Israel's occupation authorities have stepped up pressure on Palestinians from the West Bank who move to Gaza to sign a pledge to not return to their homes, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz has revealed.
This practice, Haaretz said, has gained steam in the last ten years, noting it has changed the lives of affected people forever.
Reporting the case of Ula Baka, 42, who was born in the West Bank city of Nablus and moved to Gaza to start a family with her husband there.
When she passed through the Erez Crossing heading to the Gaza Strip, she was asked to sign a document called "a declaration of settlement in Gaza," without knowing it would have changed her life forever.
Baka was not the only case, Haaretz said; it was part of a new systematic approach of revoking residency from Palestinians from the West Bank who got married to their spouses from the Gaza Strip.
Haaretz reported that Baka did not know that she would not return to the West Bank, where she was born by signing the declaration.
In August, the couple decided that Baka and their children would go to live with her family in the West Bank and her husband would remain in Gaza.
At the same time, Baka's brother, who lives in the West Bank, became ill with cancer and she decided to see him after not visiting home for 20 years.
She applied to move from Gaza to the West Bank, but according to Haaretz, her application was approved only after her brother died; she then used the approval for a condolence visit with the family.
After the visit was over, Baka wanted to go back home to Gaza. At the Erez Crossing, she was asked to sign the declaration of settlement in Gaza or go back to Nablus.
"The pressure on me was unbelievable," she told Haaretz. "They told me I only had two options, this way or not at all. What was I supposed to do? I have a sick child in Gaza and he needs me," she said.
Human rights group Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement told Haaretz that it has handled at least 80 similar cases since 2010.
It stated that signing the document means waiving their right to return to the West Bank to live in the future, and many people do not know this when they sign.
Gisha said in a report that the protocol was introduced more than a decade ago, and that since 2019 it has been applied more systematically.
In a number of appeals by Gisha, the court ruled that the appellants be allowed to return to the West Bank, despite having signed the declaration.