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Occupation magazine - Life under occupation
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Israel`s denial of family reunification increases Palestinians` suffering
Siham Shamalakh--October 13, 2010--
GAZA, Oct. 13 (Xinhua) -- Having been separated for 17 years from her twin sister, Hayam Shamalakh who was only 19 when she settled in Gaza after the Oslo peace accords were signed in 1993 has been appealing to the Israeli government for family unification permits.
Hayam managed to study physiotherapy in Gaza and always hoped to visit her twin sister Amany who had moved from Egypt to Denmark. Her family, living in Diaspora since 1967, came to Gaza in 1993 and decided to illegally stay here without having Palestinian ID cards.
Israel now still caps the number of ID cards the Palestinian authority can issue. Without an ID card, Shamalakh cannot apply to Israel for a permit to visit relatives in Israel or to leave the Gaza Strip though Rafah. Under Israel`s control, no ID card means no travel permit.
Shamalakh said that Israel imposed a ban on issuing Palestinian citizenships and family reunification mounted the suffering of the Palestinians.
`I can not believe that I have not seen Amany for more than 10 years,` Hayam said desperately. `I feel like being trapped in Gaza and I see no hope to get a Palestinian ID because of the ongoing Israeli restrictions over this issue.`
Israel has approved reunification for about 10,000 families in the Gaza Strip and West Bank since 2007, but it suspended the process after the three-week Israeli military offensive on the enclave in late December 2008.
Even after Israel partially eased the blockade imposed on the coastal territory in June, and after Egypt permanently reopened Rafah border crossing, the Palestinians are still banned access to travel without ID cards.
`Things have grown more complicated now, mainly after the direct peace talks with Israel reached a standstill,` Shamalakh said.
The 50-year-old Um Mohammed, Shamalakh`s mother who is an Egyptian by origin, said with her eyes full of tears `my heart is torn apart with half of my daughters in Gaza and the rest abroad.` `I miss taking my daughters in my arms, I only talk to them on the phone or via the internet.`
`I send them gifts with travelers and they are the first thing I think about when I go to bed and when I wake up in the morning,` she said.
The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) officials said that the PNA has made intensive efforts in order to end the sufferings of thousands of Palestinian families who were not destined to obtain family reunifications from the Israeli authorities.
Hussein Asheikh, the PNA`s minister of civil affairs, said that this issue is one of their top priorities. `We saved no effort to discuss the matter with the Israelis whenever we had an opportunity, we are doing our part but the whole issue is in Israel`s hands.`
Arwa Mahmoud, a Jordanian in her early thirties and moved to live in the Gaza Strip after she got married to her cousin, has not seen any of her family members since 2000.
`I knocked all the doors to find a way out of Gaza to attend my brother`s wedding party in Amman, but all my efforts went in vain. I missed this opportunity but I am still of hope to see my family and my brother`s new born baby,` Arwa said.
Arwa participated every demonstration against Israel`s ban on issuing the remaining 5,000 family reunifications for Gazans. She said that she `has been following all news related to the issuing of Palestinian citizenships since after the war, but nothing has appeared in the horizon yet.`
Arwa said she hoped the PNA would put more efforts in this issue through human rights institutions and the international media outlets.
Special Report: Palestine-Israel Conflicts
Editor: Mu Xuequan
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