The High Court of Justice on Tuesday turned down an urgent petition asking that a resident of the Gaza Strip be permitted by Israeli authorities to attend the funeral of his infant son, who died the day before in a West Bank town.
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The petition on behalf of Gazan Bakr Hafi was filed by the Israeli human rights group Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual. Hamoked had been informed by Israel’s Coordination and Liaison Administration for Gaza that Hafi, 44, was prohibited from leaving the Strip on security grounds.
Hafi moved to the West Bank from Gaza in 1999, but since Israel has for over 20 years prohibited Gaza residents from residing in the West Bank without special permits, he was deported to Gaza in 2004. Since then he returned to the West Bank twice and was expelled each time, most recently in 2009, even though by then he had been married to a West Bank resident and had two daughters there.
After his arrest in 2009 Hafi was interrogated by the Shin Bet security service for several weeks in the Shikma prison, but no charges were lodged against him and he was sent back to the Strip. (In the past, however, he had been charged with theft of a car.)
His wife visited him in Gaza in 2012, entering by way of Egypt since she could not receive an Israeli permit to enter the strip by way of the Erez checkpoint. She bore their child, Emir, in Tul Karm in 2013. When it turned out that the boy suffered from a genetic illness, the family requested that the father be allowed to visit him even for just one day.
A petition to that effect was filed with the High Court in February, 2014. The judges did not want to contravene the decision by the security establishment to prevent Hafi from leaving Gaza. His appeals to the Coordination and Liaison Administration, which is subordinate to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, went unanswered, even in November, when the child’s condition deteriorated.
In the urgent petition filed on behalf of Hafi, attorney Nasr Ouda wrote that his client was “denied the right of exercising his parenthood and the right of supporting his wife during their son’s serious illness. The father now requests that the court not deny him the opportunity to see his son for the first and last time, and to be by his wife who has suffered alone for many months, fighting as best she could to overcome her son’s illness.”
Although they turned down the petition, Justices Asher Grunis, Elyakim Rubinstein and Zvi Zilbertal suggested that a request by the bereaved mother and daughters to enter Gaza be considered in a positive light by the authorities.