Israel refusing visas for aid workers operating in Gaza and occupied West Bank

Israel refusing visas for aid workers operating in Gaza and occupied West Bank
The refusal of visas for aid workers comes as Gaza's humanitarian catastrophe heightens, with the enclave edging ever closer into famine.
3 min read
25 February, 2024
Aid into the enclave has dramatically reduced in recent weeks following a break down in civil order [Photo by Dawoud Abo Alkas/Anadolu via Getty Images]

Israeli authorities are refusing to issue new visas to international aid workers operating in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Israel's Ministry for Welfare and Social Affairs was refusing to approve the necessary paperwork for the renewal of visas.

This began in January, with the Population and Immigration Authority refusing to approve visa applications without approval from the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs. Visas had initially been automatically extended until 8 February because of delays in the process.

Those affected work in aid provision, distributing food and water to residents of Gaza, as well as providing medical treatment.

They told Haaretz that they feared there was a political motive behind the decisions which were undermining their work and accentuating the crisis underway in the Gaza Strip.

It comes as Gaza looms on the brink of famine, with reports that children are beginning to die of malnourishment as aid entry into the strip is severely hampered by fears stemming from Israeli attacks on aid convoys, as well as a breakdown in civil order in the enclave.

In addition, much of Gaza's medical infrastructure has been destroyed, with the UN reporting that 84 percent of health and education facilities in the enclave are either damaged or destroyed.

The visas also limit the ability of aid agencies to assist Palestinians who have been displaced by Israeli settler violence and feel the effects of the Israeli policy in the occupied West Bank.

As a result, many aid workers from the West had to either leave the country or were unable to return to their jobs.

According to Yotam Ben-Hillel, an attorney representing the International Organisations Forum, many of those who have had visa rejections were in the senior management of aid agencies.

Haaretz noted spokespeople for the Population and Immigration Authority and the Ministry for Welfare and Social Relations told the paper that responsibility for the visas has been shifted to other departments.

However, when asking for comment on the situation, those Israeli government departments who had allegedly assumed the responsibility either shifted responsibility elsewhere or denied taking up the issue.

The denial of applications, impeding the ability of aid agencies to adequately relieve the suffering in the Gaza Strip, comes as the deadline approaches for Israel to give evidence to the International Court of Justice over an interim court ruling.

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The interim ICJ ruling on the case of Israel v South Africa requires Israel to give evidence of the steps it is taking to ensure there are increased flows of humanitarian aid into Gaza, which many human rights groups say has not yet happened. The deadline for the submission is 26 February.

Since 7 October, Israel has been waging a brutal and relentless war on Gaza, killing over 29,690 people and wounding at least 69,870 others, with thousands still missing under the rubble, according to Palestinian officials.