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HRW: New Israeli Guidelines Risk Turning West Bank into Another Gaza

HRW: New Israeli Guidelines Risk Turning West Bank into Another Gaza

Tuesday, 24 January, 2023 - 06:45
Israeli border guards patrol in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on October 20, 2022. HAZEM BADER / AFP

Human Rights Watch warned on Monday that Israeli guidelines for foreigners entering the West Bank risked turning the occupied territories into another Gaza, cutting residents off from the outside world.

The regulations have faced waves of condemnation from the European Union and United States.

Israel said the rules, which came into force in October, are aimed at clarifying the procedures surrounding West Bank entry.

Under the new guidelines, the three-page document for foreigners entering the West bank, was replaced by 61 pages. The new rules will be implemented on a two-year trial basis.

HRW said the measures "threaten to further isolate Palestinians from loved ones and global civil society."

It said the new guidelines codify and tighten longstanding restrictions, threatening to make it even harder for Palestinians in the West Bank, who already face severe Israeli-imposed movement restrictions, to be with family members who lack a West Bank ID and to engage with foreign students, academics, experts, and others.

"Israel is taking yet another step toward turning the West Bank into another Gaza, where two million Palestinians have lived virtually sealed off from the outside world for over 15 years," HRW's Eric Goldstein said.

“This policy is designed to weaken the social, cultural, and intellectual ties that Palestinians have tried to maintain with the outside world,” he added.

Gaza has been under a strict Israeli blockade since 2007, the year the Hamas group took power in the coastal territory. Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967.

Some of the most controversial new West Bank access measures relate to foreigners seeking to join their Palestinian spouse.

Israel, under the new rules, can reject such family reunification claims if they violate "the policy of the political echelon."

HRW called on the US and European States to press Israeli authorities to make it easier, not harder, for people, including their own citizens, to build meaningful connections with West Bank communities.

It then warned that Israeli authorities’ severe repression of Palestinians, committed pursuant to a policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians, amounts to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.

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