Bulgaria succumbs to Israeli pressure, expels Hamas MPs

Updated 07 December 2014

Bulgaria succumbs to Israeli pressure, expels Hamas MPs

SOFIA: Bulgaria yesterday expelled a visiting delegation from the Palestinian group Hamas, the head of the organization that invited the lawmakers to the EU-member state told AFP.
Bulgarian security service agents “entered the hotel rooms of the three deputies early yesterday morning and drove them to the airport,” said Mohd Abuasi of the Center for Middle East Studies.
“The agents explained to them that they had to leave because of strong political pressure on Bulgaria from Israel,” he said, adding that they had departed for Istanbul. Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said in televised remarks that the lawmakers had left Bulgaria, without specifying if they had been expelled.
“These people came to Bulgaria with visas, but since their entry into Bulgaria, they have given different reasons for coming compared to what they had said,” he said.
Hamas, which rules in the Palestinian enclave Gaza, denounced the deputies’ expulsion.
Hamas “denounces such behavior which reflects the extent ... of Zionist pressure,” spokesman Taher Al-Nunu said in Gaza City.
The trip comes in the wake of a Feb. 5 announcement by Sofia the Lebanese Hezbollah — like Hamas an enemy of Israel with strong ties to Iran — was behind a July bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists and their local driver.
On Thursday, Sofia distanced itself from the visit, with the Foreign Ministry saying the delegation would not be meeting government representatives.
“Our contacts with the Palestinian Authority are direct and pass through the government in Ramallah and the Palestinian Embassy in Sofia,” the ministry said.
The ministry said a representative had met the Palestinian envoy to Sofia, Ahmed Mohamed Al-Madbuh, and underlined that Bulgaria “maintains no contact with Hamas, which is on the EU’s list of terrorist organizations.”
The three Hamas lawmakers had arrived on Wednesday and were due to participate yesterday in a conference organized by the center.
Previously, a Hamas delegation had visited Switzerland at the invitation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, despite the protests of Israel.

Qatar denies its military aircraft intercepted UAE civilian airliner

Updated 41 min 4 sec ago

Qatar denies its military aircraft intercepted UAE civilian airliner

  • The UAE said Sunday that a Qatari fighter jet had flown "dangerously close to one of its civilian aircraft
  • Qatar claims a UAE military aircraft had entered its airspace

DUBAI: Qatar denied on Monday that its military planes intercepted a civilian aircraft from the UAE the day before, state news agency QNA reported.

The QNA statement claimed that a UAE military plane had violated its air space at the time.

Qatar’s claims come a day after the UAE had said a civilian aircraft carrying 86 passengers from Saudi Arabia to Abu Dhabi had been intercepted in Bahraini airspace.

UAE state news agency WAM said Sunday that the Qatari fighter jet had come within 700 feet of the Emirati airliner, forcing the pilot to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision.

But the Qatari civil aviation authority has been quoted by the Qatar state news agency as claiming that the military planes were on a routine flight.

They claim a UAE military aircraft entered Qatari airspace “without permission” in the same area as the civilian aircraft.

Sunday’s intercept is the latest in a series of mid-air incidents since the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt imposed sanctions on Qatar amid claims it had supported Iran, as well as other Islamic militants.

Doha denies the claims.

In January Qatari fighter jets intercepted two Emirates aircraft. The UAE has since lodged a complaint with the UN about the incident.

(With AFP)