- Title: Separated by politics, a Gaza family longs for reunion
- Date: 18th March 2021
- Summary: GAZA CITY, GAZA (MARCH 15, 2021) (REUTERS) PALESTINIAN MOTHER NIVEEN GHARQOUD IN GAZA, DIVIDED FROM HER HUSBAND AND CHILDREN WHO LIVE IN WEST BANK, HOLDING HER YOUNGEST SON AMIR, 7, AND TALKING TO FAMILY MEMBERS THROUGH VIDEO CALL GHARQOUD'S CHILDREN ON MOBILE PHONE SCREEN TALKING TO THEIR MOTHER VIA VIDEO CALL VARIOUS OF GHARQOUD TALKING TO HER CHILDREN VIA VIDEO CALL (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) PALESTINIAN MOTHER DIVIDED FROM HER CHILDREN AND HUSBAND, NIVEEN GHARQOUD, SAYING: "I sent them (to the West Bank) with the hope to follow them with Amir. After they reached their father, I was reassured. I tried to apply for a permit to cross from (Israel checkpoint) Erez but I was denied access. Living in Gaza is very hard, (in the West Bank) there is work... so it is better to stay there than keep moving between here and there. It never worked for me or Amir to leave (Gaza), three years of attempts but we were never able to leave, through Erez." VARIOUS OF GHARQOUD TALKING TO HER CHILDREN VIA VIDEO CALL GHARQOUD COMBING HER SON AMIR'S HAIR AMIR GHARQOUD LOOKING AT HIS MOTHER (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) PALESTINIAN MOTHER DIVIDED FROM HER CHILDREN AND HUSBAND, NIVEEN GHARQOUD, SAYING: "For me, this day (Mother's Day) means nothing if Amir and I are not with his siblings, this is how the occasion would be complete because such a day with Amir among his siblings doesn't work." DRONE FOOTAGE SHOWING GHARQOUD AND HER SON AMIR IN BALCONY (MUTE) QALQILYA, WEST BANK (MARCH 16, 2021) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) PALESTINIAN BOY DIVIDED FROM HIS MOTHER AND BROTHER, SON OF NIVEEN GHARQOUD, MOHAMMAD GHARQOUD, SAYING: "I really want my mum. I really miss her and want her to come here. The situation over there isn't good, because there are wars there, I want her to come here. I miss her a lot, and it isn't Eid (referring to Mother's Day) without her, it isn't good, that's why I want her to come." VARIOUS OF GHARQOUD'S FAMILY MEMBERS DIVIDED BETWEEN GAZA AND WEST BANK TALKING VIA VIDEO CALL (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) PALESTINIAN FATHER OF DIVIDED FAMILY BETWEEN GAZA AND WEST BANK, HUSBAND OF NIVEEN GHARQOUD, SAMI GHARQUD, SAYING: "They ask for their mother a lot, sometimes I find Imad (his son) crying at night. I ask him why are you crying? He asks why has it been 2 and a half to 3 years that I haven't seen my mother? I try to distract him with something else so to get it off his mind. I've found that in this third year, this is happening to Imad daily and I stand still, I'm not able to do anything." VARIOUS OF DAUGHTER OF NIVEEN AND SAMI GHARDOUQ, MALAK GHARQOUD, 17, DOING HOUSEWORK (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) PALESTINIAN GIRL DIVIDED FROM HER MOTHER AND BROTHER, DAUGHTER OF NIVEEN AND SAMI GHARDOUQ, MALAK GHARQOUD, SAYING: "The most difficult thing about being without my mum is that Mother's Day passes and she's not with us... When we visit other people, my siblings start asking "why do they have a mother and we don't?", this is something that hurts in the heart." VARIOUS OF MALAK HELPING HER BROTHER WITH HOMEWORK
- Embargoed: 1st April 2021 15:10
- Keywords: Gaza Israel Palestinians West Bank divided family
- Location: GAZA CITY, GAZA / QALQILYA, WEST BANK
- City: GAZA CITY, GAZA / QALQILYA, WEST BANK
- Country: Palestinian Territories
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace,Middle East
- Reuters ID: LVA001E4M1M51
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Sunday is Mother's Day across most of the Middle East but, for the third year running, Gaza resident Niveen Gharqoud will be forced to spend it without four of her five children.
They haven't met since 2018, when she sent them to live with their father Sami in Qalqilya, a West Bank city east of the military wall that separates Israel from the occupied Palestinian territories.
She lives in Juhr Edeek, a village just west of a separate border fence that isolates the Gaza Strip. In between the two barriers is Israel, which she is not allowed to cross.
So the only way Gharqoud and the one child who still lives with her can bridge the 120 km (75 miles) gap is electronically.
"One hour is all I need to be with my children," Gharqoud said as she prepared for her Mother's Day cellphone call. "Nothing will satisfy me but to be with my children on Mother's Day."
Behind the family's separation is a complex system of restrictions that Israel applies in the territories that it captured and occupied in the 1967 war.
Israel says it needs the system to protect its own citizens. Palestinians say it is unfair and arbitrary.
Gharqoud hoped the bulk of her family would be better off outside Gaza, and that she could join them later.
"(But) three years of attempts didn't work for me," she told Reuters. "A checkpoint is standing between my children and me."
COGAT, Israel's military liaison to the Palestinians, said it limits to "humanitarian-exceptional cases only" the number of Palestinians allowed to travel to Israel and the West Bank from Gaza because the enclave is controlled by Islamist militant group Hamas.
COGAT said Gharqoud's application to travel was denied "after being carefully examined" because it did not meet the necessary criteria.
(Production: Fadi Shana, Mohammed Salem, Yosri Al-Jamal, Mohammed Shana, Mustafa Abu Ganeyeh)
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