Monday, 18 August 2014

Israel bars Amnesty, Human Rights Watch workers from Gaza


From Haaretz - Israel has been refusing to allow employees of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to enter the Gaza Strip in order to conduct their own independent investigations into the fighting, using various bureaucratic excuses.

Both human rights organizations have been trying to obtain permission from the Civil Administration to enter Gaza since July 7. Two different reasons have been cited for the refusals: The first is that the Erez border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip is closed and no entry permits are being granted until further notice; the second is neither group is registered with the Social Affairs Ministry as a humanitarian aid organization.

In fact, Erez was open throughout most of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, which began on July 8. Among others, journalists, United Nations employees and Palestinians needing medical care or returning from abroad (with special permits), were allowed to pass through.

The spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories told Haaretz yesterday that it was suggested to both groups that they submit a special request with the COGAT ombudsman, but that no such request had as yet been received. Human Rights Watch said it had only received the suggestion late last week. Amnesty said it had not heard of the suggestion at all.

Both organizations had hoped to have researchers in the Strip during the fighting, accompanied by weapons and munitions experts with military backgrounds: Figures in the NGOs said there are no Palestinians in Gaza with the requisite professional military knowledge to independently evaluate claims being made by both the Palestinians and Israelis. While testimonies can be taken and cross-checked after the fact, physical evidence such as shell impact craters or traces from munitions is usually removed quickly. more

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