Ramallah Court gives GAzans right to stay 24Oct10 October 24, 2010

Ma’an News Agency -  24 October 2010

The Palestinian Supreme Court in Ramallah decided Friday that Palestinians from Gaza who are living in the West Bank can transfer their residency status, allowing thousand of previously restricted Palestinians to move freely within the West Bank.

Palestinians whose ID card shows an address in Gaza risk being deported to Gaza if they pass an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank, even if they have been living in the West Bank for many years, and have family and a job here. As a result, thousands of Palestinians who came to the West Bank legally are forced to live in hiding, and cannot move between towns and cities or go abroad.

According to lawyer Mousa Mansour, the Supreme Court’s decision was taken after Palestinian businessman Eyhab Al-Ashqar applied to the Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs department to change his address from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, where he now lives. His request was refused, in contravention of Article 32 of Palestinian basic law which states that any violation of personal freedom shall be considered a crime.

Mansour explained that Al-Ashqar filed a complaint with the Palestinian Supreme Court, and Justices Hisham Al-Hatou and Mustafa Al-Qaq ruled in favor of the plaintiff.

The decision read, “The Civil Affairs administration is committed to accept applications and take all procedures under its jurisdiction according to the transfer of authorities agreement signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel. The Civil Affairs administration would take a final decision on the applications.”

Mansour said the transfer of authorities agreement guarantees freedom of movement, and the Palestinian side is obliged only to inform Israeli authorities when residents change their address.

A report in November 2009 by the Israeli rights group Gisha said the PA Civilian Affairs department estimated that 25,000 Palestinians living in the West Bank were registered as living in Gaza. The report noted that these Palestinians were often restricted by checkpoints to a few kilometers in each direction, and added that Israeli authorities also entered homes and forcibly deported residents. The report was issued after Israeli military forces stepped up efforts to forcibly remove Palestinians with Gaza addresses from the West Bank.

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