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Occupation magazine - Life under occupation

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Human Rights Watch calls on Israel to allow human rights groups into Gaza
By Saed Bannoura

The international organization Human Rights Watch issued a report on Sunday calling for an end to Israel`s ban of international human rights groups n Gaza. The group said that such a ban raises concerns that Israel has something to hide about its military operations in Gaza.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement to the media, Israel`s refusal to allow human rights groups access to Gaza raises a strong suspicion that there are things it doesn`t want us to see or the world to know about its military operation there. If Israel has nothing to hide, why is it refusing to allow us in?

The group, which is known worldwide for its role in human rights observation and reports in virtually every conflict zone on earth, is especially concerned that the Israeli military is currently conducting its own `investigations` into the allegations that troops committed war crimes in the Dec Jan invasion of Gaza, but will not allow independent human rights monitors to enter the besieged coastal strip.

In addition, B`Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, on January 20 requested permission from the Israeli Army to allow the organization`s fieldwork director (a Palestinian citizen of Israel) to enter Gaza. The Army refused the request nine days later. B`Tselem submitted an additional request on January 29 for entry for three staff members and an international consultant. The Israeli military has not responded to this request.

`Israel puts itself in the same league as Burma, North Korea, and Syria in keeping out independent human rights monitors,` said Jessica Montell, executive director of B`Tselem. `The people of Israel deserve to know the truth about the conduct of our forces in Gaza. It is also in Israel`s best interest that the full picture comes out.`

According to Human Rights Watch, by denying the entry of human rights observers, I srael is in violation of Article 6 of the Human Rights Defenders Declaration ensures that everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, `To know, seek, obtain, receive, and hold information about all human rights and fundamental freedoms.`

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