Israel is preventing countless Palestinians from returning home to Gaza

Near Allenby Bridge Crossing. Photo by Levi Clancy

September 13, 2020. On Thursday, September 10, more than a week after the Jerusalem District Court accepted Gisha’s petition and ordered Israel to immediately arrange her return, T.M. was finally allowed to enter Israel and transit via Erez Crossing to Gaza. When she completes 21 days of mandatory quarantine in the Strip she will at long last reunite with her four children, whom she had not seen for six months.

T.M., whose youngest daughter is just two years old, left for Jordan via Israel and the West Bank at the beginning of March in order to accompany her mother for medical treatment in Turkey, where she passed away. Due to the movement restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, T.M. was only able to return to Jordan in May, from where she requested to return home, to the Gaza Strip. Her children have been in the care of their grandmother, an elderly woman, herself in need of medical care.

Two weeks ago, we also submitted a petition on behalf of two women cancer patients who exited the Strip many months ago, accompanied by their spouses, to receive critical treatment in Jordan. After ignoring requests filed by Gisha on the women’s behalf, Israeli authorities finally announced that they would allow the two women and their partners to transit back to Gaza by ambulance. Both couples have children in the Strip, who had been waiting for months for them to return..

The fact that this decision was only reached following legal intervention is unacceptable. One of the women is terminally ill, and even so, the state was only moved to fulfil the bare minimum of its legal and humanitarian requirements following Gisha’s petition on her behalf.

On May 19, the Palestinian Authority (PA) froze its coordination with Israel, in protest over declarations about West Bank annexation. Since then, in addition to the sweeping restrictions implemented in response to the coronavirus, Israel has refused to consider the majority of requests for permits made by Gaza residents. For this reason, countless Gaza residents have been stuck in Jordan and other countries for months already because Israel is using the lack of coordination with the PA as an excuse to deny Gaza residents their fundamental right to return to their homes and families.

Not only have Israeli authorities thus far failed to find a solution for the multiple people still stranded, but even in the few cases where the state agrees to allow people to travel, it drags its feet without reason, adding insult to injury. In doing so, Israel is further solidifying its long-time position of maintaining control over the lives of Palestinians without acknowledging the responsibilities that come with this control.