On Monday night, the Defense Ministry telephoned the Israeli liaison office for the Gaza Strip and delivered surprising news: Despite lengthy prior coordination, civilians would not be allowed to leave the strip through the Erez and Nitzana crossings.
But the Ministry for Civilian Affairs in Ramallah, the Palestinian body that coordinated the passage through the crossings, did not receive this message. Thus the ministry, which is the liaison office’s Palestinian counterpart, could not inform its Gaza office – which is manned by Fatah loyalists.
As a result, the ministry’s head, Hussein al-Sheikh, had already announced the happy but false news on Tuesday: Students from Gaza would be allowed to go through the crossings to study abroad. There are currently several thousand Palestinian students who have been accepted to universities abroad, but cannot leave the strip through Israel to attend.
A Palestinian official said that no more than 100 students have been allowed to leave since June. The Israeli authorities had agreed to allow 700 students to leave, but the remaining 600 are still waiting.
Some of these 600 students arrived at Erez Tuesday, expecting to be allowed through. One of them, call him B., realized something had gone wrong only after getting there. Eventually, he was told to head back home.