Bulgarian security forces on Friday raided the temporary residences of a visiting Hamas delegation in Sofia, and then expelled the officials from the country, Palestinian news agency Maan reported.
The Hamas delegation arrived in Bulgaria on Wednesday to present the “Palestinian narrative and expose the false “Israeli” narrative on the Palestinians and Hamas.” The visit was the first of its kind by Hamas officials to a member of the European Union.
Maan quoted a statement released by Hamas’ Change and Reform parliamentary list as saying the that the Bulgarian move was at least in part prompted by “Israeli”, US and British pressure.
“We condemn this act, which reflects the scale of compliance with Zionist pressures,” government spokesman Taher al-Nunu said.
For his part, Hamas leader and MP Yahya al-Abadseh said the Bulgarian government’s actions were contrary to all diplomatic norms, and that the move highlighted the huge pressure the Palestinian leadership is under.
Similarly, Parliament chairman Ahmad Bahar called for Bulgaria to offer a formal apology, saying the visiting deputies were protected by parliamentary immunity.
The PLO ambassador in Bulgaria Ahmed Madbouh told Maan he was informed by the Bulgarian foreign ministry that they “regret” the presence of the Hamas delegation and took a decision to ask them to leave.
Ismail al-Ashkar, head of the Hamas parliamentary list, led the delegation. Hamas legislators Salah Bardaweel and Mushir al-Masri, who is also a spokesman for the Islamist movement in the Gaza Strip, accompanied him.
Bulgarian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Vessela Tcherneva told the “Israeli” “Jerusalem Post” that “Bulgaria is part of the EU politics as listing Hamas as a terror organization.”