While Belgium’s Development & Cooperation Minister Meryame Kitir was likely to visit Gaza on Wednesday, the planned visit will not occur as the Israeli authorities have denied granting her permission to take entry into the Palestinian territory.
Kitir is likely to visit Palestine this week & was due to visit a waste treatment project in Gaza, in which Belgium is taking part via the UN Development Programme(UNDP). But the visit was cancelled after being declined access by Israeli authorities.
Kitir’s spokesperson said, “The Israeli authorities have made it clear that they do not allow political visits to Gaza at this time.”
As per her cabinet, the Israeli government controls the only gateway that is completely leading to the entire walled-off Gaza Strip, it has the power to deny such a visit. Instead, Kitir will further travel to Bethlehem, where she will visit various cooperation projects.
A visit to Gaza is not straightforward, & most Belgian ministers have been denied entry in recent years.
In 2010, the then-Development Coordinator Minister Charles Michel was already refused entry, & while former Foreign Minister Didier Reynders was given permission to visit in 2016, all ministers who tried in later years were barred.
The fact that Kitir opted only to visit Palestinian territories may have played a part in her being denied entry to Gaza. She broke the Belgian diplomatic tradition’s unwritten rule of visiting both sides by choosing not to visit Israeli territories.
Additionally, her visit follows a period of unrest, with (foiled) terrorist attacks nearly every day. At least 19 people have died in seven attacks in the past six weeks.
Kitir’s working visit to Palestine ends on Friday.