Israel bans Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams from entering Gaza
Gerry Adams, the president of Northern Ireland's Sinn Fein party, has been denied entry to Gaza by Israeli officials, it has emerged.
The republican politician, whose party has long been linked with the Provisional IRA paramilitary group - deemed a "terrorist organisation" in the United Kingdom - has been visiting senior Israeli and Palestinian figures during a three-day visit.
He had stated his intention to meet senior Hamas figures if allowed entry to the embattled Gaza Strip.
|I am not surprised by the decision but I am disappointed by it.
- Gerry Adams
"I am not surprised by the decision but I am disappointed by it," he told reporters.
He had met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli opposition chief Yitzhak Herzog earlier in his tour.
"My purpose on this visit has been to listen. Primarily I am here to learn. When asked I have also outlined the broad strategic approach Sinn Fein took to the Irish Peace Process," he said in a statement.
"Central to our success has been the imperative of dialogue. But it also required participants to take risks for peace and to be prepared to try and understand other points of view."
|The politician has been tweeting throughout his visit|
Emmanuel Nahshon, from Israel's foreign ministry, said that Adams had been prevented from crossing into Gaza from Israel due to "his longstanding anti-Israeli positions and his plans to meet in the territory with the leaders of Hamas".
The Israeli official suggested that Adams could attempt to cross into Gaza from Egypt - but the Rafah crossing has long been sealed by Cairo authorities convinced that armed groups from Gaza have been attacking police posts on the Sinai peninsula.
Republicans in Northern Ireland have long been supportive of the Palestinian cause, and graffiti murals painted on both the Israeli separation wall and the walls which divide Belfast show solidarity with each other's armed movements.
Martina Anderson, a Sinn Fein member of the European parliament, reacted angrily to the news.
"This is just the latest in a series of incidents where international politicians have been refused access to Gaza," she said.
"In September, I was refused entry to Gaza when I led a delegation of 16 MEPs from six countries to Palestine.
"The Israeli government cannot hide Gaza from the outside world and I am calling for an immediate end to travel restrictions in and out of Gaza."