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US Consulate: Israel issuing new 'PA-only' visa stamps

Aug. 15, 2009 2:00 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 17, 2009 10:55 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Israeli border officials have begun issuing entry visas that permit travel only in Palestinian Authority-controlled areas, according to the US Consulate to Jerusalem.

An undated entry first appeared on the consulate's website this week, announcing the Israeli policy change and basing its findings on steps taken by officials at both the Allenby Bridge and Ben Gurion International Airport.

Buried in the consulate's Border Crossings subsection and titled, "New Palestinian Authority Areas-Only Stamp," the entry confirmed previous reports to Ma'an from non-Palestinian American, French, Italian, and Jordanian travelers over the past month that Israeli officials had begun issuing the new entry visa stamp.

"Anyone indicating that they either have connections to the West Bank, or are planning to travel to the West Bank, may get this stamp, which does not permit them to enter into (or, in the case of Ben Gurion, return to) green-line Israel," read the website entry. The visa would also preclude travel to Palestinian East Jerusalem, which has remained continuously occupied since 1967 when Israel announced its "annexation."

Alarmingly, the consulate entry added that it stood powerless against the policy, and that diplomats could not be expected to aid US citizens labeled with the debilitating stamp, which would preclude travel outside or even between PA-controlled cantons in the West Bank.

"The Consulate can do nothing to assist in getting this visa status changed; only Israeli liaison offices in the West Bank can assist -- but they rarely will," the website entry noted. "Travelers should be alert, and pay attention to which stamp they receive upon entry."

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On the Net: http://jerusalem.usconsulate.gov/border-crossings.html
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