JERUSALEM, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government has blocked high-profile foreign leaders from entering Gaza from Israel, officials say.
Officials told The Jerusalem Post the government believes allowing leaders such as Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin to enter Gaza through an Israeli-controlled checkpoint would give the Hamas regime legitimacy. They also hope the policy, which has not been publicly discussed, will put pressure on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, the captured Israeli soldier.
Martin told an Irish parliamentary committee last week he had been barred from visiting Gaza. The Israeli government denied his version of events Saturday.
Before Netanyahu became prime minister, a number of foreign leaders entered Gaza through Israel, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Javier Solana, the foreign policy chief of the European Union; U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.; and Jonas Gahr Store, the foreign minister of Norway.