GAZA CITY -- About two dozen international aid agencies that operate in Gaza have suspended travel by their local employees to Israel and the West Bank to protest new exit permit requirements imposed by the Hamas-led government.
Leaders of several nongovernmental organizations said the permit requirements, announced April 4, were an effort by Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, to collect information about their groups through application forms and interviews. Hamas has also sought salary information for the local employees to collect income tax, and wants to tax vendors providing materials to internationally financed projects in Gaza, which the aid agencies oppose.
A representative of a group of 25 agencies, including some affiliated with the United Nations, said Hamas sent forms "three times bigger" than the previous ones, seeking information "that they have no business to know." He spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying he did not want to call attention to his agency.
But Tharwat al-Bik, director of nongovernmental organizations in Hamas's Ministry of Interior, said the government was "implementing the law, which doesn't put any public organization above it." He cited "political motivations" as the reason the agencies refused to cooperate with Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007 but is considered a terrorist group by the United States and Israel.
A similar controversy erupted in 2011, when the United States State Department threatened to withdraw $100 million in spending on health care, agriculture and water projects in Gaza after Hamas insisted on auditing American-financed charities operating here. Hamas eventually decided to audit only non-American groups; Mr. Bik said one that had refused to open its books, the International Medical Corps, had a month to submit to the government's requirements or be blocked from working in Gaza.
Local employees of international organizations are among the few Gaza residents who routinely travel into Israel. Several hundred businessmen and patients with referrals to hospitals in Israel or the West Bank are also allowed to leave.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.