Jordan urged to lift restrictions on transit for Gaza Palestinians
AMMAN - Human Rights Watch urged Jordan Monday to lift recent "restrictions" on transit through its territory of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, but the authorities in Amman denied any policy change.
Since August 2015, "Palestinians from Gaza have found it increasingly difficult to get permission to transit through Jordan to travel abroad, without any explanation for the change," HRW's Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson wrote in a letter to the Jordanian authorities.
Israel has imposed a land, air and sea blockade since 2006 on the Islamist Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, which is bordered to the north and east by the Jewish state and to the west by the Mediterranean.
To the south, the Palestinian enclave is also subject to an Egyptian blockade.
Since the closure of the Rafah border crossing into Egypt, up to 100 Gazans, mostly students and businessmen, are allowed to transit Israel every week to travel abroad via the West Bank and Jordan, the New York-based rights group said.
HRW said that "until recently", Jordan helped to facilitate such travel.
"However, since August 2015, individuals, lawyers, and human rights organisations have found that such requests have largely been refused by Jordan or received no response," the rights group's letter said.
Jordanian authorities denied that Amman's policy has changed.
"There is no change in Jordan's policy relating to the transit of our Palestinian brothers, including those in Gaza," a government source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The source said that "11,116 Gazans entered or transited Jordan in 2015".
"Freedom of travel for Gazans is primarily the responsibility of Israel and Egypt," the source added.
Jordan's government spokesman Mohamed Momani said: "We continue to help (the Palestinians) on all levels, including freedom of movement."
"The solution to all these problems is an end to Israeli settlements and the creation of a Palestinian state so the Palestinian people... can enjoy all of their rights," he added.
HRW said that between last August and January 2016, 58 people contacted Israel's Gisha rights group which helps Gazans seeking Israeli permission to travel, "saying their requests for Jordanian permission to transit had been rejected or that they had received no answer".
Previously, Gisha "was hearing of virtually no refusals", HRW said.
It called on Jordan to facilitate transit for Gaza residents, urging Amman to "ensure that their decisions are transparent, are not arbitrary, and take into consideration the human rights of those affected".