Tuesday, February 24, 2009

B'Tselem and Human Rights Watch: Why Won't Israel Allow Our Monitors Into Gaza?

Maan News, February 24, 2009 - Israel is preventing independent human rights monitors from entering Gaza, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem said Sunday.

"Israel continues to obstruct independent investigations into allegations of laws of war violations by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas military forces in Gaza," the groups said in a joint statement to Ma'an.

After submitting applications for permission to enter via the Erez crossing in January 2009, the groups faced continued delays from the military unit reviewing the applications. In February, the army told Human Rights Watch that it had rejected its application. The Israeli military denied B’Tselem's first request to enter Gaza and has failed to respond to a second.

“Israel’s refusal to allow human rights groups access to Gaza raises a strong suspicion that there are things it doesn’t want us to see or the world to know about its military operation there,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “If Israel has nothing to hide, why is it refusing to allow us in?”

Human Rights Watch requested permission to enter Gaza on 5 January. After weeks of delay, the military rejected the application on 9 February, on the grounds that Human Rights Watch “was not registered with the [Israeli] Ministry of Social Affairs.” On all previous occasions, including several times in 2008, Israeli authorities permitted Human Rights Watch staff to enter and leave Gaza via the Erez crossing.

The army never previously suggested such a requirement for access to Gaza, and Human Rights Watch is not aware of any such Israeli law or regulation. The Israeli military has not responded to Human Rights Watch’s requests for clarification, they said.

Israel does not allow Jewish citizens of Israel, other than security forces, to enter Gaza on the grounds that their security would be at risk. B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, on 20 January requested permission from the military to allow the organization’s fieldwork director (a Palestinian citizen of Israel) to enter Gaza. The military refused the request nine days later.

B’Tselem submitted an additional request on 29 January for entry for three staff members and an international consultant. The Israeli military has not responded to this request....

Learn more on this issue from B'Tselem and Human Rights Watch.

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