An EU delegation of 13 left-wing politicians from five EU countries attempted to visit the Gaza Strip on a fact-finding mission to report on the results of actions by the IDF in the area in the recent seven week action, but were blocked by Israel from entering. The various MEPs on the humanitarian mission were from Cyprus, France, Ireland, Portugal and Spain and were led by the Sinn Féin MEP, Martina Anderson.
Calling themselves the “United Left” delegation, the group arrived on Wednesday in Tel Aviv hoping to take part in a three day fact-finding mission to establish the consequences of the latest, seven week long military action by Israel against Gaza. The group was also hoping to meet with both Palestinian and Israeli civilians during their stay.
Another member of the delegation, Pablo Iglesias, who is the leader of the new Spanish “Podemos” party, told the Spanish media that they were immediately blocked by Israel from entering the Gaza Strip. Iglesias told the local Spanish newspaper 20 Minutos that they had no idea why their entrance was refused. Stating that they were European Parliamentarians only wishing to see what could be done in the way of additional humanitarian aid, Iglesias felt that Israel should give them access to Gaza.
Anderson of Sinn Féin was completely taken aback by the refusal of Israel to let them enter the area, saying that the Israel government refused their entry on the ground that their visit was not directly concerned with providing humanitarian assistance in the region. Despite the fact that they were an official EU fact-finding delegation, Israel blocked them from entering the Gaza Strip.
Anderson said that the current humanitarian situation in the region is “horrific and harrowing” and stressed that the group wished to enter Gaza to get a first hand grasp of the situation on the ground. This would then enable the MEPs to pass the information to the EU Parliament in order to push for greater humanitarian aid from Europe for the people of Gaza and towards ending the current blockade and occupation of the area. She further stressed that the MEPs wished to visit groups already receiving funds from the EU and that the decision to block their entry “beggars belief,” while calling on Israel to overturn their decision.
Apparently a spokesman for Israel, Emanuel Najshon, told diplomatic sources that the Israeli government was not comfortable with the idea of the visit, after several public statements had been made by group members. Najshon said the visit was not considered by them to be official and that it would, in effect, be taken as a show of support for Hamas.
Najshon added that they do allow official delegations along with humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. However, he said that in their opinion, the MEPs’ visit was actually a private one that would “strengthen Hamas,” adding that they had no interest in this and that the party could enter through Egypt if they wished to visit Gaza.
Despite the setback, Anderson has told the BBC that the delegation intends to stay in Israel for four days and that they hope to meet with both elected Palestinian and Israeli representatives during their stay. She hoped that despite the fact that Israel blocked the EU delegation from entering Gaza, their fact-finding mission can be concluded in some form.
By Anne Sewell
20 Minutos (Spanish language)