JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel will allow the U.N.’s secretary-general and a top European Union official to enter the Gaza Strip from Israel.
Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations and Catherine Ashton, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, will be allowed to enter Gaza through border crossings with Israel, an exception to Israel’s current, but unwritten, policy of preventing foreign officials who visit Israel from crossing into Gaza.
Both officials are scheduled to visit the region next week.
"Israel has decided to facilitate their entry to the Gaza Strip in order to allow them to get a firsthand impression of humanitarian activities taking place in that area," said a statement released Sunday by Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
The entry is being facilitated by Israel "in response to the special requests," according to the statement.
Neither official is planning to meet with Hamas officials, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Israel has barred foreign officials from entering Gaza through its crossings with the strip, including rejecting requests from the foreign ministers of France, Ireland and Turkey.
Ashton reportedly will visit the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Syria and Jordan during next week’s visit to the region.
Ban will attend the Arab League summit in Libya following his tour of the region. He also is scheduled to attend a meeting of the Quartet on the Middle East in Moscow on March 19.
Israel closed its border with Gaza in 2007 after Hamas seized power of the coastal strip. However, Israel allows in hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid on a monthly basis.