Instead of helping to care for her sick sister, Amal could only enter Gaza to join her grieving family
Negligence, insensitivity and bureaucratic obstacles prevented a resident of the West Bank from visiting her dying sister in the Gaza Strip. Amal was born in Gaza in 1972. After she married, she moved to the West Bank to live with her husband, and the couple had three children. Amal’s parents, brother and three sisters remained in Gaza, and she visited them occasionally until 2000, when Israel prohibited movement between Gaza and the West Bank, in all but exceptional circumstances. Amal’s last visit to the Gaza Strip was in 2004, when one of her sisters fell ill. Thereafter she was unable to visit her family.
In early June 2011, one of Amal’s sisters suffered a serious stroke. On June 6th, Amal therefore contacted the Palestinian District Coordination Office (DCO) and requested permission to travel to Gaza with her three children in order to visit her sister. A few days later, Amal also contacted Gisha in an effort to expedite the processing of her request.
On June 14th, Gisha sent a letter to the Civil Administration asking that permission be granted as quickly as possible for Amal and her children to visit the Gaza Strip. In the weeks that followed, Gisha negotiated a bureaucratic obstacle course, created by the authorities, in order to try and secure permission for Amal to visit her sister. In the meantime, Amal remained in the West Bank, worried about her sister’s wellbeing and waiting desperately for a permit so that she could travel to Gaza and help care for her.
More than a month after Amal submitted her application, the Civil Administration claimed that it had not reached its offices, and Amal was asked to submit a new request. Inquiries made by Gisha made clear that no-one had processed Amal’s application, as has been the case with other applications submitted by Palestinians seeking to visit Gaza. The failure to handle Amal’s request was due to the fact that a new officer, who had two months earlier begun work at the Hebron DCO, was refusing, without explanation, to accept applications from the Palestinian DCO. Gisha filed a complaint with the Civil Administration and again requested that Amal’s application be processed as quickly as possible.
On July 26th, Gisha was informed that the Palestinian DCO had sent the new application to the Israeli authorities and again Gisha requested that it be handled urgently. However the following week, Gisha learnt that due to a technical error the application had been lost. Gisha therefore submitted Amal’s request once again.
On August 7th, two months after Amal submitted her original application, the Civil Administration contacted Gisha and stated that Amal’s request had been rejected as Amal’s sister had passed away three weeks earlier. Gisha was also informed that Amal must now submit a new application for permission to visit her family in mourning.
Amal’s husband told Gisha that although he knew Amal’s sister had passed away, he had tried to spare Amal of the news while she waited for permission to travel to Gaza. Over the following days he shared the sad news with his wife, and on August 11th, Amal submitted a further request to visit the Gaza Strip, this time in order to join her mourning family. Gisha also wrote to the Civil Administration and asked that Amal be given permission to travel to Gaza urgently in order to join her family. On August 29th, the Civil Administration announced that the application had been approved, and permits had been issued for Amal and her youngest son. For some reason, the older children, aged seven and 12, were not permitted to travel to Gaza.
At the end of August, almost three months after Amal submitted her original request to visit her sister, she was at last able to cross from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip and visit her family. Although Amal was finally able to be with her family, she missed the chance to look after her sister, to say goodbye and to join her family at the funeral.