EU Delegation Barred From Entering Gaza

YERUSHALAYIM -

Israeli authorities shut the door on five members of the European Parliament on Wednesday, refusing them entry into the Gaza Strip, according to media reports.

The Europeans were indignant. “The refusal of access to Gaza by the Israeli authorities to the European Parliament on arbitrary grounds is unacceptable,” Cypriot MEP Neoklis Sylikiotis said in a statement.

“What is there to hide from us?” he asked, railing against “systematic” entry bans.

It was not the first time Israel has denied entry to such delegations from Europe. It has been more or less standing policy since 2011.

“Israeli policy allows professional and humanitarian officials to cross between Israel and the Gaza Strip for the development of the Gaza Strip in the field of economy and infrastructure, in addition to foreign diplomats serving in the Palestinian Authority or Israel,” a defense ministry spokesman told AFP. EU parliamentarians were not on the list.

The group was allowed into Israel, however. On Tuesday, they visited Israel’s Ofer Prison where Palestinian security prisoners are held. Mr. Sylikiotis criticized Israel for jailing minors.

The European Union is the largest donor of financial aid to the Palestinians.