Give up your right to live in the West Bank, or never see your children in Gaza again

After marrying and moving to Gaza, Ola Baqa was prevented from returning to Nablus until her brother died. Then Israel forced an impossible choice on her

Ola Baqa and her family in Gaza

Sereen Ali  reports in +972:

Every day, I speak with Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who bear the brunt of Israel’s brutal policies that restrict their movement and deny them basic human needs. A recent such conversation I had, as part of my work at the human rights organization Gisha, illustrated just how exposed Palestinians in Gaza are to exploitation due to Israel’s policies — and how little choice they have over their own fate, let alone that of their families.

Last September, I spoke with a woman named Ola Baqa who was born in Nablus, in the occupied West Bank, and who moved to Gaza 20 years ago after she married a resident of the Strip. “I submitted a request to leave Gaza with my three children in order to return to live in the house in which I grew up, in the West Bank, with my extended family members who live there. My kids have never met them,” she told me. “My request was denied, because I signed a form saying I had given up my address in the West Bank. But I didn’t actually give it up, that’s just not true.

“Last year I was granted a permit to visit the West Bank [by Israel],” Baqa continued. “I made the request in order to see my brother, who was dying of cancer. But I didn’t get the permit to leave Gaza until after he had died. It was a difficult visit, everyone in my family was in deep mourning. The permit was for only three days, and I wasn’t late [back] by even a single minute. One of my sons has Down’s Syndrome, and he is dependent on me. It was hard for him that I was leaving.

On my way back to Gaza, soldiers at the Erez Crossing stopped me and didn’t let me continue,” she went on. “I didn’t understand why, or what they were saying. A steward who was there came over to translate what they were saying, and he said, ‘Either you return to the West Bank, in accordance with the address on your ID card, or you sign a form saying that you are changing your address to Gaza.’ I tried to explain to them that I need to get home to my kids. When I saw that they couldn’t understand me, I broke down.”

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