Israeli authorities announced on Thursday that Swiss diplomats will not be allowed to access the Gaza Strip because of their ongoing contacts with the EU and US-classified terrorist group Hamas.
Switzerland, a non-EU country, does not recognize Hamas or Hezbollah as terrorist organizations. Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday that Israel declines to comment on the ban.
A photograph of Hamas leader Yayha Sinwar and Swiss diplomat and representative for the Palestinian Authority, Julien Thöni, at a joint Tuesday meeting sparked irritation from Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, according to a report in the Swiss daily Basler Zeitung.
The paper wrote that Switzerland’s foreign affairs department is in contact with Israeli authorities and is seeking to clarify the matter and find a solution.
Hamas circulated the picture of of Sinwar and Thöni. The
Basler paper noted that the photograph presented a statesman-like atmosphere for someone considered to be a terrorist.
The Swiss government and a Finnish NGO spent almost $85,000 in 2016 to host a workshop in Geneva to unify Hamas and Fatah.
Yahya Sinwar, now the head of Hamas’ political bureau in Gaza, was included in the US list of terrorist individuals. According to the US 2015 terror designation, “Yahya Sinwar is a Hamas operative known for his role in founding the forerunner of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and SDGT. He was arrested by Israel in 1988 for his terrorist activity.”
The designation added,”Sinwar was later released from prison in 2011 as part of a prisoner swap for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Sinwar was serving four life sentences for the abduction and murder of two Israeli soldiers in the late 1980s. He is considered to be one of the most senior and prominent prisoners to be exchanged, and has called on militants to capture more Israeli soldiers.”
Switzerland represents US diplomatic interests in the Islamic Republic of Iran.