Wednesday, February 14, 2007

New directive hampers entry of Arabs, Palestinians into Gaza

By Amira Hass

13 February 2007

Israeli Arabs, West Bank residents and Palestinian
residents of East Jerusalem face tougher border control
regulations at the Erez Crossing on the Israel-Gaza border
in light of a new directive requiring Israeli citizens to
present a passport or a laissez-passer when seeking to
enter the Gaza Strip.

The new directive, effective February 1, adds weight to
Israel's declaration that Gaza is no longer an occupied

One of the implications of this directive, however, is
that East Jerusalem residents living mostly in the Gaza
Strip now run the risk of losing their Israeli

A group of some 800 to 1,000 Israeli Arab citizens married
to Gazans are required to renew their stay permits in the
Strip every month. Jerusalem residents belonging to this
group are required to undergo a prolonged bureaucratic
procedure with the Civil Administration and the Interior

According to the Center for the Defense of the Individual,
the law stipulates that Palestinian East Jerusalem
residents whose permanent place of resident is not
Jerusalem must lose their Israeli citizenship.

The Center says the state should have announced an
adaptation period that would allow Israeli citizens
entering Gaza to prepare the documentation required by the
new directives.

In the past two weeks the Center interceded on behalf of a
few Israeli citizens who were not allowed to enter Gaza
without their passports.

Interior Ministry spokesperson Sabine Hadad told Haaretz
there is "no blanket decision and that we make decisions
on a case-to-case basis." Arab women with Israeli
citizenship who are married to Gazans have expressed their
fear of losing their citizenship, but Hadad says in
response that "one cannot lose one's Israeli citizenship

The experience of those women contradicts Hadad's
statement to Haaretz that "no date has been set for
barring the entry into the Gaza Strip without a passport.
If and when such a directive is put in place, we will
ensure it is advertised on the media."

At this point, West Bank and Gaza residents are exempt
from presenting their passports at the crossing and use
permits issued by the Civil Administration, under a
directive that took effect in 1991.

The vast majority of Israelis affected by the new
directive are Israeli Arabs and residents of East
Jerusalem who do not have Israeli citizenship. Most of
these have relatives in the Gaza Strip.

According to Gisha, the Center for the Legal Protection of
the Freedom of Movememnt, a West Bank resident who works
in the Gaza Strip was required to present a passport in
addition to the laissez-passer in his possession. This
incident shows the bureaucratic indeterminacy that
pervades border control authorities.

Hadad clarified that, "West Bank residents are required to
coordinate their entry [into Gaza] with the Army, their
entry is not related to the Interior Ministry."

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