Three members of The Elders, a group of international elder statesmen convened by Nelson Mandela, visited Gaza on Saturday and spent the day with local opinion leaders, human rights activists, business people, women’s organizations, UN officials and local authorities.

In a press statement issued following the visit, former Irish president and UN human rights commissioner Mary Robinson, former Indian parliamentarian Ela Bhatt and former Algerian foreign minister Lakhdar Brahimi called the isolation of Gaza “illegal collective punishment,” and “an impediment to peace.”

The group is on a weeklong visit to the Middle East to encourage support across the region for the current final-status negotiations. They also want to draw attention to what they called “the political isolation of the Hamas leadership” from the peace process.

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