The Israeli authorities have once again refused the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with Palestine permission to enter the Gaza Strip.

The delegation had formally requested clearance to enter the Gaza Strip as part of a three-day mission to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The purpose of the visit is to monitor the humanitarian situation caused by a decade of blockade, assess the destruction in the area following the armed conflicts, evaluate reconstruction efforts and visit a number of development projects funded by the European Union. This includes a newly constructed desalination plant providing fresh water to 75.000 people.

But the MEPs were prevented from entering the poverty-stricken Gaza Strip by the Israeli authorities. Israel has repeatedly denied the delegation access to visit the Strip since 2011.

The EP delegation started its work in East Jerusalem and other parts of the Occupied West Bank on Tuesday and was set to visit Gaza on Thursday.

“Denying the European Parliament entry to Gaza has become systematic. It is arbitrary and unacceptable. For years, Israeli authorities have prevented us from meeting with Palestinians in Gaza and witness the situation for ourselves, despite the need to assess the humanitarian and development aid provided by the European Union and European governments that keeps Gaza afloat. It is clear that Israel is ashamed and afraid of letting us witness the dire situation that the people of Gaza live in today,” delegation chair Neoklis Sylikiotis said, calling for an immediate end to the blockade.

With rife unemployment and severe poverty caused by Gaza’s inability to import or export goods and services, and a total ban on travel, Gazans rely on international aid for their survival. As a result of Israel’s total blockade and several years of conflict, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have insufficient access to basic needs such as potable drinking water, food, housing, schools and healthcare.

“The European Parliament has called for the return of the Palestinian Authority to the Gaza Strip, and we urge all Palestinian forces to resume efforts towards reconciliation,” chair Sylikiotis said. “We call on the international community to put pressure on Israel to put an end to the blockade of Gaza”.

The European Parliament delegation is led by chair Neoklis Sylikiotis (GUE/NGL, Cyprus) and is composed of five other members: Margrete Auken (Vice-Chair of the delegation, Greens, Denmark), Edouard Martin (S&D, France), Sofia Sakorafa (GUE/NGL, Greece), Eider Gardiazabal Rubial (S&D, Spain) and Enrique Guerrero Salom (S&D, Spain). Ms Gardiazabal Rubial joins the delegation as standing rapporteur from the budget committee, while Mr Guerrero Salom is standing rapporteur on humanitarian aid in the development committee.