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From the field

Divide and Rule: Prohibition on Passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank

May 1998, Summary

In its new report, B'Tselem details the daily suffering and injustice caused for thousands of Palestinians by the lack of free movement between the two parts of the Occupied Territories.

In the Oslo Accords, Israel and the PNA agreed to establish "safe passage" between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, enabling Palestinians to pass through Israeli territory to travel from one area of the PNA to another. However, although more than two years have passed since the parties signed the agreement, the safe passage has not yet been implemented.

The denial of passage between the West Bank and Gaza Strip imposes hardships on virtually the entire Palestinian population. First degree relatives may be separated for years, unable to attend weddings and funerals of parents or children. The lack of passage also has serious detrimental affects on economic development, health and education. The report discusses two surprising and significant findings:

Individuals are denied permits without explanation or the right to appeal. In several instances, an individual was denied a permit on security grounds yet granted a permit following an appeal by B'Tselem or another human rights organization. This pattern strongly suggests that the authorities deny permits in a random and baseless manner. Absurdly, it is easier today for a Palestinian to enter and work in Israel than to move between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In order to obtain a permit to work inside Israel, a Palestinian must be over twenty-three, married, and without a security or criminal record. Furthermore, quotas for workers have reportedly been rescinded so that anyone who meets the criteria and has a place to work may enter Israel. By contrast, it is virtually impossible for a Palestinian to obtain the permits necessary to cross through Israel to travel between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Such passage is virtually impossible.

The sweeping restriction on movement is imposed arbitrarily on the entire population of the Occupied Territories, and is therefore not only for security but constitutes collective punishment.