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article imageEU left-wing delegation blocked by Israel from entering Gaza

By Anne Sewell     Sep 5, 2014 in World
Tel Aviv - A delegation of five Spanish left-wing politicians, along with eight EU delegates from Cyprus, France, Ireland and Portugal, have been denied entry into the Gaza Strip, where they wished to report on the impact of recent actions by the IDF in that area.
Dubbed the “United Left” delegation, they arrived in Tel Aviv Wednesday on a planned three-day fact-finding tour. Pablo Iglesias, leader of Spain’s new "Podemos" (we can) party and part of the group, told the media that they wish to see "the consequences of the most recent military operation, which has lasted for seven weeks, of Israel against Gaza." The party intended to meet both Israeli and Palestinian civilians during their visit.
The group was, however, immediately blocked from entering Gaza by Israel. Iglesias told the Spanish news service 20 Minutos, "We don't know why. We're European Parliamentarians and we want to help humanitarian aid to increase. I think the Israeli government should allow us into Gaza.”
According to diplomatic sources, Israel was “uncomfortable” with the visit, after several public statements made by members of the group. Reportedly Israeli spokesman Emanual Najshon told the media that the visit was not considered official and would be seen as a show of support for Hamas.
"We allow official delegations and humanitarian aid to enter Gaza but this group, in our opinion, is in practice a private one," he apparently said. "It would strengthen Hamas and Israel has no interest in doing that,” adding, "If they want to go to Gaza, they can get there through Egypt."
Iglesias’ party, Podemos, has been in existence for only nine months, but has risen rapidly in popularity in the country due to its anti-austerity platform. The party took root from the original 15m Democracy Now! protest movement and now only narrowly trails the two top parties, the ruling Partido Popular and its main opposition, the PSOE, in the Spanish political polls. Podemos currently holds five seats in the European Parliament. Iglesias himself is a former professor of Political Science at the Complutense University in Madrid.
Update:
The BBC has reported on the reaction of Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson, who apparently led the delegation. Anderson told the BBC, among other things, "that the decision to refuse them entry 'beggars belief' and called on the Israeli authorities to overturn the decision."
Spanish sources:
20 Minutos
Hoy
The Local
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