palestinian family 311.
(photo credit: Mohammed Ballas/AP)
The Helou family is so worried about getting expelled to Gaza by Israeli
authorities that they’re all but trapped in Jenin.
They couldn’t even
leave to get their disabled son the best possible surgery to let him
Some 20,000 Palestinians in the West Bank live under the same fear,
because they hold residency papers from the Gaza Strip and Israeli
refuse to allow their papers to be updated – though they have lived in
Bank for years.
Israel eased its blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip
this month by allowing more goods into the territory. But the embargo is
one of the many restrictions imposed on Palestinians and their movement –
including rules effectively locking them into whichever of the two,
separated territories they were born in, the West Bank or Gaza.
families like the Helous that they’ll be thrown out of their homes have
increased since recent IDF rules branded those living in the territory
residency papers as “infiltrators” subject to prison or expulsion. The
enshrine the military’s on-andoff policy for the past decade.
within the West Bank runs the risk of running into the more than 500
military checkpoints that carve up the tiny territory – about the size
Connecticut – and being discovered by soldiers.
“The whole world is
closed to my children,” said Lubna Helou, whose eldest son Issam, 17,
walked for years because of an extreme flat foot condition.
were afraid to send him abroad for surgery because he would have to show
soldiers his ID that lists his address as Gaza, exposing him to the risk
They’ve also skipped doctor’s appointments outside his small
town of Jenin.
“Tens of thousands of people are under constant threat,
preventing them from obtaining jobs, medical care, educational
for fear of crossing a checkpoint,” said Sari Bashi of the rights group
which is challenging the military order in court.
IDF officials say Gaza
residents can return to that territory along with their West Bank
that would mean leaving West Bank homes they have lived in for years.
most Palestinians are reluctant to settle in impoverished Gaza, where
is a formidable struggle.
The regulations were first imposed in 2000
after the eruption of the last major round of Israeli-Palestinian
Israeli officials sought to restrict the mobility of gunmen and
suicide bombers sneaking into Israel to carry out attacks.
which lasted for about five years, “was a security turning point for
said military spokeswoman Lt.-Col.
Gazans who moved to the West Bank before 2000 could no longer register
address in their Israeli-issued IDs. West Bankers were required to get
permits to join spouses in nearby east Jerusalem.
Gisha argues a person’s
address shouldn’t be treated like a nationality. They also argue that
policies violate international law and Israel’s own signed agreements
Palestinians to treat the West Bank and Gaza as one political unit – not
Since restrictions began in 2000, Israel has agreed
to transfer the residency permits of just 17 Gaza residents to the West
Palestinian officials said.
The Helous started out in Gaza. Gaza-born
Mouin, 41, and his wife, Lubna, 35, a West Bank native, had four
Gaza. In 1998, they crossed to the West Bank town of Jenin, where their
youngest children were born.
Some families have already been cleaved
The March military order sparked fears of a move to expel Gazans
in large numbers, but there has been no noticeable increase.
said the order was intended to clarify military policies. She said only
Gaza residents found by patrolling Israeli soldiers would be expelled –
people in the past two years.
Wafa Abdel Rahman of Harakeh, a
newly-formed Palestinian group lobbying to overturn the rules, argues
officials should rectify the unfair rules instead of leaving
Palestinians at the
“We don’t think the Israelis have innocent intentions,” she