OPT: IOF prevent representatives of 20 international humanitarian organizations from entering Gaza to witness humanitarian conditions

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The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the decision of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) to prevent a delegation representing more than twenty international humanitarian organizations from entering the Gaza Strip on 18 November 2008. The delegates were on mission to observe the current humanitarian situation in Gaza, which is deteriorating due to the unprecedented siege and closure policy imposed by IOF on the civilians of the Gaza Strip.

PCHR views this latest IOF decision as a continuation of the overall IOF policy of collective punishment being imposed on approximately 1.7 million Palestinian civilians inside Gaza. The civilians of the Gaza Strip are being deliberately isolated and besieged, and international delegations, including employees of international humanitarian organizations, are being prevented from entering Gaza in order to witness for themselves the severe effects of the current humanitarian and human rights crisis.

A delegation of seven delegates, representing the Coordination Forum of The Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) arrived at Erez Crossing on 18 November. The Coordination Forum represents more than 20 international humanitarian organizations. However, IOF prevented the delegates, who each had the required permit, from entering Gaza, saying they did not have permission to do so. Michael Bailey, media officer at Oxfam International, and also a member of the AIDA delegation, said the delegates had submitted a request to IOF for permits, and coordination, to enter Gaza a week ago. He confirmed the delegates did not receive a reply from IOF till 10:00 pm on 17 November 2008.

PCHR strongly condemns the IOF continuing strategy of preventing delegates from international humanitarian organizations from entering Gaza. The Center is very concerned that this is part of an overall IOF strategy to constrict the work of international humanitarian organizations in the Gaza Strip. PCHR views this IOF decision as a flagrant violation of the right to freedom of movement. This is part of the continuing restrictions being imposed on employees of international humanitarian organizations, which is deliberately impeding their work in the Gaza Strip.

The civilian population of the Gaza Strip continues to bear the brunt of the illegal IOF siege and closure of the Gaza Strip, which has resulted in chronic poverty, unemployment, denial of access to medicine and other appropriate healthcare, and massive food insecurity. PCHR reiterates the importance of the role paid by international humanitarian and relief organizations in view of the siege being imposed on the Gaza Strip, and the subsequent sharp deterioration of living standards of the civilian population. PCHR calls upon the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth 1949 Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilians in times of war, to ensure and guarantee the free and safe movement of all medical and humanitarian staff, including the employees of humanitarian and relief organizations.