As Ramadan approaches, Muslims in Gaza still haven’t been notified if Israel intends to issue holiday permits for residents of the Strip

Ramadan in Gaza, 2017. Photo by Gisha

May 2, 2019. The holy month of Ramadan is due to begin early next week, marked by Muslims around the world, including almost two million Muslim Palestinians in Gaza. Despite the obvious need to be with family and visit holy sites during Ramadan and the holiday of Eid al-Fitr that closes it, residents of Gaza still have not been notified whether any of them will be allowed by Israel to do so, and if they are, who,  where to, and when.

Last Monday (April 22), the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) posted a list of “civil measures that will be taken to ease restrictions” imposed by Israel, ostensibly intended to honor the Muslim population during Ramadan. The list, posted on COGAT’s website in Arabic and English, makes no distinction between West Bank and Gaza residents, making it unclear whether any of the measures will be made available to residents of the Strip. As a result, Gaza residents spent the time leading up to the holiday in a state of uncertainty, unable to prepare and make plans.

In 2015, Israel began allowing a small quota of Gaza residents to travel to Jerusalem for Friday prayers at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, subject to age restrictions. In December 2016 Israel discontinued exits for Friday prayers, on the grounds that some people who received them had not returned to Gaza “on time.” In the years that followed, Israel allowed a much smaller number of Gaza residents, mostly staff of international organizations, to travel for religious worship during Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr. The number of worshippers who were granted permits to exit Gaza dropped from 11,214 in 2015, to only 600 in 2017 and 2018.

Over the years, COGAT has published its “holiday measures” for Ramadan at the very last minute, sometimes only after the holiday had begun or already ended. This week, Gisha sent two urgent letters (Hebrew) to COGAT, asking that it clarify (Hebrew) immediately whether the measures it published include residents of Gaza, or not.

Gisha calls on Israel to allow Gaza residents to exercise their fundamental rights to freedom of movement and religious freedom.