Postcard from... Gaza City


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The Independent Online

Crossing borders has always been fun, and unless you're lucky enough to hold a European Union passport, pretty much every border in the world requires a queue, a stamp and a stern looking border officer.

But the crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip is something else entirely. Firstly, there are not many people able to cross from the Israeli side into Gaza. Anyone with an Israeli passport, Palestinians from the West Bank, and tourists can forget it. Journalists are among the select few able to make the journey.

After getting through the Israeli side, you must walk along what must be at least a half-mile- long cage from the airport-like terminus at one end to into the Hamas-controlled post at the end. Throughout the walk you see CCTV camera, gun towers along the concrete wall that is the physical border and airships that with their cameras, keep a constant look-out over the world's most densely populated territory.

But if getting into Gaza is a long and laborious process, getting back into Israel is something else again. After checking out at the Palestinian checkpoint, it's the long walk back through the cage to the Israeli border point. After a series of delayed time-locked gates, it's then into a chamber where two arms spin around you.

When you're eventually through all this, it's time to get your bag back and someone sifts through your contents again.

Only when all this is done can you queue up before the border official and get your passport stamped, and it's off into Israel.