International Business Times
August 18, 2014
Israel has allegedly barred Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch representatives from entering Gaza, in order to investigate if the Israeli government and Hamas committed war crimes and human rights violations during the recent conflict.
Haaretz reported that employees from both organisations have not been allowed to enter Gaza since 7 July. The grounds for the ban are that the Erez border crossing, between Israel and the Gaza Strip, is closed, and that neither group is included in a list of aid groups issued by the Israeli Ministry of Social Affairs.
During Operation Protective Edge to journalists, UN employees and Palestinians in need of medical care, were able to move through the Erez border crossing.
The Cogat (coordinator of government activity in the territories) guidelines for the passage of foreigners through the Erez crossing state that employees of unrecognised organisations – those not registered with the Social Affairs ministry – "may submit an exceptional request that will be considered in light of the prevailing policy based on the political-security situation".
Amnesty 'not an aid organisation'
Amnesty reportedly held talks with Israeli authorities. Israel has stated that only UN agencies can be registered with the foreign ministry, and that the human rights group does not "meet the criterion set" by the Social Affairs ministry for a humanitarian aid organisation.
It is the second time in a week that Human Rights Watch has been barred from entering a country in the Middle East.
Executive director Kenneth Roth and Sarah Leah Whitson, the New York-based group's director for the Middle East and North Africa, were refused entry at Cairo International Airport without an official explanation.
The pair was scheduled to brief journalists and diplomats on a report detailing the planned massacre of more than 1,000 supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi in Raba'a Square, during August last year.
*Photo by Siegfried Modola courtesy of Reuters