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European Parliament Working Group refused entry to Gaza by Israel

The Chairperson of the European Parliament's Delegation to the Palestinian Legislative Council (DPLC), Emer Costello, has said that she is both astounded and dismayed at the decision of the Israeli authorities to refuse an official visit of the Delegation to Gaza.  The visit, which was scheduled to take place between 27 and 30 October 2013, had the full support of Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament.  

Mrs Costello said:  "Despite interventions by the President of Parliament and other distinguished Parliamentarians, the Israeli Authorities are preventing elected members of an official delegation from paying a humanitarian visit to this ravaged and impoverished region.  The official reason for refusal of access was cited as being 'in line with the policy according to which Israel does not facilitate visits to the Gaza Strip which will strengthen Hamas, a terror organization designated as such also by the European Union.' This decision is deplorable and without foundation.
Our visit was due to take place under the auspices of UNRWA, and clearly focused on vital public services such as schools, health centres and food distribution centres.  Furthermore, we had arranged to visit EU-funded job programmes and hold meetings on education with students from the Christian community.  Given the worrying current developments in the region, the programme had a purely social, economic and humanitarian focus. 
Today at the European Parliament we voted on the budget line ‘financial assistance to Palestine, the peace process and UNRWA’, granting €300 million in funding to the region for 2014.  This makes the decision to refuse access to elected Members of the European Parliament even more disgraceful and nonsensical.
I have requested that President Schulz and High Representative Catherine Ashton take up the issue with the Israeli authorities and that we continue with the mission.  In the event that we are refused access to Gaza, it is envisaged that we meet with UNRWA in the West Bank.  The individual Members of the Working Group will also raise the issue with the governments of their Member States."