Bulgaria Expels Hamas Delegation

The visiting Palestinians, due to take in a conference, were instead driven to airport and put on a plane to Turkey.Bulgarian security service agents “entered the hotel rooms of the three deputies early on Friday and drove them to the airport,” Mohd Abuasi, of the Centre for Middle East Studies, said.

“The agents explained to them that they had to leave because of strong political pressure on Bulgaria from Israel,” he added, noting that they had departed for Istanbul.

The three Hamas lawmakers had arrived on Wednesday and were due to participate on Friday in a conference organised by the Centre.

Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov confirmed on television that the delegation had left Bulgaria, without specifying whether they had been expelled.

The European Union, like the United States, considers Hamas a terrorist group and deals only with its non-violent rival, the Palestinian Authority.

The trip came in the wake of a February 5 announcement by Sofia that Islamist militants from Hezbollah were behind the July 2012 bombing in Burgas that killed five Israeli tourists and their local driver.

On Thursday, Bulgaria 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 organisations”.

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