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HRW asks Israel to allow journalists access to Gaza strip


New York : A leading Human Rights watchdog has called on Israel to allow journalists and human rights monitors access to Gaza Strip where its military is conducting operations against Hamas.

Their presence, said the Human Rights Watch (HRW), could discourage abuse by the warring parties and help save lives.

“The presence of journalists and human rights monitors in the conflict areas provides an essential check on human rights abuses and laws of war violations.

In a statement here yesterday, it said since early November 2008, when the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas began to deteriorate, the Israeli government has sharply restricted access to Gaza for foreign journalists and human rights monitors, and none has been permitted entry since the current military campaign began on December 27.

Israeli journalists have been denied access to Gaza for the past two years because of Israeli government’s policy prohibiting its citizens from entering Gaza on security grounds, it noted.

“Journalists and rights monitors should be allowed into Gaza to investigate and report on the conduct of both sides,” said Fred Abrahams, senior emergencies researcher for Human Rights Watch.

“Israel’s excessive restrictions on access to Gaza only end up impeding this deterrent effect and placing civilians at greater risk.” It also wanted Israel to abide by Dec 31, 2008 High Court ruling to allow 12 foreign journalists into Gaza.