Israel Backs Down on UN Official’s Visit to Gaza
Israel is backing down from its prohibition of senior United Nations and European Union officials from visiting Gaza. The Foreign Ministry announced Monday it will allow the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, to visit next week.
It also granted permission for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to travel to Gaza in several weeks, reversing its previous policy following the Operation Cast Lead counter terrorist war against Hamas last year.
"In response to the special requests ... Israel has decided to facilitate their entry [into Gaza] in order to allow them to get a first-hand impression of humanitarian activities taking place in that area," the Foreign Ministry said.
Ashton said that she wants to inspect first-hand where the EU’s "huge amount of aid” is going.
In December, Israel refused to allow a group of European legislators to enter the Gaza region, but Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin last month entered via Egypt and was the first European in his position to travel there since Operation Cast Lead. Several U.S. members of Congress, including Senator John Kelly, traveled to Gaza last year.
Hamas has claimed for three years that it faces a humanitarian crisis, but U.N. officials stated categorically to Israel earlier this week that no such situation exists today.