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Israel bans 5 Gaza women from study in West Bank

July 26, 2012 4:04 P.M. (Updated: July 27, 2012 4:33 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israel's Defense Ministry said Thursday it would not allow five female students from Gaza to go to university in the West Bank, rights groups said.

In May, Israel's Supreme Court ordered the ministry to reconsider its refusal to allow the students to travel to the West Bank, after Israel admitted there were no individual security concerns about any of the students.

On Thursday, Israel's General Eitan Dangot said the students would not be allowed to travel because of "substantial political and security reasons," the Israeli organization Gisha said in a statement.

The five students -- four of whom are veteran women's rights activists -- are enrolled to study gender studies, democracy and law programs at Birzeit University near Ramallah. There are no Master's programs in gender studies or democracy in the Gaza Strip.

Israel controls all the entry points to the West Bank so residents of Gaza need Israel's approval to travel there.

Sameer Zaqout, of the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, told Ma'an the decision reflected Israel's view of Gaza as a "hostile entity," noting that the Attorney General had acknowledged the five women posed no security threat.

Gisha said Israel's blanket ban on students traveling from Gaza to the West Bank was in breach of international law and inconsistent with Israel's commitments under the Oslo Accords.

"This is the second time the Supreme Court has recommended that the state consider exceptions to the ban on travel by students from Gaza to the West Bank, and the second time the state has refused. The state's response shows no indication that it did in fact reconsider its position, as ordered by the court," Gisha's legal director Nomi Heger said.

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