M.B. is a resident of Saudi Arabia, and M. is a resident of the Gaza Strip. They were married in the Gaza Strip in early March 2020 and planned to start their life together in Saudi Arabia, which meant waiting for M. to get status in the country after their marriage. On March 8, 2020, Israel imposed a closure on the Gaza Strip due to the Jewish holiday of Purim and kept it in place for more than a year, allegedly due to the coronavirus pandemic. In the early days of the “coronavirus closure” Israel imposed at Erez Crossing, residents of the Gaza Strip could neither exit nor enter other than for urgent medical treatment. Nevertheless, legal action resulted in the introduction of exceptions to the coronavirus closure, including one-way travel to Allenby Bridge to return to a permanent place of residence.
In December 2020, the couple contacted the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA) via the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee (PCAC), asking for a permit to travel to Jordan via Erez Crossing and Allenby Bridge in order to reach Saudi Arabia. In early February, they contacted the CLA directly. In his e-mail, written in Arabic, Hebrew and English, M.B. said he wanted to return to his home in Saudi Arabia and that the request was urgent as his father was in the hospital and in extremely poor health. The response to this communication was that no application had been forwarded to the CLA by the PCAC.
With that, the couple contacted the PCAC again and, at the same time, sent another inquiry to the Gaza CLA through Gisha on February 14, 2021. That same day, the Gaza CLA responded (Hebrew) that the application to travel abroad had been received from the PCAC, but further inquiries had to be made.
Another week went by, during which Gisha contacted the Gaza CLA several times regarding the couple’s case, explaining the circumstances and the urgency, and then, on February 25, 2021, filed a petition (Hebrew) regarding the lack of response. Given M.B.’s father’s medical condition, a motion for an urgent hearing was filed as well.
It was only after the petition was filed, on March 11, 2021, that the application was denied (Hebrew). The CLA argued that the application forwarded by the PCAC was an application to visit a sick relative abroad rather than to travel abroad and, therefore, failed to meet the criteria.
Even if the application had, in fact, been forwarded as an application to visit a sick relative (likely due to confusion created by the description of the father’s condition), three months is a long time to wait for a response in an application that “fails to meet the criteria,” as that is the first check.
Since a petition had already been filed at that point, another application was filed through the PCAC, and the attorney handling the case for the state confirmed that it had been filed as an application to travel abroad. The application was approved, and within ten days of filing this last application, the couple made their way to Saudi Arabia.