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Rights groups: Israel treats Palestinians like 'illegal aliens' in West Bank, Gaza

Sept. 10, 2008 10:42 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 10, 2008 10:42 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Two prominent Israeli human rights organizations on Wednesday accused Israel of sharply escalating its policy of separating Palestinian populations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military puts "thousands of Palestinians at risk of expulsion to the Gaza Strip," a policy that effectively turns them into "illegal aliens in their own homes," according to the report published by HaMoked and B'Tselem.

Since late 2007, Palestinians from Gaza residing in the West Bank have been required to apply for temporary permits to remain there. Human rights groups criticize the new Israeli decree because it is often used to justify expulsion of Palestinians who have lived in the West Bank for several years, have homes there and, in some cases, were born there.

The report accuses Israel of using the permit policy to "locate and expel" Palestinians in the West Bank under the pretext that they are "illegal aliens."

"Israel is exploiting the hardship of families which are split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip to force them to move to Gaza permanently," said B'Tselem's communication director Sarit Michaeli.

Israel forces Palestinians entering Gaza to sign an agreement never to return to the West Bank, according to the paper, which cites several individual cases as evidence.

The two Israeli rights groups criticized a recent ruling by the High Court of Justice that "puts a seal of approval" on Israel's policy of "denying Palestinian residents the right to choose where they wish to reside." Michaeli said that the courts had "made efforts" in the past to mediate between the two parties.

HaMoked and B'Tselem said that Israel should "immediately renew freedom of movement" between the West Bank and Gaza.

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