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From the field

The Gaza Strip - 2 March '09: B'Tselem petitions the High Court to enable its staff to enter the Gaza Strip

B'Tselem has petitioned the High Court of Justice to require Israel to permit staff members of the organization to enter the Gaza Strip to investigate the human rights and humanitarian situation in the area following the hostilities.

The petition, filed jointly with HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, describes the Gaza District Coordination and Liaison Office's constant foot-dragging and rejection without sufficient explanation of requests to allow representatives of B'Tselem to enter the Strip. The petitioners contend that the state's conduct in this matter raises concern that the state is seeking to limit the actions of human rights organizations and to make it difficult for them to carry out their activities, which are not always comfortable for Israel.

In their petition, the organizations point out the special importance of activity by human rights organizations under the present circumstances. With conflicting data regarding the magnitude of the harm to the civilian population, and with Israel and the Palestinians providing different versions of the hostilities, the work of human rights organizations, which are committed to universal principles and to criteria that ensure credibility, is especially important.

The investigation and documentation carried out by human rights organizations are not only important to protect the human rights of residents of the Occupied Territories, they also ensure the right of the public - in Israel and the world - to receive reliable information of the reality in the Gaza Strip and of the human rights situation there.

On 26 February, the High Court ordered that the state to respond to the petition within fourteen days.