GAZA, April 20 (Xinhua) -- Hamas is turning back local employees of international aid organizations who seek travel to Israel and the West Bank from the Gaza Strip, sources said Saturday.
The move comes after the organizations rejected to comply with a Hamas order that the local staff of the foreign non-governmental organizations must obtain an exit permit from Hamas government prior to their travel, directors of several organizations told Xinhua, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The international NGOs say that Hamas, which controls Gaza since 2007, imposed the exit permits in a bid to obtain information about the work of the organizations from their employees, who will go through interviews and have to fill forms when applying for the exit permit.
The NGOs representatives say that Hamas seeks the information in a bid to audit and tax the organizations.
The majority of the international organizations receive funds from the European Union and the United States, which classify Hamas a terrorist group. These organizations present relief, medical, educational and other humanitarian aid to people in Gaza, where Israel has imposed a blockade since 2007.
To resist Hamas' pressure for information about the organizations' work, projects and beneficiaries, the organizations stopped moving their local staff out of Gaza for more than a week, the sources said.
Amjad Al-Shawa, head of the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO), urged Hamas to facilitate the movement of local employees of the organizations because they do " important humanitarian work."
"It's inappropriate to impose restrictions on the travel of the NGOs' workers, especially as the Israeli occupation puts severe restrictions on them," Al-Shawa told Xinhua.
He noted that there is about 85 international organizations, including Arab associations, operating in Gaza.
Islam Shahwan, spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, said his government has the right to be aware of anybody entering or leaving the Gaza Strip.
He added that the ministry asked the international organizations to open their financial records for a governmental auditing, saying that this was a legal order.
The organizations say they can be subjected for auditing only when the government is run by the Palestinian National Authority ( PNA), which has been based in the West Bank since Hamas took over Gaza by force.
Tharwat Al-Bik, the NGOs director in the Interior Ministry, said the foreign aid organizations refuse to deal with the government in Gaza for political reasons. "Nobody has an exception, nobody can be above the law... we are implementing the law and those who do not comply will shoulder the responsibility of any decision we issue," he warned.