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An Israeli Arab married to a Gazan is allowed to visit a spouse if they stay in Gaza and don't return home for a minimum period of three months, under new regulations issued by Southern Command Maj. Gen. Dan Harel.

Since March 22, when the IDF killed Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, all family visits to Gaza have been frozen. The new regulation became known early this week to Dr. Ibrahim Ashur, a pediatrician born in Haifa who works in Be'er Sheva. His Gaza-born wife, and their children, live in Gaza.

Since the Yassin assassination, Dr. Ashur has been in touch with the Coordination and Liaison Office trying to find out when the process of getting entry passes would be renewed.

After the April 17 assassination of Abdel Aziz Rantisi he was told to "wait" some more, and then even the Final Four basketball competition was mentioned as a reason for not getting passes.

On Sunday, the officer in charge of the Israeli department said he could get an entry to Gaza for three months, during which he would not be allowed back into Israel. Ashur said the officer told him the order was temporary, for security reasons.

An officer at the CLO confirmed the new regulation to Haaretz. He said it was an improvement over the situation since March 22, when visits to Gaza were stopped. The officer said that due to various security alerts the army wanted to avoid overcrowding and mass movement at the Erez junction, because there are a "considerable" number of Israelis with family ties in Gaza.

"The easiest thing would be to leave the situation as it was," said the officer - meaning not renewing visits by relatives to Gaza - "because there would be far fewer security checks reducing the risks to a minimum."

He said the intention is not to make people lose their jobs and that when the security situation calms down, he expects the rules to change.

In 1994, with the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, the IDF forbade Israelis from entering PA areas in Gaza. A few Jewish Israelis were allowed in, as long as they were accompanied by PA police.

Israeli Arabs and Arab Jerusalemites were only allowed in under various restrictions. During the intifada, the arrangements for family visits to Gaza were disrupted and frozen for long periods of time.

The IDF Spokesman's Office said: "Spouses of Gaza residents get permits to visit on an individual basis that enable them to enter Gaza in order to live there with their relatives. Lately, because of the security situation, and after consultations with the security forces and legal authorities, it was decided to condition the entry of Israeli spouses on spending at least three months with their families in Gaza. That decision will be reexamined on a periodical basis in accordance with the security situation."

The army did not tell Haaretz how many people face the same problem.