Intifada driving more to seek refuge in U.S.

The public affairs office of the visa consular section at the State Department, which monitors such requests, did not return repeated calls for a response.

The number of requests for immigrant visas has also increased this year. According to official consulate figures, the office has issued 1,089 such visas this year, compared to 668 in 2000.

The spokesman said the increase is not due to a relaxation of entry standards.

Some of those applying for visas say they are going in search of both a higher standard of living and a respite from the violence, clinging to the address of a relative in the United States.

One Palestinian applicant said that he had waited three months to get his tourist visa and cannot wait to get out of "this crazy house."

Another applicant is a Christian from Beit Jala, whose family has recently been granted immigrant visas to the United States. Even though they have family in the United States, the family had been trying unsuccessfully for over a year to attain the permits. The applicant estimates that at least 30 percent of the Christians in the town have fled their homes since Palestinian gunmen began repeatedly entering the town to fire on Gilo.

The gunmen, who enter the village on motorcycles, quickly exit, while the residents of bear the burden of the Israel Defense Force's response, he said.