SINN Fein MEP Martina Anderson was part of a European Parliament working group which was blocked from entering Gaza by the Israeli government.
Ms Anderson, a convicted IRA bomber, is a member of the group whose four-day visit to the region begins today.
Ms Anderson said she supported the sentiments expressed by the chairperson of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the Palestinian Legislative Council (DPLC), Emer Costello, when she said “she is both astounded and dismayed at the decision of the Israeli authorities to refuse an official visit of the delegation to Gaza.”
Ms Anderson said the visit has the full support of Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament and despite his intervention and those of other distinguished Parliamentarians, the Israeli Authorities decided to block elected members of an official EU delegation from paying a humanitarian visit to this “ravaged and impoverished region.”
She added: “The official reason given for refusal of access to Gaza was – ‘in line with the policy according to which Israel does not facilitate visits to the Gaza Strip which will strengthen Hamas, a terror organisation designated as such also by the European Union.’
“This explanation is deplorable and without foundation.
“Our visit was due to take place under the auspices of UNRWA, and clearly focused on vital public services such as schools, health centres and food distribution centres.
“Furthermore, we had arranged to visit EU-funded job programmes and hold meetings on education with students from the Christian community.
“Given the worrying current developments in the region, the programme had a purely social, economic and humanitarian focus,” she added.