Family with American children stranded in Gaza
In blockaded Gaza, even an American passport isn't a sure ticket to freedom.
Two boys, ages 5 and 6, are stranded because one has a U.S. passport that expired and the other's is about to.
The U.S. offers no consular services in Gaza, and Israel's border closure of the Hamas-ruled territory prevents the children from reaching the nearest U.S. diplomatic mission in Israel.
The bureaucratic limbo means the boys' Palestinian parents can't leave Gaza, either. Their father, Kamal Elkafarna, stands the risk of losing out on doctoral studies in Russia.
"It's an absurd situation," said Keren Tamir of the Israeli human rights group Gisha, which has appealed to an Israeli court on behalf of the family. "They can't get new passports since they can't leave Gaza, and they can't leave Gaza since they don't have new passports."
The predicament of the Elkafarna family highlights the growing hardship suffered by Gazans, two years after the territory was seized by the Islamic militant Hamas and its borders slammed shut.
The closure is enforced by both Israel and Egypt, which only let out a trickle of Gazans. Egypt opens the gates periodically for Palestinians with foreign residency or medical patients. Israel enables Gazans suffering serious illness to reach Israeli hospitals for treatment.
Israel says the travel restrictions are a result of Hamas' hostility to the Jewish state.
However, the blockade has been widely criticized. The Quartet of Mideast mediators - the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia - demanded over the weekend that Gaza's borders be opened. Human rights groups say locking in Gazans, especially students like Elkafarna, has backfired because the closure limits development while fueling frustration and militancy.
Elkafarna, 37, holds a Master's degree in systems engineering from George Washington University. His two sons, 5-year-old Elias and 6-year-old Qasem, were born in the United States while he obtained his degree.
Elkafarna, his wife and two sons returned to Gaza in 2004. He said that at the time, he didn't want to overstay his student visa in the U.S. and that he had no other place to go except Gaza.
He now hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in project management at Voronezh State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering in Voronezh, Russia. However, Russia won't give the boys visas in expired passports, and renewing the passports has proven impossible.
Want to solve it? Offer consular services in Rafah Egypt. Allow families to venture in and out of Egypt, leave Israelis out of it.
Why did they settle in Gaza? Why from 2004 to 2009 have they not left? 5 years later and with expired passport found a story to blame Israel with?
Nice piece of propaganda.
For the real people behind this, assuming they don't support murder and terror I wish the very best in seeking a better life in Russia, or anywhere outside of Gazahell.
Could it be that this guy has a certain record prohibiting him from traveling to Egypt?! Yea, don't expect the propagandists at AP to raise such questions, it might harm the violin background of this story.