Family with American children stranded in Gaza

In blockaded Gaza, even an American passport isn't a sure ticket to freedom, reported AP.

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, but 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, Kaman 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 Israel's Supreme 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 criticize. 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.

Elkafarna could apply for Palestinian travel documents for the boys, but argues he shouldn't have to since they are American citizens.

In Jerusalem, U.S. Consulate spokeswoman Christina Higgins said she can't comment on individual cases, but that the U.S. State Department has been up front about its limited ability to provide services to Americans in Gaza.

The U.S. has banned government employees from the territory since Palestinian militants blew up an American diplomatic convoy there in 2003, killing three guards.

"We're in regular contact with American citizens there and we do monitor their welfare," she said. "In the past, we've done regular evacuations when groups of Americans want to leave. That said, our advice holds; we really think Americans should avoid all travel to Gaza because we do have a very limited capability there."

Higgins said she believes several hundred American citizens - presumably most of Palestinian origin - are currently in Gaza. She said exact figures are hard to come by because U.S. nationals don't register with the consulate.

Some face problems similar to those of the Elkafarnas.

Almaz Hijji, 43, gave birth to two of her children, Bader, 12, and Aya, 8, during the last two of her five visits to her siblings in Virginia, she said.

Both of her American children's passports are expired, meaning Egyptian border authorities won't let them leave Gaza, she said.

She said she has called the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem many times to find a solution, she said, but leaves messages in Arabic without getting a response.

Gazans with European passports seem to bee better off.

The United Kingdom and France have permanent offices in Gaza that provide consular services, and Germany regularly sends consular staff to set up a temporary office. Sweden, Norway and Denmark share a liaison who works with their consulates to deliver visas and provisional passports in Gaza.

Israel says Hamas is to blame for Gaza's troubles. The Gaza militants have attacked Israeli border crossings with Gaza numerous since Hamas took power, though the number of attacks has dropped following an Israeli military offensive in January.

"With its belligerent stance against Israel, Hamas has made impossible the free movement of people through the border crossings," said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

EU to hand over 30 vehicles to Georgia Border Police
EU to hand over 30 vehicles to Georgia Border Police
Geostat reveals volume of Russian exports to Georgia
Geostat reveals volume of Russian exports to Georgia
Georgia increases import of vehicles from Turkey
Georgia increases import of vehicles from Turkey
Loading Bars
Latest
Yemen's Houthi rebels say launch drone attack on Saudi air base
India's sports minister tests positive for COVID-19
Weekly review of highlights in Azerbaijan's transport sector
EU to hand over 30 vehicles to Georgia Border Police
Turkish scientist works on drug that can ‘kill COVID-19 in 2 days’
Uzbekistan may start production of its own vaccine against COVID-19 by the end of the year
Russia's Eastwind, Turkmenistan's Turkmensvyaz to sign contract
UK records another 2,206 coronavirus cases, 35 deaths
Iranian official offers upbeat assessment of progress in nuclear talks
Volume of goods transported by Azerbaijan’s vehicles in 2021 disclosed
Indonesia reports 5,041 new COVID-19 cases, 132 new deaths
Global COVID-19 deaths surpass 3 mln - Johns Hopkins University
Geostat reveals volume of Russian exports to Georgia
Solar panel station put into operation in Iran’s Razavi Khorasan Province
New auction to be held for Azerbaijani Finance Ministry's mid-term bonds
Georgia increases import of vehicles from Turkey
Kyrgyzstan imposes restrictive measures at airports
Bahar Azadi gold coin price rebounds in Iran
Foreigners to pass simplified visa procedures for 2021 F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Serbian FM to visit Tehran today
Azerbaijan discloses number of COVID-19 vaccinated citizens
Azerbaijan confirms 2,148 more COVID-19 cases, 2,287 recoveries
Armenia falsified Caucasian Albania temples in Azerbaijan - rep of religious community
Iran to send trade attaché to Azerbaijan
Weekly review of major events in Azerbaijan's oil & gas sector
Azerbaijan shares footage from Jabrayil's Dash Veysalli village (VIDEO)
Armenia strived to create history for itself in Azerbaijan's lands - Head of Albanian-Udi community
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for April 17
Volume of loaded and unloaded cargo in Iran’s Charak port climbs
Azerbaijani oil prices on rise
VICE News report on Armenia's attack on Azerbaijani Barda nominated for award
Weekly review of main events in ICT sector of Azerbaijan
Earnings from fuel savings in Iran paid to investors
Uzbekistan's CCI, Portuguese Industrial Association establish co-op
Buy/sell operations at Iran Mercantile Exchange soar
Rosatom, Uzbekistan working on contract for building nuclear power plant
Turkmenistan to create electronic exchange database
IMF calls on Georgia to reduce capital expenditures in case of lockdown
Russia reports a new high of 9,321 coronavirus cases since March 20
Azerbaijan's Albanian-Udi Christian community members visit ancient temple in Tugh - Trend TV (PHOTO)
OSCE MG should force Armenia to follow terms of trilateral statement - Azerbaijan's Parliament
Weekly review of Azerbaijani currency market
Azerbaijan, Turkic Council discuss creation of joint digital tools
Weekly review of Azerbaijani precious metals market
EU rep should follow int'l law before meeting with separatist in Karabakh - expert
Potential areas of Turkmenistan’s interaction within Visegrad Group+Central Asia framework identified
Georgia reports 1,219 new coronavirus cases for April 17
Georgia holds auction for privatization of state property
Azerbaijani MP talks about spring session of IPA CIS held in Russia's St. Petersburg
Georgia continues to conduct research on Namakhvani HPP
Iran unveils details exports from Maragheh County
Kazakhstan reveals total number of TEU containers shipped along Aktau-Baku feeder line
There have always been good grape varieties in Pirshaghi – white and black Shani - President Aliyev
Participants of Azercell Student Bursary and Internship Programs share their success stories
Iran boosts aluminum ingots production
Azerbaijani police find mortar shells, detonators left by Armenia in Gubadly (VIDEO)
Iran declares amount of loans issued to SMEs
Kazakhstan's revenues from road cargo transportation down
Concept of ensuring security of Afghan section of TAPI signed
Members of Albanian-Udi Christian religious community of Azerbaijan visit liberated Khojavand (PHOTO)
Australia to continue review of COVID vaccinations - health minister
Italian media outlets highlight speech of Azerbaijani president at int'l conference in Baku
Kazakhstan decreases import of Ukraine-made goods y-o-y
Kazakh national atomic company's subsidiary opens tender to buy compressors
Azerbaijan sets up structure to work on urban planning in liberated lands
Kazakhstan's oil & gas company opens tender to develop consolidated time standards
Meeting of EU special rep with so-called "FM of Karabakh" promotes separatism, says Azerbaijani expert
Iranian currency rates for April 17
Iran to increase vaccinations as fourth wave of COVID-19 rises
Iran reaches target uranium enrichment
Oil demand to keep on rising in May, June 2021
Work on provision of electricity to Azerbaijan's liberated Sugovushan nearing completion
Bulgaria sees Georgia as valuable partner
Significant number of Georgian citizens register for employment program in Israel
Kazakhstan’s COVID-19 caseload up by 2,822
Ukraine receives first batch of Pfizer vaccine under COVAX initiative
IMF corrects estimate on Iran's foreign exchange bank reserves
Azerbaijan attracting foreign investments for renewable energy projects
Uzbekistan to open an embassy in Sweden
Global COVID-19 infection rate approaching highest: WHO
Portugal resumes flights to Brazil, Britain
Turkey reports over 63,000 daily COVID-19 cases
EU eyes to provide grants to Georgian non-profit organizations
Israel reports 41 new COVID-19 cases, 836,740 in total
Biden signs order keeping Trump-era refugee cap at 15,000
EU-UK trade plunges after Brexit: Eurostat
UK records another 2,596 coronavirus cases, 34 deaths
UN Security Council approves ceasefire monitors for Libya
North Macedonia vaccinates some 35,000 citizens
Raul Castro resigning from Cuba’s Communist Party
Azerbaijani IT company working on creating new network, server infrastructures
Georgian Economy Ministry to form expert council on Namakhvani HPP
Relations between Russia, Azerbaijan attain degree of strategic alliance - Federation Council Chair of Russian Federal Assembly
Turkish engineers develop fiber that kills coronavirus in minutes
Uzbekistan’s gold and foreign exchange reserves drop to $32.6 billion
Iran’s petrochemical output to reach $40b: Oil Minister
Relations within CIS IA to make comprehensive partnership ties more profound among member states - Chair of Azerbaijani Parliament (PHOTO)
Azerbaijani gymnasts win set of awards at Trampoline Hopes Cup tournament
Russia to permanently ban entry for eight US officials
Liabilities of Azerbaijan's Kapital Bank increase in 1Q2021
All news