Gisha in letter to Gaza CLA: Stop the unlawful practice of making Gaza residents sign a commitment not to return for a year as they exit via Erez Crossing

August 9, 2017. Gisha’s legal department wrote a letter (Hebrew) to the head of the Gaza Civil Liaison Administration (CLA), Commander Col. Fares Atilla, following reports received by Gisha intake coordinators. Gaza residents traveling abroad via Erez Crossing attested to a practice imposed on the Israeli side of the crossing, by which, at the very last minute, residents were forced to sign a waiver, committing not to return to Gaza for at least a year, as a condition for being allowed to depart on their journeys.

In February 2016, The Gaza CLA introduced the reprehensible demand as a prerequisite to receiving an exit permit, particularly with residents who apply for permits for lengthier periods of time. On July 25 of this year, the incongruous practice became all the more absurd, when tens of Gaza residents, whose exit from Gaza had already been approved, and were on their way to travel abroad, were detained at Erez Crossing until they signed the waiver. It was made clear to the residents that signing the commitment was a condition for boarding the shuttle to Allenby Bridge, and from there to Jordan, and that those who did not sign would have to return to Gaza.

We emphasize once more: These are individuals who had already been given an exit permit, without it being conditioned on committing not to return to Gaza, indicating that the military authorities had already concluded that they met the restricted criteria for exiting Gaza, and did not pose a security threat. Threatened with the possibility of missing the rare opportunity to exit Gaza and reach their destinations, many of the residents signed the waiver, which they had never seen previously. We believe undertaking a commitment of this sort has no legal validity, as it was essentially given under duress. This is yet another, particularly infuriating, example of the total disregard with which Israeli authorities treat the fundamental rights of Gaza residents, and a stark indication of the depth and extent of Israel’s control over the details of their lives.