June 24, 2020. In late May, the Palestinian Authority (PA) announced it was halting coordination with Israel in response to the Israeli government’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank. Travel through Israeli-controlled Erez Crossing between Gaza and Israel has been at a virtual standstill since early March due to measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19. Since the PA’s announcement, coordination for travel permits has stopped, including for patients in need of critical medical treatment that is not available in Gaza, further obstructing access. Palestinians in Gaza who need to travel via Erez Crossing now have no official mechanism through which they can submit permit applications issued by Israel.
Last week, a group of five human rights organizations, Gisha, Adalah, HaMoked, Physicians for Human Rights Israel and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, sent an urgent letter to Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Kamil Abu Rukun, demanding that Israel immediately ensure Palestinian travel through Erez Crossing.
In the letter, the organizations request that Israel remove any and all bureaucratic restrictions on the submission of permit applications by patients and other humanitarian cases and allow Gaza residents to enter Israel and the West Bank immediately. Israel must immediately clarify how travel permit applications may be filed by Gaza residents and publish clear, detailed, and accessible information about the alternative application procedure.
The letter states that: “Israel must ensure that travel from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank and Israel and vice versa resumes regardless of the operation of the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee or the decisions of the Palestinian Authority. We note that this duty cannot be considered fulfilled when the State of Israel issues permits only in the most exceptional of cases. Israel may not, no matter the circumstances, prevent travel on procedural, bureaucratic grounds, all the more so when travel is required in order to exercise basic human rights. Denying these individuals travel would be a blatant, severe violation of their fundamental rights, including the right to life and bodily integrity.”