Israel Approves West Bank Residency for 4,000 Undocumented Palestinians

Israeli soldiers check a Palestinian woman as she waits to cross the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem, to attend the second Friday prayers in the al-Aqsa mosque during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on April 23, 2021. (AP)
Israeli soldiers check a Palestinian woman as she waits to cross the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem, to attend the second Friday prayers in the al-Aqsa mosque during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on April 23, 2021. (AP)
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Israel Approves West Bank Residency for 4,000 Undocumented Palestinians

Israeli soldiers check a Palestinian woman as she waits to cross the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem, to attend the second Friday prayers in the al-Aqsa mosque during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on April 23, 2021. (AP)
Israeli soldiers check a Palestinian woman as she waits to cross the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem, to attend the second Friday prayers in the al-Aqsa mosque during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on April 23, 2021. (AP)

Israel announced on Tuesday that it approved registration as West Bank residents for some 4,000 Palestinians who have been living for years in the Israeli-occupied territory without official status.

The decision affects 2,800 former inhabitants of the Gaza Strip who left the enclave after the Hamas movement seized it in internal Palestinian fighting in 2007, Israel's COGAT liaison office to the Palestinians said.

Some 1,200 other Palestinians, among them undocumented spouses and children of West Bank residents, will also receive official standing.

Inclusion in the Palestinian Population Registry, which Israel controls, will enable the group to receive identification cards. The documentation will enable passage through Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank, an area captured in a 1967 war.

Israel describes the roadblocks, condemned by Palestinians and rights groups as restricting freedom of movement, as a security necessity.

On Twitter, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he approved the 4,000 residency registrations as a humanitarian gesture and "as part of my policy to strengthen the economy and improve the lives of Palestinians" in the West Bank.

Hussein Al Sheikh, a senior official of the Palestinian Authority (PA) that exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, said on Twitter that the 4,000 "obtained their right to citizenship" and would receive identification cards.

Under interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deals that established the PA, Israel committed to approve the residency in the West Bank and Gaza of some 4,000 new spouses of local residents each year under a family reunification program.

Israel suspended the approvals when the Palestinian uprising erupted in 2000. It granted some 32,000 reunification permits in 2008 and 2009, but largely froze the process, save for a smattering of humanitarian cases, since then.

Gantz gave the new approvals some seven weeks after holding talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah. It was the highest-level meeting between Abbas and an Israeli minister to be made public since Israel's new government was formed in June.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a far-right politician, opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, a divisive issue his cross-partisan government is unlikely to pursue. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014.



UN Human Rights Chief: Unconscionable Death and Suffering Happening in Gaza

A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
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UN Human Rights Chief: Unconscionable Death and Suffering Happening in Gaza

A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)

Palestinians in the Israeli occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are suffering a drastically worsening human rights environment, alongside "unconscionable death and suffering" in the Gaza Strip, the UN human rights chief said on Tuesday.

"The situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is dramatically deteriorating," Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the opening session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The West Bank, where the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule under Israeli occupation, has seen the worst unrest for decades, in parallel with the war in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas.

Turk said that from the start of the Gaza war in October through mid-June, 528 Palestinians, 133 of them children, had been killed by Israeli security forces or settlers in the West Bank, in some cases raising "serious concerns of unlawful killings".

Twenty-three Israelis have been killed in the West Bank and Israel in clashes with or attacks by Palestinians, he said.

In Gaza, Turk said he was "appalled by the disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law" by parties to the war.

"Israel's relentless strikes in Gaza are causing immense suffering and widespread destruction, and the arbitrary denial and obstruction of humanitarian aid have continued," Turk said.

"Israel continues to detain arbitrarily thousands of Palestinians. This must not continue."

He added that Palestinian armed groups were continuing to hold hostages, including in populated areas, which put both the hostages and civilians at risk.

Israel's permanent mission to the UN in Geneva accused Turk of "completely omitting the cruelty and barbarity of terrorism" in his address to the UN Human Rights Council.

"Hostilities in Gaza are the direct result of Hamas terrorism, decades of rocket-fire and incitement against the Jewish people and the State of Israel, culminating in its brutal attacks against Israel on October 7," the diplomatic mission said in a statement.

Israel's ground and air campaign was triggered when Hamas-led fighters stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's offensive has killed more than 37,400 people in Gaza, according to its health authorities, and left much of the enclave's population homeless.