Israel bans Columbian FM from traveling to West Bank

Published November 16th, 2014 - 11:31 GMT

Israeli authorities have banned the foreign minister of Colombia from traveling to the West Bank after they found out she was not planning to visit the Israeli-occupied territories as well, the Colombian foreign ministry revealed.

According to a statement on the ministry's website, Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin sent a request to the Israeli government -- which controls all crossings in and out of the West Bank -- to travel to Ramallah to meet with the Palestinian foreign minister, Riad al-Malki, as part of a tour of the region.

The ministry said in a statement that Israeli authorities denied the request and said she was not allowed to enter Palestine unless she consented to first meet with the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

The Colombian minister canceled her trip to the West Bank and subsequently held talks with the Palestinian foreign minister in Jordan on November 10 instead.

Israeli officials confirmed the ban and said that Lieberman was behind it.

Similarly, renowned Norwegian doctor and human rights activist Mads Gilbert revealed that Israeli authorities have banned him from entering the Gaza Strip for life.

Gilbert, a professor at the University Hospital of North Norway, earned international praise for his philanthropic work in late 2008 during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, an attack against Gaza that left at least 1,400 dead, including over 800 civilians, 350 of them children.

This summer, during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, a 51-day attack against Gaza that left over 2,180 Palestinians, mostly civilians, dead, and another 111,000 injured, the 67-year-old doctor traveled to Gaza once again and worked as a doctor at al-Shifa Medical Center.

Last month, Gilbert, who has been treating patients in conflict zones for over 30 years, was stopped en route to the Gaza Strip by Israeli officials, who told him that he was not allowed to enter the besieged enclave anymore.

The two cases underscore the extent to which Israeli authorities continue to control all borders and crossings in and out of both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-famous "Balfour Declaration," called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Zionist state – a move never recognized by the international community.


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