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5,000 in Gaza have no ID cards; await family reunification permits

Oct. 31, 2009 2:11 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 1, 2009 3:07 P.M.)
Gaza – Ma’an – Speaking on behalf of the at least 5,000 Palestinians living in Gaza without ID cards, Haydar Abu Sharkh appealed to Palestinian leaders to speed up the process of issuing cards.

Without an ID card Palestinians in Gaza cannot apply to Israel for a permit to leave for medical treatment in Israel or the West Bank, they cannot apply for permits to visit jailed relatives in Israeli prisons, or permission to leave the Gaza Strip though Rafah. For those with family in the West Bank, no ID card means no travel permit, so families remain fragmented with no possibility of visits.

Israel caps the number of ID cards the Palestinian Authority can issue. The cards are effectively residency permits for Palestinians and give them rights for government services including welfare or social support. Palestinian refugees who wish to return to live in the West Bank or Gaza must obtain a permit. Without one they can be deported by Israeli officials arbitrarily from checkpoints within the West Bank. In Gaza, those without ID cards will not be deported, since travel is strictly through the Egyptian Rafah crossing, and Palestinians enter with travel documents from their former host countries.

The last time Palestinians in Gaza were issued ID cards, was in August 2008, when 230 were approved for family reunification permits. Before that 5,000 were issued in July 2008.

Abu Sharkh said that in addition to the cases in Gaza, there were thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank without ID cards.

In May, Minister of Civil Affairs in the Palestinian Authority Hussein Ash-Sheikh said the PA would soon resolve a remaining 2,000 family reunification cases for Palestinians in Gaza. He said his ministry was in contact with Israeli authorities about the cases. There has been no mention of the issue since.

Abu Sharkh appealed also to Ash-Sheikh, asking him to explain why 5,000 Palestinians in Gaza had no legal documents affirming their right to be there. "Those without ID cards have trouble receiving medical treatment, travel, and study documents," he said, noting a few cases where internationals have married Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have received ID cards while others have not.
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