Israel bars Swiss officials from visiting Gaza after Hamas meetings — report

Defense minister said to issue ban following recent sit-downs by diplomats from Switzerland with terror group’s leaders

Palestinians prepare to cross from Israel into the Gaza Strip at the Erez Crossing, September 3, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Palestinians prepare to cross from Israel into the Gaza Strip at the Erez Crossing, September 3, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel has reportedly banned Swiss officials from entering the Gaza Strip from its territory following a series of meetings between representatives of the European country and Hamas leaders.

The ban was issued by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman after the matter was brought to his attention by the Israel Defense Forces’ Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Yoav Mordechai, Hadashot news (formerly Channel 2) reported Tuesday.

The TV report said Liberman gave the order until the matter is fully investigated. Liberman said he would not consider lifting the restrictions until consultations were held with Swiss officials.

The decision to order the prohibition came after a pair of meetings between Swiss diplomats and top Hamas figures in Gaza in recent weeks, including the terror group’s leader Ismail Haniyeh and its Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar.

Earlier this month, Switzerland said Swiss officials would no longer be allowed to visit the Golan Heights, after admitting government personnel visited the “occupied territory” on three occasions to observe drone testing.

The Swiss defense ministry said in a statement at the time that the officials visited the Pik airfield in the Golan in 2012, 2013 and 2015 to see flight tests of the Hermes 900 unmanned aerial vehicle, which Switzerland is purchasing from Israel’s Elbit Systems.

It said the officials were not aware the airfield was located in “occupied territory” and their visits to the site were “contrary” to the policies of the country’s foreign ministry.

The statement added that no further trips to the airfield have taken place since it learned of the visits in August and that any further tests would take place in “recognized Israeli territory.”

Israel captured the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six Day War with Syria and later extended Israeli law to the area in 1981, although the move was not recognized by the international community, much of which considers the Golan to still be part of Syria.

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