Ossur Skarphedinsson, Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs, and his entourage had their trip to Gaza interrupted yesterday when Israeli soldiers obstructed the path of their cars with large rocks.
The Icelandic FM’s visit to Palestine has now drawn to a close with one of the biggest headlines being Skarphedinsson’s declaration that Iceland would support any UN resolution on Palestinian independence and UN membership.
Skarphedinsson met with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and aides on Saturday. On his way to Gaza, the Icelandic delegation took a protracted route which avoided Israel; but the minister claims Israeli soldiers in the militarised zone were rude and un-cooperative.
“Today [Sunday] we were in a long car entourage with Icelandic and Palestinian flags en route to the city of Qalqylie to see how the Israeli army has literally walled it in. When we went to a checkpoint where passports are checked, we were not allowed to continue. To underline the fact, soldiers rolled large rocks out into one of the two streets at the crossroads. After a lot of fuss and bother, we had no choice but to take the other road and the trip which should have taken 45 minutes took three hours. This is the daily lot of people living in this area. It is very humiliating for normal citizens to have to put up with this and it disrupts the town’s entire functionality. I also understand from my staff that they [Israeli authorities] have sent a sternly worded letter protesting my trip and that my route deliberately avoided Israel. But last time when I intended to go that way the Israelis slammed the door at the last minute — such is their way of delaying visits of this sort,” Skarphedinsson told DV by telephone. He went on to make some hard hitting comments about Jewish settlers in the Palestinian territories who are reportedly extremely and unacceptably hostile to locals and build their towering settlements against almost everyone’s wishes.