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Human rights groups call on Israel to allow them entry to Gaza

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said the Israeli authorities have denied them entry into the Gaza Strip to investigate allegations of human rights violations using various bureaucratic excuses, the Anadolu news agency reported.

The organisations announced, in a joint statement yesterday, that they had asked the Egyptian authorities to allow them to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing, but Cairo did not respond to their request.

The statement did not mention the date the requests were submitted.

Anne FitzGerald, Amnesty International's director of Research and Crisis Response, said: "The Israeli authorities appear to have been playing bureaucratic games with us over access to Gaza, conditioning it on entirely unreasonable criteria even as the death toll mounts."

"The victims' and the public's right to know about what happened during the recent hostilities requires the Israeli authorities to ensure full transparency about their actions and to refrain from hindering independent and impartial research into all alleged violations."

The statement pointed out that "since the beginning of Israel's military operation on July 8, 2014, in Gaza, code-named "Protective Edge", Israeli authorities have denied repeated requests by both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to enter Gaza via the Israeli-controlled Erez Crossing."

Meanwhile, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, Sarah Leah Whitson said: "If Israel is confident in its claim that Hamas is responsible for civilian deaths in Gaza, it shouldn't be blocking human rights organisations from carrying out on-site investigations. Public pronouncements by a warring party don't determine whether attacks violated the laws of war, but field investigations could."

The statement pointed out that "Since July 7, Amnesty International's International Secretariat has submitted three applications for permission to enter Gaza via the Erez Crossing to Israel's Civil Administration, which operates under Israel's Defence Ministry."

It continued: "In each case, the Civil Administration said it could not process the requests, and that the Erez Crossing was closed," noting that "journalists, United Nations staff, humanitarian workers, and others with permits have been able to enter and exit via Erez throughout this period."

Fitzgerald said: "Valuable time has already been lost and it's essential that human rights organisations are now able to enter the Gaza Strip to begin the vital job of verifying allegations of war crimes."

The statement pointed out that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have some teams already working on the ground in Gaza, but the sheer size of reported violations requires providing further assistance to the investigators.

The two organisations called on the Israeli government to "allow all allegations of war crimes and other violations to be independently verified and the victims to obtain justice. Active human rights monitoring on the ground can also help serve to prevent further abuses being carried out – by all sides."

The Israeli authorities last allowed Human Rights Watch entry into Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing in 2006, and Amnesty International in the summer of 2012.

 

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