An official European Parliament delegation including two Irish MEPs has had to call off a planned mission to Palestine after its chairperson was blocked from entering Israel and the entire delegation was denied entry to Gaza.
The delegation of six MEPs, including Green Party MEP Grace O'Sullivan and Sinn Féin's Chris MacManus was due to arrive in Israel en route to the State of Palestine today via Tel Aviv.
However, it was told at late notice that the mission would not be able to go ahead as planned due to a decision taken by Israeli authorities to limit the access of the MEPs.
The delegation had been due to examine the situation on the ground after the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Ms Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American and a 25-year veteran of the Al-Jazeera channel, was killed earlier this month while covering an Israeli military raid in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli authorities said that they "cannot allow the visit to Gaza of delegations with political affiliation and legislators".
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola is due to visit Israel and Palestine in the following days.
Ms O'Sullivan said she got the news as she was about to board her flight.
"I was standing in the queue to board my flight from Dublin Airport when we got the news that Israel was obstructing our access to the Occupied Territories. We had lots of planned meetings with NGOs and officials from the Palestinian Authority but unfortunately the trip is cancelled and the Chair of the Delegation has been denied entry to Tel Aviv. The Palestinians we were to visit are working on the ground in the most difficult circumstances, especially in the light of the recent killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
“I expect European Parliament President Metsola today and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during her forthcoming trip to the region, to raise this issue firmly and at the highest level with the Israeli authorities."
She said it is vital to ensure that MEPs and European Parliament bodies are allowed into Palestine, including Gaza.
"The European Parliament, and the EU at large, has shown that it can take appropriate retaliatory measures in cases where countries such as Russia and China target our MEPs, I want to see the similar leadership in this current situation.
"We must take a strong stance in defence of elected representatives and more importantly the Palestinians whose voices are denied by moves like this."