January 30, 2020. Israel controls the transport of goods into the Gaza Strip via Kerem Shalom Crossing and classifies many items, including construction materials, as “dual-use“. Transfer of such items from Israel into the Gaza Strip is governed by the Defense Export Control Law of 2007. In 2014, the Palestinian Authority and Israel signed an agreement establishing the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), designed to regulate the transfer of construction materials needed to rebuild the Gaza Strip following Operation Protective Edge. Companies must be approved by Israel and registered with the GRM to be able to order construction materials via Kerem Shalom. Israeli, Palestinian and UN officials monitor GRM activity to ensure, among other things, that the materials reach their destination.
Registration under the GRM framework is a requirement for undertaking certain types of construction projects, and construction companies in the Strip depend on registration to operate. Without valid registration, companies cannot coordinate the transfer of construction materials through the online system or bring in large quantities of construction materials for approved Gaza reconstruction projects.
A.H. owns a construction company in Gaza, which was registered with the GRM under the “contractor” category and held several contracts for approved projects in the Gaza Strip. For unknown reasons, in September 2016, the company was suspended from the GRM and could no longer submit tenders. After repeated inquiries into the reason for the suspension, A.H. was told Israel imposed a “security block” against him.
Gisha contacted the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) on A.H.’s behalf, asking for the “security block” to be lifted and the company’s suspension reversed. We explained that no grounds were provided for the suspension, and it was unreasonable. We noted that in September 2016, the amount of cement in the company’s warehouse was audited by the GRM inspection unit, and 212 bags of cement were listed as missing. A.H. clarified that all 800 cement bags he received on September 19, 2016, which included the 212 “missing” bags, had been delivered to approved projects using the online system, which was developed by the UN for shared use by the Israeli and Palestinian officials. His account of the matter was accepted by the relevant unit, and noted in the computer database. Despite this, the “suspension” status was not changed.
On December 10, 2019, Gisha received a response noting that, “as your client was apprised, his company was suspended from the GRM for individual security reasons, which, naturally, cannot be disclosed.” In response, Gisha sent a letter declaring its intent to take legal action, which went unanswered. Therefore, Gisha filed a petition (Hebrew) to the court. About ten days after the petition was filed, the state said it would lift the suspension, and the company could resume full operations under the GRM.