Happy Hanukah to you too, COGAT

The clarification letter received from COGAT. Photo by Gisha.

December 14, 2017. Following Gisha’s efforts, COGAT announces that it will not halt all operations at the Gaza CLA during Hanukah, as originally planned.

This was the sequence of events: Following a phone call with the Gaza Civil Liaison Administration (CLA), Gisha incidentally discovered that the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) had decided that during the holiday of Hanukah, the Gaza Civil Liaison Administration (CLA) would not be answering phone calls or processing application for travel permits. No official statement was issued regarding the decision. In response to Gisha’s request for clarification, the Pubic Liaison Officer of the Gaza CLA informed Gisha that “in accordance with instructions from the army, staff in the Public Liaison Office will be on vacation for the following week. Humanitarian and urgent cases will be dealt with by the situation room.”

The Gaza CLA is the operative arm of COGAT, which is the body in charge of processing all permit applications for the lucky few of Gaza’s two million residents who meet Israel’s restrictive criteria for travel into and out of the Strip.  It is the sole authority controlling the ability of Palestinians in Gaza to exit the Strip, including medical patients seeking urgent and life-saving treatment, families traveling to meet relatives (only in “humanitarian circumstances”), for work meetings and study abroad. The Gaza CLA apparently planned to halt its operations for at least a week, during days that are not official holidays in Israel.

When the Gaza CLA learned that Gisha was considering petitioning the court in response to this unprecedented and unlawful decision, they sent a letter (Hebrew) clarifying to Gisha that operations will continue during Hanukah.

Even when the Gaza CLA operates normally, thousands upon thousands of permit applications are piled on their desks, awaiting response. The decision to take an unannounced vacation and halt services is outrageous.