Israel Continues Banning Gazans From Studying in West Bank

Hundreds petition court for freedom to study at W. Bank universities; Israel cites security concerns.

The defense establishment said on Thursday it would continue banning Palestinian students from the Gaza Strip from studying in the West Bank.

Hundreds of Palestinian students whom Israel has prevented from continuing studies in West Bank universities for the past six years have recently petitioned the High Court of Justice to instruct the state to allow them to complete their studies.

The petition was supported by Israeli professors, who protested the infringement on the students' freedom to study.

The defense establishment is preparing its response to the petition.

Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet officials told Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Thursday that they could not agree to the students' demand, because of intelligence indicating that terrorist groups in the West Bank contacted individuals who moved freely between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and used them to transfer information and instructions.

Peretz and members of the defense establishment also discussed preparations for the approaching olive harvest in the West Bank. Peretz instructed them to thwart the settlers' attacks on the Palestinians and their efforts to prevent the Palestinians from reaching their olive groves. "The law must be enforced, we must prepare properly and prevent any friction," Peretz said.

The defense establishment has stopped acting against the settlers' construction and expansion of illegal outposts in the West Bank since the abduction of the soldier Gilad Shalit in late June and especially since the eruption of the conflict in the North.