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Israel's apartheid policies against Palestinians prevent family reunification between Gaza and West Bank families

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29 January 2023 |Reference 08/2023

For decades, Israel has imposed and proactively maintains an apartheid regime against the Palestinian people as a whole—including Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), Palestinians holding Israeli citizenship, and Palestinian refugees in exile denied their right of return. As reported by Al Mezan, in the context of the occupied Gaza Strip, Israeli apartheid targets its two million inhabitants through the imposition of a 16-year closure and blockade, which amounts to a collective punishment prohibited under international law.


Israel’s settler-colonial closure of Gaza, rooted in stringent restrictions on freedom of movement and a discriminatory permit regime, serves—inter alia—to fragment Palestinian society and divide Palestinian families. Against this backdrop, dozens of Palestinian families have been denied their right to live together and have been separated while waiting for an Israeli-issued exit permit that would allow them to leave the Gaza Strip through Erez and obtain residency in the West Bank. Families in which the husband has a West Bank ID and residency, while the wife and children have a Gaza ID and residency, are routinely denied family reunification applications by Israeli authorities, effectively preventing them from moving to the West Bank together.


Palestinian women are disproportionately affected by these harsh measures, as they are forced to live apart from their spouses and families residing in the West Bank, raising their children alone. According to Al Mezan’s documentation, over a hundred women and their children have submitted family reunification requests via the Palestinian Civil Affairs Authority to the Israeli authorities to relocate their residence from Gaza to the West Bank and reunite with their spouses and families. Some of these requests have been submitted for over ten years and are left unanswered by Israeli authorities. This policy means that Palestinian families in which one of the spouses is registered as a Gaza resident can therefore live together as a family only in Gaza.


T. J., a 44-year-old Palestinian woman residing in the Strip and holding a Gaza ID, said to Al Mezan: “I’ve been living alone with my children for more than 12 years. My husband works and lives in the West Bank. We can only communicate through cell phones. Our lives are in shambles, and we desperately need to reunite and live as a family. My five children need their father. I can’t play both parents at the same time. We’re only a couple of hours away. Our lives are miserable.”


The right to freedom of movement is guaranteed under both international human rights and humanitarian law. Israel, as the occupying power, must guarantee such right to the residents of the occupied Palestinian territory. Yet, Israeli restrictions on freedom of movement impede thousands of Palestinians the enjoyment of their right to family life and the protection of the family unit. In its 2012 Concluding Observations (CERD/C/ISR/CO/14-16)), the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern at the maintenance of discriminatory laws and policies denying Palestinians family reunification.


In conclusion, Al Mezan maintains that Israel must lift its closure and blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip immediately, fully, and unconditionally and end all associated unlawful restrictions imposed on the movement of people to and from Gaza, including by allowing free movement between Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.