May 9, 2017

As previously reported, the Israeli authorities at Kerem Shalom Crossing seized large amounts of medical equipment, intended for Gaza’s civilian population, on two separate occasions in February and March of 2017, refusing to let it into the Strip. The Israeli authorities also seized the trucks used to transport the goods to the crossing. The equipment was purchased by two companies that import and sell dental equipment and supplies in Gaza, and intended for marketing to local dental clinics. The two companies had made all the necessary arrangements with the Israeli authorities for transporting the equipment into Gaza.

Officials from the Ministry of Defense and the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) at Kerem Shalom Crossing did not initially divulge any explanation as to why the goods were denied entry into Gaza. It was only after the seizure that the owners of the companies discovered that Israel had decided to consider amalgam dental fillings, included in the shipment, as a “dual-use” item.  Amalgam contains several metals, including mercury, which is defined as “dual use” in an order issued by the Minister of Defense. The Gaza suppliers say COGAT had never before required a special permit for bring amalgam into the Gaza Strip.

Ever since Gisha was informed of these incidents, it has taken measures to have the equipment released by the Ministry of Defense. Together with a general letter addressed to COGAT, stating issues of principle and objecting to the seizure of both the medical equipment (Hebrew) and the trucks (Hebrew), Gisha also filed individual objections (Hebrew) to the Ministry of Defense on behalf of the two companies whose equipment was seized.

Two months after the date of the seizure, on April 24, 2017, the Ministry of Defense informed Gisha that its objection regarding one of the shipments had been accepted (Hebrew), and that the equipment would therefore be released from the possession of the ministry. As for the second shipment, the Ministry of Defense accepted an objection submitted by a private lawyer with respect to the seizure of the truck, and once the truck was released, the equipment on it was released as well.

Despite these developments, the equipment itself has not been handed over to the suppliers, and is still being held by the Ministry of Defense. Though the state has approved its release from the warehouse used to store property seized by the state, it has not yet completed the bureaucratic process required to have the goods released in practice, and sent to Gaza. And so, even though the Gaza suppliers are entitled to receive the medical equipment they ordered, and had agreed by contract to sell to dental clinics in Gaza, they have yet to lay their hands on it. For this reason, and because the Ministry of Defense had yet to decide whether to release the amalgam fillings, a petition was filed with the Tel Aviv District Court on May 9, 2017.

So far, COGAT has refused to confirm whether amalgam is a “dual-use” item requiring a permit to be brought into Gaza, and, if so, when this policy came into effect. COGAT’s response to our communication dated April 9, 2017 (Hebrew) ignores this question entirely. Another letter on this issue, sent on April 18, 2017 (Hebrew), has not yet been answered. A Freedom of Information application (Hebrew) Gisha submitted to COGAT on March 27, 2017, in an attempt to find out whether “dual-use” permits had ever been issued for amalgam materials, has also not yet been answered.