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25 July, 2024
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Israel halts humanitarian visas, children in Gaza at risk

Foreign aid workers face deportation as Israel blocks visas


Israel has ceased issuing visas to international staff of humanitarian organizations operating in occupied Palestinian territories. This halt is impeding the delivery of essential supplies, including food, into Gaza.

According to a report on The Guardian, numerous foreign aid workers, including organization leaders, have either left Israel and the Palestinian territories or are risking deportation by overstaying their visas to continue their work, a coalition of aid groups has cautioned.

Faris Arouri, director of the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), highlighted the significant impact on emergency response teams, particularly those with specialized experience in Gaza. The visa block has hindered the deployment of experts from regional headquarters to address unforeseen crises.

The Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs, responsible for visa recommendations, stopped issuing letters following Hamas attacks on October 7. Although humanitarian visas were extended until February 8, 2024, the ministry subsequently ceased issuing letters altogether, citing ongoing discussions among government authorities.

The visa restrictions exacerbate challenges as Palestinian staff from the West Bank are also barred from entering Jerusalem or Gaza. Consequently, aid teams are geographically fragmented during one of the most severe crises in decades.

The limited aid reaching Gaza fails to alleviate critical shortages of food, water, and medical supplies, leading to fatalities from malnutrition, particularly among children.

David Lammy, Britain’s shadow foreign secretary, raised the issue in parliament, urging the UK government to pressure Israel for action.

UN aid workers face similar constraints, with limited access to Israel and Gaza. Logistical barriers, including restrictions on humanitarian workers entering Gaza via the Kerem Shalom border crossing, further impede relief efforts.

UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine, has been unable to deliver aid to northern Gaza for over a month, hindering its operations. The situation has led to desperate measures, including airdrops of food supplies into the sea off Gaza, which risks diversion by armed groups.

Israel's foreign ministry stated that governmental authorities are addressing the visa issue, while the interior ministry and welfare ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

[With information sourced from The Guardian]

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