COGAT figures indicate significant drop in the number of Israeli citizens entering Gaza in the second half of 2015
On June 23, 2015, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) and the military’s Southern Command, issued notice of a new, temporary policy (Hebrew) that would greatly reduce the entry of Israeli residents into Gaza. The policy dictates that Israeli citizens who are married to Gaza residents (known as “divided families”), Israeli citizens with first-degree relatives in Gaza and Israeli citizens who work in Gaza in various capacities, are barred from entering Gaza other than in exceptional circumstances and extreme cases. This policy harms thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel with work and family connections in the Gaza Strip.
On December 30, 2015, COGAT responded (Hebrew) to an application made by HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual under the Freedom of Information Act, saying that over the course of 2015, a total of 1,807 Israeli citizens were given permits to enter the Gaza Strip. Of the permit-recipients, 1,137 (some 63%) received their permits in the first six months of the year, January to June 2015. On the other hand, from July to December 2015, only 670 Israelis (about 37%) received permits to enter the Gaza Strip, 255 of them in July alone, apparently before the new policy was implemented and during Ramadan. The figures show that in August, only 88 Israeli citizens received entry permits, 111 in September, 64 in October, 56 in November, and, in December 2015, only 95 Israeli citizens were permitted to enter Gaza. The figures also show that during the second half of the year, permits to enter Gaza given to members of “divided families” were hardly renewed.
These figures confirm Gisha’s concerns that the restrictive policy announced by COGAT as temporary has now been in effect for more than six months, constituting a significant violation of Israeli citizens’ fundamental rights to freedom of movement and normal family life.
As a follow-up to these figures, on February 11, 2016, Gisha sent COGAT a Freedom of Information Application (Hebrew), asking for information about the number of Israeli citizens who filed applications to enter Gaza over the course of 2015, with specifics on how many were denied due to the restrictive policy or other reasons. COGAT was also asked to state how many appeals or requests for reconsideration had been filed following refusals of applications by Israelis to enter Gaza, and what the final outcomes were. Gisha also asked for information regarding legal proceedings launched following refusal to allow Israeli citizens to enter Gaza.