Israel denies MEPs access to Gaza Strip

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Five European parliamentarians said Wednesday that Israeli authorities had prevented them from entering the Gaza Strip.

“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.

Similar delegations of European lawmakers have been barred from entering the Palestinian coastal enclave since 2011, the statement added, though a team led by the head of the European Parliament’s budget committee was allowed to visit once.

“What is there to hide from us?” it said, condemning what it called “systematic” entry bans.

Israel explained parliamentarians were not among those allowed to enter the territory.

“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,” the Defense Ministry body responsible for approving entry told AFP.

Sylikiotis dismissed the explanations as “unacceptable”, calling on the international community to pressure Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza, which is ruled by the Hamas Islamic terrorist organization. Egypt also restricts access to Gaza from the Sinai Peninsula.

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