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Friday, 12 July, 2002, 09:20 GMT 10:20 UK
Palestinian anguish at Jordan border
Woman argues with Palestinian policeman at Jericho bus terminal
The Jericho bus terminal is now a scene of despair

Hundreds of Palestinians hoping to enter Jordan from the West Bank are suffering wretched conditions in the stifling heat of Jericho because of new border controls.

It is one more indignity for West Bank Palestinians, whose towns and villages are surrounded by Israeli checkpoints.

Now their only way out of the West Bank, via the Allenby Bridge to Jordan, has been dramatically constricted.

Hundreds of people have been sleeping rough in Jericho for several days with no proper facilities, hoping to be allowed to board buses to the bridge.

Jordan has denied it is restricting the entry of Palestinians, but it is known to be concerned about a mass influx of Palestinians escaping difficulties at home.

Thousands of Palestinians used to pass over the Allenby Bridge every day to visit relatives, study and get medical treatment. Now, there are just a few hundred.

To reach this point, the last gate out of the West Bank, most Palestinians now have to wait for days.

Jordanian controls

Israel Ifrach, the Israeli operations manager at the bridge, says the Jordanians began curbing the number of people they let in - without notice - last month.

Palestinians waiting to cross into Jordan
Some families have been stranded for more than a week
"They've changed quantities. This time a couple of years ago you could see this hall packed with people. At the moment you see hardly 20 people.

"It is hell. I think it is hell for each passenger and the Jordanians usually lock the door after the seventh or the eighth bus that they accept."

Mr Ifrach says the Jordanians have not said why they are accepting fewer people.

"We presume that they've got some immigration problems," he says.

Refugees

The majority of the Jordanian population is of Palestinian origin.

In successive Middle East wars, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees fled into Jordan.

Now, with most of the West Bank under Israeli re-occupation, the Jordanians are terrified of a new influx - either a forced transfer by Israel or a slow emigration.

Palestinians waiting to cross Allenby Bridge into Jordan
Many Palestinians are on the move during the summer holidays
Reema Jaber, a teacher from Ramallah, finally made it to the last exit with her three children.

Like most West Bankers, she has a Jordanian identity card and wants a break from the Israeli re-occupation.

"Shooting, killing, curfew. It's very difficult. For this reason we come to change something - holiday - to let our babies feel that they are free. We want to change."

She insists that she only wants to visit her brothers and family.

Misery

The Palestinians are now putting up with almost impossible conditions as they try to cross into Jordan. They are waiting in the stifling heat of Jericho, the lowest city on earth and in summer one of the hottest.


We don't have a house, we don't have anything, you see - dirty, hungry, no money

Palestinian man

"I've been living in this rubbish for eight days," says one woman.

"I go to Jordan every year but I've never seen anything like this. All I want to do is visit my sick brother."

A Palestinian man says he wants to go to Jordan because his mother is sick.

"She wants to go to hospital in Jordan. Big problem here. We don't have a house, we don't have anything. You see - dirty, hungry, no money, very bad life to stay here."

Another man says he wants to reach Dubai via Jordan.

"Everybody here eight days, nine days, 12 days, like this - just sitting here. Many people here are sick."

Health problems

As he checks an old woman's blood pressure paramedic Gandi Zani says many people are sick among those waiting near the border.

"We have medical cases here, too much, like heart disease, cancer. And now we have the sand insect... And other problems like vomit."

The misery of the Palestinians now waiting in Jericho has become an embarrassment for the Jordanian authorities.

They say they are trying to help those stuck at the border to cross.

But they acknowledge that they are imposing new regulations on Palestinians entering the Kingdom - fearing Jordan could be swamped with a new wave of Palestinian immigrants as the situation in the West Bank deteriorates.


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05 Jul 02 | Middle East
04 Jul 02 | Middle East
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24 Oct 00 | Middle East
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