UN calls on Israel to permit travel for Palestinians

UN chief Ban Ki-moon urges Israel to allow Palestinians to freely travel between Gaza and occupied West Bank

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Chief of the United Nations (UN), Ban Kİ-moon, urged the Israeli government on Wednesday to ease restrictions on Palestinians to travel back and forth between the Gaza strip and the occupied West Bank for prayers throughout the Islamic month of Ramadan.

Israel has eased some travel to Palestinians looking to enter Jerusalem for Friday prayers at Islam’s third holiest site, the Al Aqsa Mosque, for Ramadan.

Thousands of Muslim worshippers performed Friday prayers at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during the first Friday of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, which is deemed one of the five pillars of Islam.

At least 80,000 people from the Occupied Territories into Jerusalem went to Al Aqsa, one of the most important and holy sites for Muslims, for Friday prayers.

In addition, 500 Palestinians from Gaza Strip were allowed to pray at the site, an Israeli official said.

Only Men were allowed for these who are aged 40 and above, under normal circumstances they would have to cross checkpoints and exit the territory.

The Tel Aviv administration however announced on Wednesday that it will continue to restrict access to Muslims seeking to travel from Gaza to Jerusalem and has blocked the entry of 500 Palestinian Muslims from the Gaza strip. Israel has accused Hamas of launching rocket fire from the Gaza strip this month, Hamas officials denied the allegations.

Hamas claimed that a rocket attack earlier in the month was intentionally launched from the Gaza strip by factions of ISIS, intending to spark a conflict between Hamas and Israel, according to Reuters.

The UN chief "welcomes Israel's measures to ease some restrictions on Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza," Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said, speaking to the Security Council.

"He encourages Israel to sustain and expand these confidence-building measures which enable the legitimate movement of people and goods in and between Gaza and the West Bank including East-Jerusalem, and improve the quality of life of Palestinians."

Gaza, currently under the control of Palestinian group Hamas, atrophied by three wars over the course of six years, is under a blockade with Israel restraining strict rule over the entry and exit of goods and people.

During Israel's 51-day Operation Protective Edge between July and August of 2014, countless air raids and ground incursions by Israeli troops into Gaza completely destroyed the infrastructure, killing more than 2,100 Palestinians and injuring 11,000 others - mostly civilians.

Israel has said the latest cancellation of travel permits are validated for this week only, meaning next week over 500 more Gazans may be permitted to travel to Al Aqsa Mosque for Friday prayers.

The third Gaza freedom flotilla will set the sails and voyage through the seas towards Gaza, in an effort to break Israel’s siege on Gaza, aiming to reach Gaza’s shores by the end of the month, the Palestinian Information Centre said.

However, Feltman said the UN secretary general "continues to believe that a flotilla will not help to address the dire situation in Gaza."

The Gaza flotilla, created by an international coalition called the Free Gaza Movement, was attacked by the Israeli navy in international waters on May 31, 2010 as it attempted to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Nine Turkish activists were killed on board the flotilla and 30 other people were injured. One of the injured activists died nearly four years after being critically injured on board the flotilla.

The attack raised tension between Turkey and Israel, leading Turkey to recall its ambassador in Tel Aviv.

The tense relations were relatively eased after Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu apologised to Turkey in 2013 over the attack, but the issue of compensation to be paid the families of the victims has not been resolved between the two countries.

The Gaza Strip came under blockade by Israel and Egypt in 2007 after Hamas came to power in the enclave. The 1.8 million inhabitants of Gaza, have been deprived of many of their most basic needs under the blockade.

Despite displacement and disposition, Palestinians continue to resist what is internationally considered to be Israel’s institutional and systematic illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories.

A transnational solidarity movement to end the Israeli occupation has gained international momentum under the banner of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.

Support for the rights of the Palestinians has also slowly begun to shift to the policy-making sphere in several European countries.

The Palestinian people have been subject to what is widely considered to be an illegal military occupation for 48 years, gradually losing more and more land as a direct consequence of Israeli colonisation.

In October 2014, 135 of the 193 member states of the United Nations recognised the State of Palestine. While the United States and Israel have both been crucial actors in the peace process since its inception in 1992, they both have consistently voted against all motions at the UN in support of an independent Palestinian state.

TRTWorld and agencies