RAMALLAH: The UN has expressed concern about an Israeli decision to refuse entry visas to its staff.
The organization warned that that the move may affect humanitarian work in Palestine and the ability of the humanitarian community to support Palestinians.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that the decision significantly impacts the humanitarian community’s ability to support Palestinians.
“We are, of course, still in contact with the Israeli authorities on this matter, and we hope it will be resolved,” Dujarric said.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry refused to issue visas to officials from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, accusing employees from the aid agency of “undercounting” the number of Israeli civilians who are killed or injured in Palestinian attacks.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed — as reported by the Israeli Ynet website — that OCHA employees constantly count Israelis killed in Palestinian operations but fail to categorize them as “terrorist attacks.”
The ministry said: “OCHA is accused of reporting the killing or harming of Israeli civilians under disputed circumstances while taking reports of Palestinian casualties at face value and assigning blame to Israel, including in clashes between IDF forces and Palestinian militants.”
Arab News reached out to the UN, OCHA officials and Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment, but did not receive a response.
Shawan Jabarin, director general of Al-Haq Palestinian Human Rights organization, told Arab News that he blames the UN for its inaction and negligence in protesting the previous bans of international commissions of inquiry and special rapporteurs who were prevented by Israel from entering the Palestinian territories, even though Israel is required to cooperate with the UN.
Jabarin said it was “no longer surprising” that Israel refuses to grant entry visas to the OCHA team because of its lack of protest over past Israeli actions.
“OCHA is a body concerned with humanitarian issues, and this denial of granting entry visas to its team is an Israeli message to the UN that your previous complacency will lead to a day when no UN official will be allowed to enter the Palestinian territories unless Israel approves of their presence,” Jabarin told Arab News.
The Israeli Ministry of Defense Coordinator of the Government Activities in the Palestinian territories had changed the procedures for foreigners entering the territories, stipulating that they obtain an entry visa outside Israel a month before the date of their arrival.
This Israeli policy was described by Jabarin as an attempt to “silence and prevent the work” of international institutions that criticize Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian Territories.
“Israel wants, through this policy, to re-engineer the international community so that it does not criticize it, and the silence of the UN gave Israel a ladder to climb on its back,” said Jabarin.
Meanwhile, on the 35th anniversary of the outbreak of the first Palestinian intifada (1987-1993) that fell on Dec. 9, Israeli security and military circles warned of their fears of a third intifada in the West Bank.
The deteriorating security situation in the West Bank constitutes challenge number two after the Iranian threat.
Egypt has also expressed deep concern regarding the security deterioration in the West Bank and the continuation and escalation of Israeli killings of Palestinians.
Since the beginning of the year, 165 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank, and another 54 were killed in the Gaza Strip.
In a related development, Israeli designated National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has warned that Palestinians could soon face unprecedented punitive measures.
He threatened in an interview with an Israeli channel on Friday to annex Palestinian lands that contain Israeli settlements, leaving Palestinians to manage their affairs without authority or privileges.
Ben-Gvir said that he does not differentiate between Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the Palestinians who live in Israel.
He said that everyone who is disloyal to the state of Israel must be expelled and that he will divide Al-Aqsa Mosque between Muslims and Jews.
Dana Ben Shimon, a prominent Israeli correspondent for Israel Today newspaper, told Arab News that the expectations and estimates of the Israeli security services regarding the possibility of a third intifada have nothing to do with the election of the new Israeli government.
“It is not important whether you call it a third intifada or a wave of violence, but the problem is that the Israeli security services are concerned about the quantity, quality and development of the attacks, especially as we witnessed the double bombing attack in Jerusalem at the end of last month,” he added.