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Palestinians of Gazan origin worried about possible travel restrictions

A Palestinian worker inspects trucks carrying supplies following their arrival in Rafah through the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip recently. (AFP)
AMMAN: While the Palestinian reconciliation efforts sponsored by Egypt and supported by the rest of the world appear to be moving in the right direction, unexpected problems are emerging.
Gazans in the West Bank are worried that the reconciliation will have a negative effect on their travel while Hamas supporters in Gaza are worried about the willingness of the Ramallah government to pay Gaza employees appointed by Hamas.
Fatah’s number two-man, Mahmoud Alloul, said on Palestine TV Friday that the reconciliation effort is moving ahead despite some obstacles.
“There was a delay in the transfer of one of the ministries on Thursday,” Alloul said, without naming the ministry, but he continued that “nothing will stop the reconciliation process.”
According to the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Hamas leaders have expressed concern regarding salary payments delayed by the Ramallah government without explanation. The Palestinian Ministry of Finance stated on its official website that only 50% of the month of September salaries will be paid on October 26th.
Hamas, which has been asked to stop collecting taxes from Gazans, has called on the Palestinian government to reassure worried public employees about their salaries, Al-Quds Al-Arabi added. Hamas wants the Palestinian government to commit to paying all salaries, including those of civil servants appointed by Hamas, until a final decision is made about their fate. The Ramallah-based Palestinian government, however, has repeatedly said that the status of these employees will be decided by a follow-up committee.
Payment of salaries is one one several concerns that Gazans have, with worries about freedom of travel expressed by some, especially in relation to entry to Jordan.
Palestinians of Gazan origin must obtain before travel a Jordanian permission to enter the country. Since the 1993 Oslo Accords, West Bank and Gaza residents have been able to travel around the world using the same Palestinian issued passports. Nevertheless, Palestinians deemed by Jordan as Gazans (namely, if they were born in Gaza or are children of Gazan parents), must apply for a special permit called adam mumanaa — a no-objection document — issued by the Jordanian Ministry of Interior.
Wafa Abdel Rahman, founder and director of Filasitynat, a leading women’s nongovernmental organization, is a Gazan who has been living in the West Bank for decades and active in dealing with this problem.
Abdel Rahman told Arab News that some 50,000 Palestinians of Gazan origin who have changed their residency to the West Bank, are worried that they will be unable to travel without restrictions. They are concerned that Jordan is likely to make it more difficult for them to get permission to travel to or through Jordan if the Rafah crossing is reopened.
The Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement calls for the presidential guards to return to Rafah by Nov. 1 and with European observers, the crossing could be opened around the clock soon.
“Living in Ramallah as a Gaza-born means you are stuck, you can’t return to see your family in Gaza, and you can’t travel outside the West Bank for work or pleasure,” she told Arab News. Palestinians in the West Bank need Israeli permission to travel to Gaza. Israel requires no such prior permit for anyone exiting by way of the West Bank.
Students, workers, individuals invited to conferences and business people are among those who have faced difficulties to obtain permits to enter Jordan, said Abdel Rahman.
Abdel Rahman said that the process to get this Jordanian permission is costly, the application fees are irrevocable and it is time-consuming.
“The process takes weeks and sometimes months without any clarity of the rules as to why some people are rejected,” she told Arab News.
Despite this inconvenience, most (but not all) Gazans with a legitimate reason to travel have been granted this permit because Rafah was closed.
Abdel Rahaman is worried however “that when the Rafah crossing is open Jordan will be under less pressure to grant Gazans travel permits to or through Jordan.”
Omar Kullab, the head of an ad hoc committee of Gazans living in Jordan, shares this concern. Kullab told Arab News that it is very possible that Gazans trying to travel to Jordan will find it more difficult in the future. “With the reconciliation on track to get the Rafah crossing open, Jordan will feel less pressured to allow Gazans permission to travel to or through it.”
Gaza’s troubles and that of its people seem set to continue. A visit by a senior Hamas delegation to Iran headed by Salah Arruri, deputy head of the Hamas politburo, has been reported by the Iranian based Al Alam news webstite.
The visit comes amid strong Israeli opposition to Palestinian reconciliation and calls on Hamas to disarm and recognize Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin has said on his Facebook page that “Israel opposes any reconciliation in which the terrorist organization Hamas does not disarm and end its war to destroy Israel.”

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