West Bank residents expelled to Gaza as part of the deal done with the Israelis after a 39 day-blockade of the Church of the Nativity in 2002 called on Wednesday for Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to clarify his remarks about the impossibility of their return. Abbas told Fatah members in the West Bank earlier this week that he thinks that those expelled from the Church in 2002 "will never return".
Those expelled called for Abbas to explain his remarks as he "knows everything about their deportation". In a meeting with Abbas in Gaza in 2005, when he was prime minister, he apparently told the deportees that the agreement with the Israelis was a big mistake by the PA.
At the time of their expulsion, the men were told by the authority that they would have to spend "one or two years" in Gaza. "We have been here for almost 12 years now," they complained. "Abbas told us that he had reached an agreement with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and that we would be returned home 'within hours'." Neither the PA nor Abbas can disown the agreement, they added, as it was aired in the media.
They called on Abbas to put pressure on the Israeli Ministry of Civil Affairs to issue visit permits for their families, "who have been applying to visit us in Gaza for 11 years".