December 21, 2020. On December 7, Gisha filed a High Court petition (Hebrew) on behalf of a Palestinian citizen of Israel after the Gaza Coordiantion and Liason Administration (CLA) denied his request for a permit to enter the Gaza Strip in order to take part in mourning rituals for his mother. The CLA denied his request citing the “coronavirus closure” Israel has enforced on Gaza since March 2020.
In the petition, Gisha pointed out that even under the “coronavirus closure,” Israel did allow travel for mourning rituals from Gaza to Israel and the West Bank, and from the West Bank to Gaza and Israel, indicating that its refusal to allow travel from Israel to Gaza for this purpose was not motivated by relevant public health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
In response to the petition, the state argued both in writing (Hebrew) and at the hearing itself that it only allows entry into Gaza for members of “split families,” (that is, families divided between Gaza and Israel), ad hoc, and only for prolonged stays. At the hearing, Gisha exposed that this contention by the state was false: Members of split families enter Gaza for varying lengths of time, sometimes for brief visits, and not always on an ad hoc basis. In addition, we pointed to the fact that members of a medical delegation had recently been permitted entry to Gaza.
The state added, during the hearing, that travel from Gaza to Israel for funerals was only permitted during October, before a coronavirus outbreak in the Gaza Strip. As Gisha argued at court, this contention was also false; travel permits for mourning rituals were issued by Israel in November and December as well. During the hearing, the court criticized the fact that the state’s actual policy on travel via Erez Crossing was unclear, and inaccessible to the public. The court also noted that the argument whereby the policy is rooted in public health concerns was incongruent with the fact that Israel granted permits for travel from Gaza to Israel, but not in the opposite direction.
The court instructed (Hebrew) the respondents to reconsider their position. In an updating notice (Hebrew) the state filed the day after the hearing, it persisted in its refusal to allow the petitioner to enter Gaza, offering new reasons: The petitioner would not have medical insurance in the Gaza Strip; Hamas may prevent him from returning to Israel, should it decide to introduce a lockdown in Gaza, or else demand that he remain in isolation for two weeks, which would prevent him from returning to Israel three days after entering, as required under the terms of the permit. Gisha’s response (Hebrew) clarified that the state was now postulating imaginary, baseless scenarios that did not justify violating the petitioner’s right to family life or discriminating against him, given Israel had in the past granted travel permits for people in mourning during the coronavirus pandemic.
On December 14, the court issued an order nisi (Hebrew), requiring the respondents to reexamine their position and present the reasons for denying the petitioner’s travel. In the response (Hebrew) filed by the state on December 20, it retracted its decision to deny the permit and stated that the petitioner’s exit had been approved, subject to security screening. The next day, the court released its judgment (Hebrew), noting that given the respondents’ position, the petition had been accepted. The petitioner received a permit to enter Gaza on December 22.
Following this petition, other applications made by Palestinians with Israeli citizenship seeking to enter Gaza for a funeral or mourning rituals were accepted.