Egypt-Gaza border opens under Palestinian Authority control for first time in a decade

Palestinian security forces stand guard outside the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, which opened under the control of the Palestinian Authority for the first time since 2007. (AFP)
Updated 18 November 2017
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Egypt-Gaza border opens under Palestinian Authority control for first time in a decade

GAZA: The Egypt-Gaza border opened under control of the Palestinian Authority for the first time since 2007 on Saturday, raising residents’ hopes for easier passage in and out of the impoverished enclave.
An Egyptian-brokered reconciliation deal last month formally restored Palestinian President Abbas’s administrative control of Gaza, including its border crossings with Israel and Egypt, after a 10-year schism with Islamist Hamas.
Palestinians hope the pact will ease Gaza’s economic woes and help them present a united front in their drive for statehood, although the details of implementation of the deal have yet to be worked out fully.
Citing security concerns, Egypt and Israel maintain tight restrictions at their Gaza borders. Hamas, regarded by the West as a terrorist group, seized the enclave in 2007 after fighting forces loyal to Abbas.
Hamas quit positions at three Gaza crossings and handed them over to Palestinian Authority employees on November 1, in a step seen as vital to encouraging Israel and Egypt to ease their restrictions on the movement of goods and people.
Witnesses said at least five buses loaded with passengers crossed over to the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing on Saturday. Hamas-appointed policemen had checked travelers’ documents in a separate hall outside Rafah.
Egypt has not yet signaled any change to its present policy under which it opens the border crossing three times a week.
Palestinians are hoping the crossing will operate full-time, as it had been doing until 2007. About 30,000 Gazans have applied for entry to Egypt in the past few months, according to the Palestinian Interior Ministry.
Egypt will host further talks with Hamas, Fatah and other factions next week on November 21 to discuss major reconciliation issues, including security arrangements and a possible date for Palestinian presidential and parliamentary elections.
Responsibility for security remains an open issue in Gaza, where Hamas, which still polices the territory, has what analysts say are at least 25,000 well-equipped fighters. The group refuses to disarm, as demanded by Israel and the US.


Iraq’s Mosul logs civil records lost to years of Daesh rule

Iraqis wait at the Nineveh governorate building in Iraq's second city of Mosul to resolve issues related to their identity documents. (AFP)
Updated 45 min 46 sec ago
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Iraq’s Mosul logs civil records lost to years of Daesh rule

  • During the Daesh’s reign, thousands of Iraqis who lived in areas controlled by Daesh virtually disappeared from state registers
  • When Iraqi forces retook the city and courts reopened, he and his wife rushed to sign a new marriage contract

MOSUL: When Shahed was born in 2015 her father tried to notify Iraq’s civil registry. The problem was, their city of Mosul was held by Daesh group and the office had been shut.

Three years later, 39-year-old Ahmed Aziz has yet to officially register his daughter’s birth, the certificate for which bears the seal of the so-called caliphate.
Under the late summer sun, the taxi driver braves a long queue outside Mosul’s reopened civil registry, hoping that by the end of the day Shahed’s name will finally appear in state records.
The little girl was born just a year after Daesh swept across the country, seizing swathes of territory including Iraq’s second city Mosul.
“The civil registry was closed,” said Aziz, holding the IS-stamped document issued by a hospital in Mosul.
But since Iraqi forces ultimately regained control of the city in July 2017 after a bloody months-long campaign, residents have flooded the city’s reopened offices.
Thousands of children like Shahed had been born under Daesh rule, and the extremists had systematically blown up civil offices and archives.
“I saw this massive rush to get to the public offices, so I preferred to wait a bit before going there too,” said Aziz.
As a result, his daughter does not yet officially exist.
During the Daesh’s reign, thousands of Iraqis who lived in areas controlled by Daesh virtually disappeared from state registers.
Some lost their identity documents as neighborhoods turned into battle zones, others as they fled the violence.
Many of those who remained were given documents from Daesh’s proto-state — ministries and courts created by the jihadists to register births, marriages, deaths and trade agreements alike.
None of that paperwork has been recognized by Iraqi authorities.
When Zein Mohammed got married in 2014, he and his soon-to-be wife had to present themselves at an IS court to seal the deal.
What should have been the best day of the now 29-year-old civil servant’s life was instead a test.
“I appeared in front of the judge with my fiancee — she was covered head-to-toe in black,” he told AFP.
Under Daesh rule, Mosul’s residents were forced to bow to the jihadists ultra-conservative demands.
Women were compelled to fully cover themselves in black veils and long robes, and civil cases were heard by courts that dealt out death sentences and corporal punishment for “sins..”
“The judge issued us a marriage certificate bearing the IS seal,” said Mohammed.
When Iraqi forces retook the city and courts reopened, he and his wife rushed to sign a new marriage contract.
Now, packed in among the crowd outside Mosul’s civil registry, Mohammed is hoping to finally regularize their marital status.
Iraqi civil servants are working around the clock to meet the massive demand, compiling files, verifying identities and registering official documents and certificates.
It is a titanic job, often slowed due to additional safeguards imposed by Iraqi security services in the former IS stronghold.
To weed out fake IDs and spot jihadists seeking to slip through the cracks, “intelligence services check each document,” head of Mosul’s registry office General Hussein Mohammed Ali told AFP.
But the added security measures have not hampered progress.
“More than a million certified documents and more than 2,000 passports have already been issued,” he said.
Mustafa Thamer, a 23-year-old student, is applying for his first passport even though he has no plans to travel soon.
“We say we must have a passport so that we can leave whenever we want,” he told AFP.
“We lived under IS occupation and we no longer trust the future of the city,” he said.
“Anything can happen in Mosul.”