Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ghosts of Gaza

JABALYA, Gaza Strip, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Officially, Mahmoud Jnaid does not exist. The 25-year-old Palestinian almost made that a reality earlier this month when he doused himself with petrol and tried to set himself alight.

Jnaid is one of about 54,000 displaced Palestinians who returned to Gaza and the West Bank from abroad after an interim peace accord in 1993, but still have no identity cards because Israel refuses to approve them. Following years of silence, they recently started holding weekly protests in Hamas-run Gaza to demand the documents, which they need to travel as well as for daily basics like opening a bank account or getting a driving licence.

"I am Mr Nobody," said Jnaid, who, at one of the protests, doused himself in petrol and tried to set himself alight before onlookers overpowered him.

"When I poured the petrol on my body I felt life was the same as death," he said as he sat next to his wife and children.