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Gazans unable to use newly-issued IDs due to Israeli closure

Nov. 25, 2008 1:59 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 31, 2009 1:40 P.M.)
Gaza - Ma'an - Nairouz Qarmout has not seen her husband since their wedding three years ago.

Qarmout lives in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip. Her husband lives in the West Bank. The two were married when he travelled to Gaza through the Egypt-controlled Rafah crossing.

Making her situation more complex, Qarmout was one of thousands of Palestinians who had no identification card, making it nearly impossible for her to obtain an Israeli-issued permit to leave Gaza and travel to the West Bank.

Israel places limits on the number of ID cards the Palestinian Authority can issue, making it difficult for Palestinian families to reunite. This is often a problem for West Bank and Gaza residents who were exiled during the 1967 occupation and then returned to their homeland after the creation of the Authority in 1994.

The Civil Affairs division of the Palestinian Authority issued thousands of ID cards and family reunification permits earlier this year in hopes of solving the problem.

"Neither I nor my family had identity cards, my husband came through Rafah crossing three years ago and we made the wedding after which he had stayed for two weeks then left back for his work," she said.

Qarmout was finally issued an ID card this year. This came too late, as 2008 has witnessed the most severe closure of Gaza in decades, making it even more difficult to leave Gaza.

She says her only hope may be for her husband to apply for a passport from another country, and then for both of them to settle in the West Bank.

Qarmout's story is not unique in Gaza.

Wafa Duqmaq another resident of the Strip said she has not seen her son since he was arrested by Israel in 2003 because she did not have an identity card at that time. Now that she has obtained one, she still cannot visit her son because of a blanket Israeli policy prohibiting family visits for Gazan prisoners.

Rana Ash-Sharafi, a journalist for the Palestine newspaper said that getting an identity card changed nothing since she is still deprived from moving freely around the country due to the imposed blockade.

Ash-Sharafi said, "I have been in Gaza for eleven years and most of my family lives abroad, I even do not know most of the new generation, we only communicate through the internet."

She had recently missed what she said was the opportunity of a lifetime when she was chosen along with nine other journalists to attend a media training in Qatar with the pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera. Because of her lack of an ID card, she missed the training.

However, Mariam Hamed a former announcer at Sawt Ash-Shabab (Voice of the People) radio station said that receiving an identity card made her "feel better" even though she is not able to move freely.

Hamed said: "possessing an identity card made me feel like more independent, in the past I used to suffer from two issues but now I suffer from blockade same as all Palestinian people over here."

She continued: "Now I feel more connected to my country than before since the Emirati documents I had along with my school certificates had never helped me and my family in proving ourselves as residents of this country." She explained that she returned to Gaza at age of sixteen and since then she had not seen her brother who is now married and has children she has never met.
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