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Israel blocks mail between Gaza, West Bank

May 20, 2010 4:47 P.M. (Updated: May 22, 2010 4:08 P.M.)
Gaza – Ma'an – Israel has halted the flow of government sector mail between Gaza and the West Bank, causing a delay in the receipt of official documents, officials said on Thursday.

Maher Abu Ouf, Palestinian director for the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel, said Israel shut-down all mail services last Wednesday after forces detained Gaza-based postal service official Sufian Abu Zubda.

"We do not know the reasons for Abu Zubda's detention," Abu Ouf told Ma'an.

The crossings official said they had called on Israel to resume the postal service between Gaza and the West Bank, but had yet to receive an official response.

Said Ash-Sharfa, head of Gaza exports, said only DHL still has permits to operate.

A representative from Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment on the report.

Despite unilaterally withdrawing its forces and citizens living on illegal Gaza settlements, Israel maintains strict control over the Gaza Strip, notably over the passage of goods in and out of the coastal enclave since Hamas' takeover in 2007.

Until late 2009, all mail sent and received by Palestinians went through the Israeli Postal Service with letters designated for the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem often marked "via Israel."

However, with support from USAID's PA Capacity Enhancement Program, implemented by Chemonics International, the Palestine Postal Service was awarded an International Mail Processing Center Code by the Universal Postal Union, allowing the Palestine Postal Service to send and receive mail directly to and from other postal administrations around the world, rather than through Israel.

It also enables the Palestine Postal Service to receive payment from other postal administrations to facilitate delivery of incoming international mail to addresses in the West Bank and Gaza. Previously, the Israeli Postal Service received the payments.
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