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International child custody dispute centers on Gaza

Calling it "a very tragic situation," a Middle East scholar and expert on Islamic Sharia law says that an American citizen and mother of three children "faces substantial hurdles to secure the return of her children" following their removal from the United States to Gaza by their father in February.

The matter has now become a problematic international dispute regarding child custody, with no ready solution.

Bethany Gonzales and Ahmed Abuhamda were divorced several years ago in Kansas, with their divorce decree granting Abuhamda custody of the couple's children and Gonzalez visitation rights.

Earlier this year, Abuhamda took the children to Gaza and has not returned with them. He faces a state criminal charge of aggravated interference with parental custody and a federal charge of fleeing to avoid prosecution on the three state felony counts against him.

He says he has done nothing wrong, and has acted in full accordance with the divorce decree, which provides that he can move the children overseas with his wife's permission. He says that Gonzales gave him that when she signed off on passport applications for the children to go to Gaza.

Gonzales strenuously disagrees with that view, saying that her former spouse tricked her and that she merely believed her kids were attending a wedding in the Middle East and would be returning in March.

Gonzales faces an uphill battle in securing the return of her children. Gaza is an isolated Palestinian territory that is ruled by Hamas, an Islamic militant group. Gaza is not a signatory to the Hague Convention addressing the return of wrongfully removed children, nor is it under any international legal obligation to comply with an American court order.

Moreover, Sharia law heavily favors the father in such disputes.

"There is no way I would agree for my kids to go there and stay there," says Gonzales.

"I didn't kidnap the kids," Abuhamda counters, adding that he will pay for his ex-spouse to come visit them.

Source: NBC, "U.S. claims father illegally moved kids to Gaza," Roxana Hegeman, May 2, 2012

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