One day after going to court: Israeli citizens allowed to return to their families
In late July 2015, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) issued a press release announcing a new policy, temporarily prohibiting Israeli citizens from entering the Gaza Strip for any purpose whatsoever, barring exceptional humanitarian cases. The policy was also applied to Israeli citizens who are married to Palestinian residents and live with them in the Gaza Strip. These families are known as “divided families”, and their Israeli members, who were visiting Israel at the time, suddenly found out that they could not return home.
COGAT withdrew the blanket ban within less than a month, partly due to pressure from Israeli human rights organizations, including a letter sent by Gisha to COGAT in early August. However, once the Jewish high holidays were over, the ban was once again imposed. COGAT never even announced the change, and Israeli citizens who arrived at Erez Crossing on their way home, suddenly discovered they were not allowed to proceed.
N.A., an Israeli citizen who arrived at the crossing with her two young children on October 6, 2015, was not able to return home. Though her application to return to the Gaza Strip was approved ahead of time, she was told at the crossing that a new policy was in place. B.A., another Israeli citizen who arrived at the crossing on the same day, returning to his wife in the Gaza Strip, found out that he was denied passage only upon reaching the crossing. He too had received advance approval to enter the Gaza Strip from the Israeli authorities.
Following the refusal of the Gaza DCO authorities to allow Israeli citizens to return to the Strip, Gisha sent a letter indicating its intention to take legal action, and then followed through, on October 11, with two High Court petitions. Since the petitions concerned civilians who had been torn apart from their families in the Gaza Strip, an urgent hearing was requested. However, on the next day, October 12, the two petitioners received permits to return home. They entered the Strip through Erez Crossing the following day, and reunited with their families.