According to a recent article published on IRIN News, Islamic charities in Gaza are challenged by both Israeli bureaucracy and no-contact policies of Western donors toward Hamas, a branded terror organization under both US and UK laws, which controls the Gaza Strip.
Following the decision of US Supreme Court in the Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project in June 2010, the US government, in particular USAID, has imposed additional restrictions on grantees working in the Gaza Strip, which limits or even prohibits contact with Hamas representatives. In addition, the Office for Foreign Asset Control at the US Department of the Treasury (OFAC), has been monitoring all potential ways in which funds can find their way toward Hamas, as a designated foreign terrorist organization. Such measures have in effect stifled interaction with the authorities in control of Gaza and have arguably hindered humanitarian programs in favor of vulnerable groups in the Strip.
Such situations appear to contravene with basic international humanitarian law, which calls for unimpeded access to civilian populations affected by the conflict. Israel and all the contracting parties to the Geneva Conventions are required to facilitate access to the population in need in the Gaza Strip.
Such tensions between emerging counter-terrorism regulations and traditional humanitarian law precepts have become apparent in the cases of Somalia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan over the coming years, essentially conditioning financial assistance to life-saving programs that satisfy growing security and political requirements.
The future of neutral and independent humanitarian assistance in regions controlled by armed groups designated as terrorist organizations will require common efforts to delineate a new balance between humanitarian imperative and national security priorities.