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From the field

The Civil Administration Prevents Ibrahim Musa and his Family from Visiting their Relatives in Gaza

Ibrahim Musa, Lecturer at Bir Zeit University

Muhammad NasserI am from a Palestinian family that has lived in Rafah in the Gaza Strip since 1948. I have eight brothers and sisters. In October 1990, I was offered a job in Bir Zeit University. I moved to the area around Ramallah, near the university and in August 1991 I married Munira Abu-Shmala, 36 years old, who is also from the Gaza Strip. Munira moved in with me and we currently live in Bir Zeit. Since I moved to the West Bank, I have faced difficulties in traveling between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

During the first period, from October 1990 until 1993, it was necessary to get permits form the Civil Guard in Rafah, and it was difficult to get them. The permit was given for a month at a time and I was forced to go to Rafah every month to renew it. At times, two or three days passed until I got the permit, and I was forced to spend the night there and miss work. During the first six months living in the West Bank, I was stopped, without explanation, three times by Israeli patrols who I encountered on the street, because my ID said I was s resident of Gaza. Each time they would detain me for three to six hours. Once I was released but the soldiers did not return my ID. For five days I could not go to work, because I repeatedly went to the Civil Guard in Ramallah in order to ask them to give me back my ID.

After the Oslo Agreement in 1993, the situation worsened rather than improving. I still needed to get a permit, but the procedure became more complicated. The applications for permits had to be submitted to the Palestinian District Civil Liaison Office, which was then supposed to receive a response from their Israeli counterpart. Sometimes it would take a long time until the answer arrived, between one to three days. Sometimes I wouldn't get a permit, as they said that there was a closure. Because of the closures I was worried that I would find myself stuck in Gaza, far away from my work place. Thus, I would stay in Ramallah beyond the permitted time. I was careful when I crossed between the cities in the West Bank not to encounter an Israeli checkpoint, where they could possibly deport me to Gaza because I had stayed in the West Bank beyond the duration of my permit. As a result, I rarely visited my parents in Gaza - only about once a year. My last trip to Gaza was before the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifada in September 2000. Since then, for three consecutive years I have not traveled to Gaza because of the closure and because I have not received the permit. In 2002 I managed to change the registration in my ID as well as my wife's and my son Mahmoud so we would be listed as residents of Ramallah. I submitted many requests to the District Coordinating Office (DCO) to travel to Gaza but all were rejected. The Palestinian Liaison Office immediately rejected them, on the assumption that there was no chance that the Israeli side would approve the requests.

In February 2003, I finally received a permit for the holiday of Eid al-Adha [Feast of the Sacrifice]. It was my first trip in four years. I missed many family events. My mother Ghafra 'Issa Musa, who is eighty years-old, got sick and was hospitalized in 2002. Despite the fact that I attached medical reports, I did not receive a permit to travel to Gaza to see her. I also submitted requests to see my sisters that had returned to Gaza after being away for ten years, but again I did not receive a permit. In July 2004, my wife, myself, and my son submitted a request for permission to participate in my wife's brother's wedding in Gaza. No only was the request rejected, but the requests of the bride and her relatives, who are residents of Ramallah, were rejected. We then planned to travel through Jordan, to al-'Arish, and enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing. Since traveling that way would require significant effort, difficulty, and would be quite expensive, we decided that I would stay in Ramallah and that my son and wife would travel alone. The trip cost about one thousand Jordanian Dinars. The bride and her family also traveled through Jordan.

Ten days ago, my mother became ill and was hospitalized. I called the Palestinian DCO to check if I could get a permit to visit her. The DCO checked with their Israeli counterparts to see if there was any point of submitting a request. They said that I would not be able to get a permit because a closure had been placed on the Gaza Strip, and because of military operations that were taking place. I was really pained that I could not go see my mother. A week later, on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2004, my mother passed away.

After my mother's death, I called the Palestinian DCO who called his Israeli counterpart, who was even willing to attach documents confirming the death to my request. The Israelis rejected the request without considering the exceptional. situation. They denied me the basic right of participating in my mother's funeral and saying goodbye to her.

The isolation and limitation on freedom of movement between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have deeply affected my wife and I. Many changes have occurred in our family. People have married, gotten sick, passed away, children have been born, and I have not been able to participate in the joyous and sad occasions, and even in holidays when every Muslim visits his parents and family members. I am very bitter and feel as if I am under house arrest, limited, unable to move.

Ibrahim Nimr Hassan Musa, 48 years old, married and father to one son. He is a lecturer at Bir Zeit University and a resident of Bir Zeit located near Ramallah. His testimony was taken by Iyad Hadad, on Oct. 11, 2004 at Bir Zeit University.