Married but apart: Women from Gaza with spouses from the West Bank forced to raise children alone

Yasmin ‘Abd al-Basset’s four sons

B’tselem reports:

Israel’s apartheid regime prevents thousands of Palestinian families, in which one spouse is from the West Bank and the other is from the Gaza Strip, from living together as a family in the West Bank. These families are forced to make an impossible choice between living together in Gaza – at the cost of separating from family in the West Bank and enduring the harsh living conditions and financial hardships in Gaza – or living apart, with one spouse raising the children on their own.

The ban is part of Israel’s separation policy, designed to isolate the Gaza Strip and implemented since the 1990s. Israeli-imposed restrictions were tightened when the second intifada began in September 2000, peaking in 2007, when Israel put the Gaza Strip under a blockade, imprisoning residents inside it. Since then, Israel has allowed residents to leave Gaza only in rare, exceptional cases it defines as “humanitarian,” treating these permits as a gesture of goodwill towards the recipients rather than their right. Israel has made it clear that, as a rule, marriage does not justify passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and the Israeli Supreme Court upheld this position, giving it a legal seal of approval.

This state of affairs belies Israel’s claim that it has no responsibilities towards Gaza’s residents after having implemented the disengagement plan in 2005. Using its near complete control over all crossings – in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – and over the Palestinian population registry, Israel dictates Palestinian subjects’ daily lives and meddles in their most basic relationships: with spouses, parents and other relatives.

The main victims of this Israeli policy are women from the Gaza Strip who married residents of the West Bank. They are left to raise their children alone in the harsh conditions of the Gaza Strip, with no hope or certainty regarding their future. B’Tselem collected testimonies from some women forced to live in this way.

Muna al-Aastal with her children, 6 June 2022

Yasmin ‘Abd al-Basset (35), a resident of Gaza City, lives with her four children in the Gaza Strip. Her husband lives in the West Bank. On 6 September 2022, she told B’Tselem field researcher Khaled al-’Azayzeh how Israel has repeatedly refused her applications for a permit to travel to the West Bank, so the family can live together:

I came with my family from Saudi Arabia to the Gaza Strip in 1994. In 2009, I married my husband, Muhammad ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Basset ( 37), who is originally from ‘Azzun’ Atmah in Qalqiliyah District and has a West Bank ID card. Before the wedding he entered Gaza through Rafah Crossing, alone, without his relatives from the West Bank.

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