Saturday, 16 February 2013

Hamas leader: Israel behind Burgas bombing

Salah Bardawil, booted out of Bulgaria along with three other Gaza lawmakers, claims Jerusalem told Sofia to send his group home

CAIRO — The leader of a four-member Hamas delegation expelled from Bulgaria to Turkey on Friday accused Israel of pressuring Sofia to kick the Palestinian group out of the country, also claiming that Israel was behind the July 2012 blast that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver.

Salah Bardawil made the remarks Saturday after arriving in Cairo en route back to Gaza, where the Islamist group Hamas holds power. He offered no evidence to back up his claim.

Bulgaria expelled the lawmakers Friday, saying they represented “a serious threat to national security.”

Bulgaria’s interior minister said the men arrived on valid visas but on ones issued “on different motives from what they demonstrated here.”

Bardawil said the delegation met with media and some political figures during the visit.

The group, which included Hamas member of parliament Ismail al-Ashqar, and members of the Palestinian Legislative Council Bardawil and Mushir al-Masri, was first reported to be in Bulgaria Thursday, and Sofia immediately denied that the officials had arrived in the country to meet with political figures.

That denial came in response to a Hamas statement that a delegation was in Bulgaria to meet with political figures in what would have been the organization’s first such contacts in a European Union country.

Earlier this month, Bulgaria pointed the finger at Iranian-backed Hezbollah for being behind the July 2012 bombing. Although not directly named in the Bulgarian accusation, Iran reportedly considered withdrawing its ambassador over the incident. Iran also sponsors the Gaza-based Hamas.

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