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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Passports, the latest weapon in the political rivalry Fatah - Hamas

Cancer patient Ahmed Abu Fuad needs chemotherapy to survive. Muhammad Subeh needs an eye-transplant while paramedic Alaa Sarhan desperately needs surgery to remove shrapnel from his body. But these Gazans are unable to leave the area to seek the required medical treatment elsewhere, and it is not because of the Israeli siege.

Hundreds of Gazans have fallen victim to the infighting between the Hamas and Fatah — who govern in Gaza and the West Bank respectively — as passports have become the latest weapon in their political conflict.

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Following the overthrow of the PA in Gaza, the passport registry office was moved to Ramallah. But before passports are issued, the intelligence services of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas vet applications for 'security' purposes, which is a euphemism for political affiliation.

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Even when Gazans have managed to overcome all the red tape and emerged with a passport, many have had their documents confiscated by Hamas officials at the border crossings into Egypt and Israel.

'The Hamas authorities have prevented dozens of Fatah activists from leaving Gaza by confiscating their passports. In a few cases the passports were returned after we intervened, but most weren’t,' Mahmoud Abu Rahma from the Gaza-based human rights organisation Al Mezan told IPS.

Other Fatah members have mistakenly been associated with Hamas by the interior ministry. It was only after they found contacts in the PA who convinced the intelligence services of their political affiliation, were the passports issued.

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'This behaviour is clearly politically motivated. While both Palestinian factions argue that security is the main factor behind passports being denied or confiscated, it is obvious that both Hamas and Fatah are using passports as a political weapon against the other side and that ordinary Palestinians are once again paying the price,' Abu Rahma said.

It was easy for Lauren Booth to get a "Palestinian VIP passport". Although I wonder if the PA would accept this Gaza-issued one as an official one.