Report: 3,000 Residents of Gaza Are in Israel Without Permits or Supervision

YERUSHALAYIM -
gaza crossing
The Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom crossing in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Over 3,000 Gaza residents who entered Israel with permits since 2016 failed to return to the Strip, data requested by the right-wing watchdog group Im Tirtzu from the Defense Ministry for the purpose of transparency reveals.

The defense establishment knows that 3,291 Palestinians continue to stay in Israel illegally, but authorities – the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Shin Bet, or the Israel Police – have failed to monitor them and return them to the Gaza Strip.

As per the current procedure, entry permits into Israel are issued by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories following a background check by the Shin Bet, but this is where their responsibility ends.

“There are no instructions or procedures regarding the enforcement and supervision of Palestinians who violate the permit granted to them,” a Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories official said in response to Im Tirtzu’s request.

According to Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories data, between 2018 and 2020, 5,130,641 entry permits were approved for residents of Yehudah and Shomron and 105,910 for Gazans.

Of those, 86,133 and 2,884 from Yehudah and Shomron and Gaza respectively were for the purpose of “visiting a prisoner.”

No numbers were presented for 2021; however, in November, the government approved thousands of slots for Palestinian workers in Israel’s high-tech field.

The pilot program will be split up into three separate phases, within the framework of which hundreds of permits will be issued: Up to 200 Palestinian workers will receive permits by 2022, followed by another 200 in 2023, and another 100 permits in 2024. In total, Israel will issue 500 such permits in the pilot stage.

Alon Schwartzer, who heads Im Tirtzu’s research and policy division, said with regard to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories data, “For several years we have warned of the lack of an orderly procedure that would monitor the return of Yehudah and Shomron and Gaza residents with entry permits, and the fact that thousands of Gazans remained in Israel is proof that the State of Israel has failed the test.

“We will not allow the Israeli government to provide those who may be a security threat with one-way tickets to Israel. This is a complete gamble with the lives of Israeli citizens, and we call on the Israeli government to act immediately to change the existing procedure,” he said.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said in a statement, “The number mentioned in your article refers to all Gaza residents who left from 2016 until today, and did not return to the Gaza Strip. We would like to stress that this is 1% of the total permits granted during this period to Gaza residents for various purposes – including travel abroad and to receive medical treatment in Yehudah and Shomron.

“The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories constantly works with other security bodies in the State of Israel, who are in charge of law enforcement in the country,” it said.