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Israel bars Gaza patients over "Palestine" letterhead

Source: Reuters - Wed, 12 Feb 2014 14:54 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Israel rejects U.N. de facto recognition of Palestine

* Ten out of 60 Gaza patients granted entry to Israel

GAZA, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Israel has denied entry permits to some 50 Palestinian medical patients from the Gaza Strip because the words "State of Palestine" appears on the letterhead of their application, officials said on Wednesday.

Israel does not recognise a Palestinian state, whose creation it says should stem from peace negotiations. It voted against a U.N. General Assembly resolution in 2012 that gave de facto recognition to a sovereign Palestinian state.

"On Sunday (the Palestinians) filed a range of requests ... on a document that said 'State of Palestine'. On the spot, we returned it to them, saying they should refile the request on appropriate paperwork," said Major Guy Inbar, a spokesman for COGAT, the military-run authority that handles entry permits.

He said 10 Palestinians whose cases were urgent were allowed to enter Israel while about 50 others were not.

Israeli treatment for patients from the Gaza Strip - an enclave run by Hamas Islamists hostile to Israel - is arranged by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank.

Omar al-Naser of the Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank city of Ramallah said the ministry had been using the "State of Palestine" letterhead for a year without any move by Israel to deny patients entry.

It was unclear why Israeli authorities took exception this time, but the decision coincided with diplomatic wrangling in U.S.-sponsored peace talks over Israel's demand that Palestinians recognise it as a Jewish state in any final accord.

In the past, Palestinian entry applications had the words "Palestinian Authority", an entity established under interim peace deals with Israel, in their letterhead. (Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Gareth Jones)

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