JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli court on Wednesday rejected a request by a Palestinian woman from the Gaza Strip to study in the Israeli-occupied West Bank despite Israel’s recent moves to relax the Gaza blockade.
Three justices found for the Israeli Defense Ministry’s view that Fatima Sharif, 29, a Gaza human rights attorney, “failed to meet the criteria” for an exit permit to entitle her to travel to the land-locked West Bank, where Palestinians seek a state.
Sharif had planned to pursue a master’s degree in human rights and democracy at Bir Zeit University near the West Bank town of Ramallah, where Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s headquarters are located.
“We were not persuaded that in the current political and security situation, that personal circumstances would justify any intervention in the decision,” the justices wrote.
Human rights activists say Sharif is one of thousands of Palestinians unable to cross to the West Bank from Gaza due to longstanding Israeli restrictions tightened since Hamas Islamists who reject Israel’s existence seized Gaza in 2007.
Israel’s cabinet eased a Gaza blockade last month, allowing in most civilian goods while keeping out items seen as enabling the manufacture of weaponry, a decision prompted by a world outcry after nine were killed on a Gaza aid flotilla in May.
The Israeli decision did not lift restrictions that bar most Gazans from leaving the territory by crossing through Israel, but pledged to streamline the process of issuing such permits, a Defense ministry statement to the court said.
Israeli exit restrictions for Gaza’s 1.5 million people have only been lifted in humanitarian cases such as medical emergencies. Many Palestinians from Gaza also access the outside world through the territory’s border crossing with Egypt.
Sharif, who earned her law degree in Gaza, told Reuters she has not left the territory via Israel for years. “I feel like I’m living in a cage. Somebody is holding the key,” she said.
Reporting by Tom Perry in Gaza; writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; editing by Philippa Fletcher