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Palestinians barred from Dead Sea beaches to 'appease Israeli settlers'

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Palestinians are being regularly and illegally barred from reaching Dead Sea beaches in the occupied West Bank, according to a Supreme Court petition filed by Israel's leading civil rights organisation.

The Association of Civil Rights (Acri) in Israel is challenging what it says is the frequently imposed ban by the military on Palestinians seeking to swim or relax at beaches in the northern Dead Sea. The salt-saturated sea is the only open water accessible to Palestinians from the otherwise landlocked West Bank.

A Palestinian bus driver, Mohammed Ahmed Nuaga'a, described how he was turned back by the military with a party of children, aged between six and 12, on a school trip from the Hebron district to the Dead Sea last month. The outing had been officially co-ordinated with the Palestinian Authority education ministry and included 10 teachers and 15 parents. He returned a few hours later in the hope that the soldiers would relent but they did not do so. "I tried to explain to them that these are young pupils who came from very far to fulfil a big dream – to see the sea," he said.

"But the soldiers were aggressive, and started shouting at us that Palestinian passage is forbidden, whether children or adults. The pupils begged the soldiers to let them go for even 10 minutes just to see the sea and return, but nothing happened."

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