Challenging Military Order Forcing Israeli Citizens Visiting the Gaza Strip to Remain There for Three Months.

HCJ 5076/04, Z. Housaini et al, v. IDF Major General, Southern Command

Petition filed in 5/04 by Adalah and HaMoked Center for the Defence of the Individual seeking the cancellation of an order conditioning the issue and extension of entry permits into the Gaza Strip for citizens and/or residents of Israel on their commitment to remain in Gaza for three consecutive months. The order was issued by the Southern Command with the intention of limiting the use of the Erez checkpoint. The petition was filed on behalf of four families affected by the order, against IDF Major General, Southern Command.

Some Arab residents and citizens of Israel have close family ties to residents of the Gaza Strip. However, since 1994 entry into Gaza has required obtaining a special permit issued by the Southern Command, which has consistently restricted the entry of Israeli citizens and residents into the Strip. Furthermore, the criteria for receiving the permit, which have never been published, have been repeatedly tightened since 1994. The policy of the Southern Command concerning the entry of Israeli residents and citizens into Gaza has meant that entry permits have been granted only in extremely limited circumstances, namely for visiting an immediate family member in a critical medical condition, verified by medical documentation, and for attending the funeral or wedding of an immediate family member.

However, there has been one exception to this policy: that entry into the Gaza Strip for Israeli residents and citizens who fall within the category of a 'split family' (where spouse or children of a citizen or resident of Israel reside in Gaza) was not limited, thereby allowing such families to maintain a family life. The procedure administrating their passage from Israel to the Gaza Strip, named the ‘split families procedure,’ has been continuously in force, apart from short periods of suspension. Since 4/04, however, with the exception of two days in 5/04, the ‘split families procedure’ has been canceled, with severe repercussions for the lives of these families. During these two days, the entry of citizens and residents of Israel into Gaza was conditioned upon their signing a document stating their agreement not to leave the Gaza Strip and re-enter Israel for three consecutive months. Extending the permits of Israeli citizens and residents currently in the Gaza Strip was conditioned upon the obligation to remain there for three consecutive months.

The petitioners argued that the order specifically affects and targets Arab citizens and residents of Israel, since it is overwhelmingly they who marry Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip. Since the order does not affect Israeli citizens and residents requesting to enter the Gaza Strip to visit settlers, the new order constitutes discrimination on the basis of national belonging. Furthermore, the new order blatantly discriminates against Arab citizens and residents of Israel who are married to, or are parents of, Gaza residents, thereby violating their constitutional rights to family life, dignity, equality and privacy, and breaching their constitutional right to enter Israel. As such, the objective of this order is inappropriate, and unacceptably broad and sweeping.

At a 7/04 hearing, the Israeli Military Southern Command declared the freezing of the order. The Israeli Military representative also stated that all permit requests will be reviewed on an individual basis, and the actual necessity for the order will be reviewed. Although the Court did not rule on the legality of the order, it declared that the petitioners may return to the Court should the Southern Command decide to renew the order.

H.C. 5076/04, Z. Housaini et. al., v. IDF Major General, Southern Command.