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Stranded at Erez, Israel's deportees mark Eid

Sept. 11, 2010 12:28 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 13, 2010 9:56 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Thirteen Palestinians, who once had Israeli identity cards allowing them to live with their spouses, celebrated Eid alone, in Gaza City on Friday.

The men, who lived in what is now the Israeli city of Beersheba (formerly Beir Seba) were detained and deported because of small mistakes or oversights in their registration processes with Israeli ministries. Under the passing of Military Order 1650, Israel's military expanded the definition of an "infiltrator" to include any individual living in areas controlled by the country without express permission.

The vague details of the order, and the discriminatory registration and residency system in Israel, lead to the deportation of the 13 men, thrown into Gaza, where most had not lived in decades.

There were tens of others, beginning with Ahmad Au’da Abu Shalluf, who was deported at the end of April, the first under the new orders.

"I feel lonely," Muhammad Al-Atawneh, another man deported to Gaza under 1650, told Ma'an, "and sad, away from my wife and children," who all continue to live in Beersheba.

"This year I can hardly bare Eid Al-Fitr, I feel low, low, and can only think of my days in Beersheba. Now I'm far away from my family, and I can only hope that next year I will be beside then," he said.

"I feel doubly lonely here," Al-Atawneh said of Gaza, where residents move in tight family circles, depending on relatives for support and security as Gaza remains closed and conditions poor. "There is no one to share these bad feeling with."

Shortly after the order came into effect, the South African government said the law was "reminiscent of past laws under apartheid South Africa," and called the situation "unacceptable."

Mahrous Al-Dirawi also lived in Beersheba, and was one of the first to be deported to Gaza, even before the military order took effect. "I have no answer when my children ask me when I am coming home," he told Ma'an.

Without an Israeli residency permit, Al-Dirawi was living in Israel with a work permit, and had been doing so for years. In 2007 his work permit expired and was not renewed, he continued living in Beersheba with his family, hoping to process residency papers.

Shortly before the Israeli war on Gaza in winter 2008, he was picked up and deported.

Even a residency permit did not offer Muhammad Al-Sane security for his life in Beersheba; he was deported shortly after the Israeli military passed order 1650. His wife and five children remain in the city, once a Bedouin hub in the Negev, but lawyers tell Al-Sane that little hope remains for his return. He remains in Gaza.

All three men said they wished only to return to their family and friends in Beersheba, to make Eid visits to relatives and give sweets to children. As the siege on Gaza remains in place, however, the tens of thousands of residents who once worked in Israel remain unemployed in a stiffed economy, and the pours border was replaced by a closed crossing and a 300 meter militarized buffer zone.

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