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