Israel prevents Gerry Adams from visiting Gaza Strip
Israeli official says Sinn Féin leader only wants to ‘hang out with Hamas’
Gerry Adams during his visit to the West Bank town of Ramallah on December 4th, 2014. Adams will meet with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and lay a wreath at the grave of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Photograph: Atef Safadi/EPA
Israel has barred Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams from visiting the Gaza Strip during a three-day tour of the region. Mr Adams says he was disappointed by the Israeli decision and was given no explanation.
Anyone entering Gaza must pass through Israel’s Erez crossing at the northern tip of the Strip or via Egypt’s Rafah terminal in the south. The authorities in Cairo have closed the Rafah crossing on an almost permanent basis since deadly attacks in October in the Sinai, which they blamed on militants crossing from Gaza, left 31 people dead.
An Israeli official, who requested to remain anonymous, told The Irish Times that while Israel usually facilitates the entry into Gaza of foreign dignitaries and aid workers, politicians considered hostile to Israel are often refused permission.
“Gerry Adams is certainly no friend of Israel. He’s not interested in meeting with anyone from the Israeli government but wants to go to Gaza to hang out with Hamas, ” the official said. “We are trying to calm things down over here and Gerry Adams visiting Gaza would only stir up tension and not contribute to calm.”
The Irish embassy in Israel made no comment.
Mr Adams, who spent two days in Gaza in 2009, said he had been invited by the UN refugee agency UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) and wanted to meet with NGOs operating in Gaza, and visit hospitals and other public institutions.
“Preventing me from travelling to Gaza and talking to those citizens who have survived three Israeli assaults in the last decade and who are besieged and in need of massive aid to rebuild their shattered economy and society, runs contrary to the needs of a peace process and is very unhelpful,” he said.
On Thursday Mr Adams met with Yitzhak Herzog, the Labour party head and the leader of Israel’s opposition, who is the grandson of Ireland’s former Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog. He also met in Ramallah with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian figures during which he was briefed on the difficulties facing Gaza residents since the end of the war in the summer.