An Israeli army tank is seen at the Erez border crossing with the Palestinian Gaza Strip on November 21, 2012
An Israeli army tank is seen at the Erez border crossing with the Palestinian Gaza Strip on November 21, 2012 © Jack Guez - AFP
An Israeli army tank is seen at the Erez border crossing with the Palestinian Gaza Strip on November 21, 2012
Last updated: February 12, 2014

Israel bars 70 Gaza patients over "State of Palestine" logo

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Israel and the Palestinians have compromised in a dispute that saw medical patients from Gaza denied entry to Israel for treatment because their travel documents said "State of Palestine," officials said Wednesday.

Until recently, official stationery has used the term "Palestinian territories," but that changed in December, a year after the Palestinians won recognition as a UN observer state over fierce Israeli opposition,.

Earlier Wednesday, a senior Palestinian official said the "Israelis have prevented 70 sick people who need to go to Israeli hospitals from crossing Erez because it said 'State of Palestine' on their transfer request".

"It was only this week that they informed me personally that Israel refuses to deal with this document," he told AFP.

"This is a political decision from the Israelis to exert pressure in the negotiations," he charged, referring to peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Since mid-December, 40 to 70 patients a day have crossed for treatment in Israel or the West Bank, he said, saying all of the transfer requests had been marked with the "State of Palestine" logo.

A spokesman for COGAT, the defence ministry unit responsible for coordinating civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, confirmed that the permits had been refused because they were submitted on stationery bearing the problematic logo.

But later Wednesday, a Palestinian official said that, after a meeting, a deal had been reached under which patients carrying the new documents would be allowed in if the words "State of Palestine" were blurred.

"The Israeli authorities have assured us that the patients will be able to cross from tomorrow (Thursday)," the official said.

In January, Haaretz newspaper said a Gaza woman had been barred from travelling to the West Bank to care for her cancer-stricken mother because the medical report describing her condition was marked "State of Palestine".

Initially her request was ignored, then it was denied but no reason was given. Following the intervention of Israel NGO HaMoked, it emerged that her request was denied because of the problematic logo.

In January 2013, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas ordered that work begin to ensure that all official documents, including passports, ID cards and driving licences, be marked "State of Palestine" in a move to strengthen Palestinian sovereignty.

Until now, official documents issued by Abbas's government have been labelled as issued by the Palestinian Authority.

Gaza is ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement, which has no official contact with Israel, so all requests must be processed through officials from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, some of whom are stationed in the coastal enclave.

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