In early March 2020, B., a resident of Gaza, submitted an application for a permit to travel to Jordan via Erez Crossing and Allenby Bridge Crossing to reunite with her spouse, a Jordanian citizen. Several days after she filed the application, Israel imposed a lockdown at Erez Crossing due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In May 2020, the Palestinian Authority (PA) decided to freeze coordination with Israel in protest of Israel’s purported plans to officially annex parts of the West Bank. Thanks in part to legal activity by Gisha, the Israeli authorities eventually began processing applications by Gaza residents or organizations assisting them that were filed directly to them rather than through the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee (PCAC), the PA-run body in charge of channeling applications by Gaza residents to the Israeli authorities.

Legal work by Gisha and others also resulted in Israel adding exceptions to its “coronavirus closure” at Erez Crossing. One of those exceptions is travel via Allenby Bridge Crossing, if the purpose of travel is to return to a permanent place of residence abroad.

In October 2020, after the application she filed in March received no response and with Gisha’s assistance, B. applied directly to Israeli authorities with the same request. A month later, the Israeli Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration (Gaza CLA) demanded additional documents, including an Allenby Bridge transit permit, which is a document issued by Jordanian authorities. The transit permit is a Jordanian requirement instituted in order to control the number of people passing through Allenby Bridge Crossing each day, a public health measure designed to curb the spread of the pandemic. The Jordanian authorities usually set a date within a week of the application. Once she had received the transit permit from Jordan, B. sent all the requested documents to the Gaza CLA.

Two weeks after receiving the documents, the CLA demanded that B. submit a new application, claiming it would not have enough time to review the application by the date set by the Jordanian authorities for her to cross via Allenby Bridge. B. did as requested, but again, no response came from the CLA.

On January 6, 2021, Gisha filed a petition (Hebrew) and motion for an urgent hearing in B.’s matter, describing how she had been repeatedly asked to provide a specific date for exiting Allenby Bridge in order for her application to be considered, and how the state had repeatedly failed to review her application on time.

The state filed its response (Hebrew) on January 20, 2021, claiming that the petitioner was responsible for her predicament as she had imposed an unreasonable schedule on the state. During a hearing held on January 21, we asked the state to complete the processing of B.’s request without imposing further demands and addressed the impossible bureaucracy Israel had created. The state insisted that the petitioner file another application through the PCAC – an entirely arbitrary demand that could not be met as the state offers no way to follow up on whether documents have been forwarded and, therefore, can always claim it never received them. After the court criticized the state’s demand, it agreed to review documents submitted directly by Gisha and committed to giving a decision within several days, before the date set for B.’s travel through Allenby Bridge. The agreement between the sides was validated in the court’s judgment (Hebrew).

On January 27, the response of the CLA (Hebrew) arrived, stating B.’s application was denied because she did not meet the criteria. In other words, for four months, the state made B. wait and repeatedly make efforts to meet its impossible bureaucratic demands, only to ultimately expose that it had no intention to allow her to exit Gaza because she supposedly failed to meet its criteria for travel.

Gisha did not file another petition because B., in her despair, decided to exit the Strip through Rafah Crossing, which had unexpectedly opened for travel.