Hamas allows UN, Red Cross workers to leave Gaza

Hamas allows UN, Red Cross workers to leave Gaza
2 min read
01 April, 2017
Hamas said it will allow foreign UN and Red Cross workers to enter and leave Gaza, after closing the only foot crossing with Israel.
Hamas shut the Erez crossing on March 26 [AFP]
Hamas will allow foreign UN and Red Cross workers to leave Gaza, the Islamist movement ruling the Palestinian enclave said on Saturday, after closing the only foot crossing with Israel. 

Hamas shut the Erez crossing on March 26 after it blamed the Jewish state for the assassination two days earlier of one of its military officials.

"In recognition of the need for humanitarian aid in Gaza, the Ministry of Interior decided to permit foreign workers of the UN and the Red Cross free movement to enter and leave the Gaza Strip," a ministry spokesman said in a statement.

Other restrictions remain in place, the statement added, but "humanitarian cases in urgent need of travel" would be examined individually.

On Monday, the authorities reopened Erez for those entering Gaza, but men between 18 and 45 are still largely prevented from leaving the enclave of two million people. 

Reports said Hamas was looking for the assassins of senior military figure Mazen Faqha, 38, believing they are still in Gaza, but the knock-on effects have been significant.

On Friday, the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process suspended its missions to Gaza as frustrations grew over the restrictions, according to a source close to the organisation.

Around half a dozen international aid workers were prevented from leaving this week, a senior humanitarian source has said.

The World Health Organization said that, until Friday, 79 Gazan patients had missed medical appointments in Israel because of the restrictions.

More than two-thirds of Gazans are dependent on aid, the United Nations says.

Erez is the only crossing for people, although a separate route is available for goods.

On Thursday, a coalition of more than 100 Palestinian NGOs and rights groups called on Hamas to reopen the crossing.

Israel has maintained a blockade on Gaza for a decade, largely restricting residents from entering.

However, Israel grants hundreds of permits for medical, educational, business and other reasons per week.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008.