Travel between the Gaza Strip and the outside world has for the past several years been the province of only a few privileged people, well connected enough to secure Israeli permission to leave the strip to travel to Israel or the occupied West Bank.
Navigating the Israeli system to secure permission to leave is no longer enough, however, as Hamas has announced it will ban all travel to Israel or the West Bank that is not previously authorized by the Hamas Interior Ministry.
Since Israel’s own system is fraught with delays and last-minute approvals, getting timely Hamas approval on top of that is going to be difficult, and entirely impractical for people seeking emergency trips abroad for medical treatment or family emergencies.
Businessmen say that their understanding is that the new requirement won’t apply to “regular travelers,” nor apparently will it apply to anyone leaving by way of Egypt. Hamas has previously restricted travel of Fatah members in the Gaza Strip, and in late 2011 attempted a similar “exit visa” program, which it scrapped in the face of popular protests.