A high-ranking delegation of parliamentarians from Europe has arrived in the Gaza Strip for a short visit. The aim is to assess the effects of the blockade imposed by Israel on the people of Gaza for five years.
The Council for European-Palestinian Relations (CEPR), which organised the solidarity visit, said that the delegation of seventeen people entered Gaza through the Egypt-Gaza Rafah border crossing. The delegation includes members of different political factions, including liberals, socialists and Green Party MPs, and is headed by Britain’s Labour Party Chairman, Tony Lloyd MP.
According to the CEPR, the purpose of the visit is to raise awareness in Europe of the humanitarian crisis that Gaza’s people are enduring as a result of the continued Israeli siege, the 2008/9 Israeli war against Palestinians in Gaza; and the restrictions imposed by Israel on Gaza’s fishermen. The delegation members also hoped to see at first-hand Egypt’s role at the Rafah border; Rafah is Gaza’s only land outlet which does not depend on going through Israel.
On arrival in Gaza, Tony Lloyd said: “There is a future for the people of Gaza, a chance to offer long term hope, but we’ve got to let the Palestinians get their ordinary life restarted.” Former Member of the Scottish Parliament Pauline McNeill said that she believes that “public opinion is on the side of justice and the Palestinians, and it is time for the legitimate state of Palestine to be recognised fully.”
The Director of the CEPR, Dr. Arafat Shoukri, claimed that the visit is an excellent opportunity for European officials to assess the situation on the ground and to build closer ties with Palestinians. “We are thrilled at the prospects of this trip being a success for Europeans and Palestinians alike,” he said.
The CEPR delegation plans to meet UN officials working in Gaza to understand better their work with refugees and reconstruction; to meet local authorities and women’s groups to appreciate the different political and societal challenges; and to visit the universities to experience the education system, as well as cultural centres to learn more about Palestinian heritage.
The Council for European-Palestinian Relations is an independent not-for-profit organisation which was established to promote dialogue and understanding between European, Palestinian and Arab parliamentarians and policy-makers. It seeks a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on justice and the restoration of Palestinian rights in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law. Its aims and values are based on international law, the United Nations Charter, UN Resolutions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad
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