Page last updated at 16:08 GMT, Wednesday, 10 September 2008 17:08 UK

Israel 'dividing up Palestinians'


Two Israeli rights groups have accused their government of tearing Palestinian families apart by curtailing the right to live in the West Bank.

Hamoked and B'tselem say the Israeli military has stepped up efforts to expel Palestinians with "illegal status" from the West Bank to Gaza.

B'tselem said several thousand Palestinians had been affected by the policy since November 2007.

The Israeli government has not directly commented on the groups' report.

However, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Andy David said the failure of the Palestinian Hamas movement to recognise past peace accords with Israel was the "real reason" for restrictions on movement between the West Bank and Gaza.

'Illegal aliens'

The groups say that over the past year, the military "has taken active measures to locate and expel Palestinians from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip under the pretext that they are 'illegal aliens'".

The new permit regime is an unprecedented, legally baseless move
B'tselem and Hamoked report

They say Israel has instituted a policy requiring Palestinians from Gaza who are living in the West Bank to apply for a temporary three-month permit to stay there.

"This, even if they have lived in the West Bank for many years, established their homes there and, in some cases, even if they were born in the West Bank," the report says.

It says Palestinians wishing to enter Gaza must undertake never to return to the West Bank, an effect of which has been to force relatives left behind to also move to Gaza "with no possibility of returning to the West Bank".

The report accuses Israel of "exploiting the hardship of families which are split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip".

The groups say marriage between Gazans and Palestinians from the West Bank is no guarantee for obtaining a permit.

"The new permit regime is an unprecedented, legally baseless move by which Israel is turning Palestinian residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territories into 'illegal aliens' in their own homes," the report says.

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