Curbs eased for Gazans seek­ing to travel to U.S.

The Washington Post - - THE WORLD -

Is­rael on Wed­nes­day launched a pro­gram to pro­vide shut­tle ser­vice for Gazans who need to travel to the U.S. Con­sulate in Jerusalem — an op­er­a­tion that could ease one of the many re­stric­tions it places on Pales­tini­ans who want to exit the block­aded ter­ri­tory.

Is­rael al­lows only a small num­ber of Gazans to travel through Is­rael — mostly for med­i­cal care or other hu­man­i­tar­ian grounds. It cites se­cu­rity con­cerns for the re­stric­tions.

In re­cent months, it has barred Gazans from en­ter­ing Is­rael for visa in­ter­views at the U.S. Con­sulate af­ter some ap­pli­cants fled into hid­ing in Is­rael or the West Bank to seek work. The re­stric­tions have pre­vented sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple from ap­ply­ing for visas to travel or study in the United States.

About 100 Pales­tini­ans were al­lowed Wed­nes­day to cross into Is­rael and board buses bound for Jerusalem. They were ac­com­pa­nied by Pales­tinian Civil Af­fairs Com­mit­tee of­fi­cials.

“In the near fu­ture, ad­di­tional shut­tles will be sched­uled on dates to be de­ter­mined by the Amer­i­can Con­sulate in co­or­di­na­tion” with Is­rael, said COGAT, the Is­raeli de­fense agency that co­or­di­nates cross-border move­ment.

Is­rael and Egypt im­posed a block­ade on the Gaza Strip af­ter the Is­lamist mil­i­tant group Ha­mas seized con­trol of the ter­ri­tory from the West­ern-backed Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity. Is­rael con­sid­ers Ha­mas a ter­ror­ist group.

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