On February 21, 2021, Gisha filed a petition (Hebrew) regarding Israel’s failure to respond to an application submitted by a Palestinian resident of the Gaza Strip to travel to the United Kingdom for Ph.D. studies with a European Union research scholarship. In March 2020, Israel tightened the closure on Gaza to an even greater degree than before in response to the coronavirus outbreak, and has not allowed Palestinians to exit the Strip since, other than for extreme medical emergencies, for those returning home to the West Bank or to third countries, and for attending mourning rituals.
In the petition, Gisha argued that in terms of measures designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, there was no material difference between individuals traveling out of Gaza to return to their home abroad (which is permitted) and those wishing to travel abroad for academic studies and remain at their destination for several years, such as the petitioner. Both cases involve a one-way trip from Erez Crossing to Allenby Bridge Crossing in a closed vehicle, therefore posing no threat to public health. Gisha also argued that the state is obligated to consider every humanitarian application filed by a Gaza resident, and that the access restrictions imposed on Gaza due to the pandemic were disproportionate, as was the violation of the petitioner’s rights to education, freedom of occupation, and personal liberty.
In its response (Hebrew) dated February 28, the state claimed that the Israeli authorities had rejected the petitioner’s application (Hebrew), that same day, since no grounds or justifications for a departure from the closure policy had been found at the time.
The petition was heard by the court on March 1, 2021. In light of the remarks made by the court regarding its inability to intervene in the respondents’ decision after the Supreme Court ruling in AAA 6363/20 State of Israel v. Omar Shawa, Gisha deleted the petition, reserving the right to submit another petition in the matter at a later date, subject to further developments. In its judgment (Hebrew), the court noted that the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories should “continue to periodically assess the criteria for travel out of the Gaza Strip during the coronavirus crisis, with consideration for all factors, including the duration of the restrictions.”