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PA minister banned from entering Israel

July 7, 2010 10:45 A.M. (Updated: July 8, 2010 3:16 P.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma'an – PA Minister of Prisoners Affairs Issa Qaraqe was denied entry into Israel on Tuesday and stripped of his VIP card permitting him to cross Israeli military checkpoints without harassment.

The minister told Ma'an that he was en route to a meeting in Nazareth with a follow-up committee on the cases of Palestinian prisoners in Israel who hold Israeli ID cards when he was detained.

Qaraqe said he was ordered out of his car by Israeli soldiers at the Beit Jala Tunnels checkpoint, and told he would be taken to a detention facility for questioning. The official refused to get out of his vehicle and was informed by a checkpoint soldier that he would be stripped of his VIP card.

The cards, part of the Oslo Accords signed in 1993, guaranteed freedom of movement and access for elected Palestinian Authority officials.

Following the revocation, Qaraqe said he had no intention of halting visits with freed Palestinian prisoners whether they were residents of Israel or Palestinian areas. "It is an integral part of my work as a minister," the official said.

In 2000, the PA was banned from operating in Jerusalem. The Orient House, the main government and diplomatic center in East Jerusalem, was ordered closed, and all government activities, or government-supported activities quashed by Israeli forces.

In 2009, celebrations for Al-Quds Capital of Arab Culture were violently put down, with officials participating in planning meetings at the Christmas Hotel, and involved in balloon launching events with school children were detained or chased from the city.

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