enter the Gaza Strip together to visit the wife’s mother, who lives there. She had fallen seriously ill and was not expected to live long. The petition was filed after military authorities allowed the wife to enter Gaza to visit her mother for three days, but denied entry to the husband, the son-in-law.
The petition noted that, given the unique, humanitarian and even urgent nature of the request, it merited approval even under the policy introduced by the Ministry of Defense in July 2015, whereby entry of Israeli citizens into Gaza would be reduced to a minimum – an injuriously vague policy, which was announced through the media only.
After the petition was filed, and after the wife entered Gaza, the mother unfortunately succumbed to her illness. In the circumstances, the court was asked to instruct the state to approve Mr. Abu-Thakafeh’s request to enter Gaza to be at his wife’s side in her hour of need given her mother’s death.
In its response to the petition (Hebrew), the state claimed it has broad discretion with respect to requests made by Israeli citizens to enter Gaza. The state also said that in this case, the husband’s request was denied in light of the new policy in effect since July 2015 and general security considerations, though there were no security allegations against the couple specifically, and the state itself acknowledged this was a humanitarian case. In the hearing held in the petition on December 21, 2015 (Hebrew), and despite Gisha’s arguments that the request should be granted, the court refused to intervene and upheld the state’s decision. During the hearing, Supreme Court President Naor said: “With all due human compassion, she [the wife] can return to Israel”.
In the judgment (Hebrew) the court ruled: “There is no justification to intervene in the balance struck by the Respondents in allowing the Petitioner to enter the Gaza Strip, which allowed her to see her mother while still alive, and denying the husband entry”.