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)
Updated 21 October 2017
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Palestinians of Gazan origin worried about possible travel restrictions

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.”


Syrian children study on the ground in abandoned villa

Displaced Syrian children attend class at a makeshift school in the village of Muhandiseen, in the south western countryside of the Aleppo province, on September 24, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 25 September 2018
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Syrian children study on the ground in abandoned villa

  • Some sit with their knees drawn on a plastic woven carpet, their shoes neatly by its side

ALEPPO, Syria: In rebel-held northern Syria, displaced children sit or lie on the ground of an unfinished villa, bending over their notebooks to apply themselves as they write the day’s lesson.
Four teachers instruct around 100 children — girls and boys aged six to 12 — at the makeshift school in an opposition-held area in the west of the northern province of Aleppo.
Between the bare walls of the villa abandoned mid-construction, children sit or lie on sheets or plain carpets, their small backpacks cast by their side.
Dubbed “Buds of Hope,” the teaching facility has no desks, library or even working toilets.
Instead, the air wafts in from beyond the pine trees outside through the gaping windows in the cement wall.
Dressed in a bright blue T-shirt and jeans, her hair neatly tied back in a pony tail, a barefoot girl kneels over her book, carefully writing.
“This isn’t a school,” says 11-year-old Ali Abdel Jawad.
“There aren’t any classrooms, no seats, nothing. We’re sitting on the ground,” he says.
In one classroom, a gaggle of veiled young girls sit on a bench, as the teacher explains the lesson to one of their male counterparts near a rare white board.
In another, the school’s only female teacher perches on a plastic chair, as her students gather around on the floor, their backs against the wall.

Some sit with their knees drawn on a plastic woven carpet, their shoes neatly by its side.
The children — as well as their teachers — have been displaced from their homes in other parts of Syria due to the seven-year war, a teacher told an AFP photographer.
Some hail from Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus, a former rebel stronghold that fell back under regime control in April after a blistering offensive and surrender deals.
Others come from the central provinces of Hama or Homs.
A dry fountain lies in the courtyard outside the villa’s elegant facade, where girls link arms and swing around in a circle.
Schools in opposition-held areas are generally funded by aid organizations, but have in the past been hit by bombardment.
“We’re always scared of bombardment and of the situation in general,” says one of the teachers, giving his name as Mohammed.
The building lies in rebel-held territory adjacent to regime-controlled parts of Aleppo city to the east, but also the major opposition stronghold of Idlib to the west.
Some three million people live in the Idlib province and adjacent areas of the neighboring Aleppo and Latakia provinces, around half of them displaced by war in other parts of Syria.
Earlier this month, many feared a regime assault on Idlib, but last week Damascus ally Moscow and rebel backer Ankara announced a deal to temporarily halt it.