Gaza students demand access to W. Bank

High Court set to rule in coming weeks on petition filed by students of occupational therapy.

Erez Crossing Waiting 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Erez Crossing Waiting 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The High Court of Justice will hand down its ruling in the next two weeks on petitions filed by 10 occupational therapy students from the Gaza Strip who have been refused permission to take a two-month practicum in the West Bank to complete their studies. A spokeswoman for Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, said that given the climate in Israel today because of the security situation in Gaza, she was not optimistic the court would rule in their favor. The petitions were filed by the students, Gisha, the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, and Bitona for Community Development. They were filed on December 1, 2005, by seven female and three male students. The petitioners called on the army and the Interior Ministry to lift the ban preventing the students from traveling from Gaza to the West Bank and studying in Bethlehem. There is no school for occupational therapy in Gaza. The state has prohibited Gazan residents aged 16-35 from entering the West Bank on security grounds. During several hearings in the High Court, the state said it could not examine the security record of the 10 students individually, but their age accorded them a "dangerous profile." Since they have not been allowed into the West Bank, the students have studied occupational therapy via Internet and by occasional teaching visits to Gaza by faculty from Bethlehem. However, in a hearing held Wednesday, the petitioners told the court the system had broken down. They said it became harder for faculty members to enter Gaza and the students and teachers were forced to meet in Egypt. Not all the students could afford these trips, they said. Israel closed the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt on June 9. Five of the students, who went to Egypt to meet with teachers at the end of May, have been stuck there ever since, the petitioners said. The state argued that since it imposed the ban on travel from Gaza, the situation had deteriorated and become even more threatening for Israel. "Today, the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian side of the border crossings with Israel are controlled by a terrorist organization that acted in the past and is acting today to perpetrate attacks against Israel as part of its aim, as expressed in its covenant, to destroy the state," the state said.