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Cablegate: Three U.S.-Bound Gazan Students Detained at Erez Crossing

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHJM #1256 1971557
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 151557Z JUL 08
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2136
INFO RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 4268

UNCLAS JERUSALEM 001256

SENSITIVE, SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/IPA (KPHELAN AND NSHAMPAINE), NEA/PPD (QBRADFORD AND
PAGNEW) AND ECA/A/E/NEA-SCA (LALAMI AND DIVES)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAL IS PHUM
SUBJECT: THREE U.S.-BOUND GAZAN STUDENTS DETAINED AT EREZ CROSSING

1. (SBU) Summary. On July 14, only two of the five Gazans whose
transit through Erez crossing Post had sought to facilitate were
approved. The other three were unable to travel to Jerusalem for
their visa interviews. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On July 2, Post submitted the names of five Gazans (Said
Elmadhoun, Fadi Elhindi, Islam Elboji, Ashraf Abuamsha, and Nidal
Kafarna) to COGAT Erez and requested permission for them to exit
Gaza and travel to Jerusalem for visa interviews on July 14. Of the
five, one was selected for an IVLP, one is the husband of a
Fulbright '08 student, and three are undergraduate students who were
advised by AmidEast and accepted with full scholarships to U.S.
universities. Post asked them to arrive at Erez very early July 14
to allow for processing time. Post also sent a car and PD FSN to
meet the group at Erez and escort them to and from Jerusalem.

3. (SBU) Only two of the five Gazans were able to travel to
Jerusalem to apply for their visas on July 14. These two departed
Erez at 1300 in order to make it to and from Jerusalem before the
Erez crossing closed. The other three were detained for various
periods of time by the Israeli authorities at Erez and were unable
to travel to Jerusalem. They were not informed whether their
permits were approved, albeit too late in the day for them to travel
to and from Jerusalem before Erez closed.

4. (SBU) Below is a summary of the events at Erez, including
excerpts from their personal accounts:

--Islam Elboji: She was initially approved and sat in the waiting
area for four hours with the two others who were approved and then
informed by the Israeli authorities that she required extra
processing. She was subsequently sent back to Gaza without further
questioning and told to return in a week. She was not informed
whether her permit was approved. She wrote: "At 12:35 PM, the
Israeli employee gave Said AL-Madhoon his ID and permission while
she did not call me and I have waited until 1:40 PM when another
Israeli guy came and told me to return back to Gaza and come again
on July 21 at 9:00 AM. So I have taken my ID and returned back."

--Ashraf Abuamsha: He waited three hours in the processing terminal
before further questioning. He was then sent back to Gaza. He was
not told whether his permit was approved. He wrote: "The
questioning lasted for about one hour and I was asked ordinary
questions about my work in the ICRC, family, parents, brothers,
sisters and friends. Then they sent me back again upstairs to the
big waiting room for 15 minutes and gave me my ID and asked me to go
back to Gaza."

--Nidal Kafarna: Mr. Kafarna is a YES high school exchange program
alumnus who was questioned by the GOI for eight hours when he
returned from his year abroad in 2006. This time, he was questioned
for ten hours (0800 - 1800), including two interview sessions and
long waiting periods, and required to strip to his underwear.
Afterwards, he was told to return to Gaza. He was not told whether
his permit was approved. He wrote: "After a while, I was led back
to the waiting alley, where I had started; they gave me my
belongings on the way. I thought it was all over, and that things
were working fine for me. I was asked to go to the booth where a
different woman was sitting, she handed me my ID card and pointed at
a gate behind me. The gate had the word GAZA written on it. I
couldn't believe myself; I am going back to Gaza."

5. (SBU) Post understands that Embassy Tel Aviv is raising this
issue with the GOI to seek assurances that the Israeli authorities
at Erez will facilitate the Gazans' travel to Jerusalem for their
rescheduled visa interviews. ConGen Jerusalem will follow up in
conjunction with Embassy Tel Aviv.

LAPENN

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