Israel Bars European Aid Staff From Entering Gaza, Western Diplomat Says

Diplomat says move is part of Israeli response to new settlement guidelines; Ashton's spokesperson: EU hasn't received official communication on orders to limit work with EU on the ground, is seeking 'urgent clarifications.'

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Several European aid staff have been barred from entering Gaza as part of Israeli measures in the wake of new EU guidelines barring cooperation with settlements, a western diplomat said Friday.

The diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the humanitarian aid staff had failed to receive permits to enter the Gaza Strip.

On Thursday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon ordered defense officials to halt cooperation on the ground with EU representatives. This includes any assistance to EU infrastructure projects in Area C, which is under full Israeli civilian and military control. Ya'alon also reportedly planned to make it more difficult for EU officials to pass through the Erez Crossing, to the Gaza Strip or back to Israel.

In Brussels, Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said on Friday: "The EU is concerned by reports in the Israeli media that the Israeli Minister of Defense has announced a number of restrictions affecting EU activities supporting the Palestinian people.

"We have not received any official communication from the Israeli authorities. Our delegations on the spot are seeking urgent clarifications," Kocijancic added.

In his decision, Ya'alon adopted a list of recommendations he received from the coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot. Israel's security establishment would adopt a cold shoulder policy toward EU activities in the territories, Haaretz learned from security sources Friday morning.

However, they clarified, this would apply only to specifically EU activities and not activities conducted by EU member states.

It seems that Ya'alon's moves are being made in coordination with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Following the EU announcement of the new guidelines, Israeli political and defense officials warned that Israel would retaliate to the new policy.

The European Commission published the guidelines barring EU agencies from funding entities connected to settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and residential areas in the Golan Heights on July 19.

Palestinian workers waiting at the Erez border crossing on their way from the Gaza Strip to work in Israel.Credit: AP

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