Israel 'systematically' barring access to Gaza: HRW

Israel 'systematically' barring access to Gaza: HRW

NEW YORK: (APP) Human Rights Watch, a leading international watchdog body, on Monday accused Israel of barring its researchers from entering the blockaded Gaza Strip to document abuses, saying the restrictions call into question Israel's stated commitment to investigating possible rights violations.

In a 47-page report, the New-York based rights group said the restrictions have been imposed by the Israeli regime since 2008, adding that only one exceptional permit was granted to the foreign researchers last year.

HRW also questioned Israeli claims that it was conducting its own probes and that there was no need for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate serious Israeli crimes against Palestinians over the past decades.

"If Israel wants the ICC prosecutor to take seriously its argument that its criminal investigations are adequate, a good first step would be to allow human rights researchers to bring relevant information to light," Sari Bashi, Israel/Palestine advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

The rights group also criticized Egypt for barring it and the UK-based Amnesty International from entering Gaza through its territory since 2012.

Bashi urged all parties to "change their policies to protect the vital work of human rights groups."

Since 2007, Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on Gaza which has one of the world's highest unemployment rates and where poverty is widespread.

Israel has also launched several wars on the enclave, the last of which began in early July 2014. The 50-day military aggression killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, including 577 children. Over 11,100 others -- including 3,374 children, 2,088 women and 410 elderly people -- were also wounded.

Human Rights Watch, the UN and local and international human rights organizations have already said Israel's latest war on the besieged Gaza Strip amounted to apparent war crimes.

The Israeli military frequently targets the Gaza Strip, with civilians being the main victims of such attacks.

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