CAIRO: Fifty European MPs from 12 different countries are scheduled to visit the Gaza Strip today via the Rafah border crossing in a trip organized by the European Campaign to End the Seige on Gaza.
The delegation, after having criticized the foreign ministry for procrastinating the coordination of the visit, finally announced that they had received approval from the ministry. The delegation stated that they had contacted the foreign ministry two months ago in preparation for the visit.
The group is also due to meet with Egyptian officials as well as the Secretary-General of the Arab League Amr Moussa to discuss the situation in Gaza and the continued siege which has now extended into its third year.
Prior to the coordination, the delegation had criticized the foreign ministry, alluding in a statement to “Egypt’s intention to hamper arrangements for this visit.
The visit from the European parliamentary delegation comes after a tumultuous few weeks regarding events on the border with the Gaza Strip.
First there was the construction of an underground steel wall by Egypt on the border to stem the tide of smuggling through underground tunnels that permeate the border. Then there was the trouble that erupted due to the visit of the Viva Palestina convoy headed for Gaza and led by British Respect MP George Galloway.
A plethora of obstacles culminated in a clash between convoy members and security forces in Al-Arish. The convoy eventually entered Gaza on Jan. 6 but a Palestinian demonstration on the border resulted in the death of an Egyptian border guard, Ahmed Shaaban, and the injury of some 10 Palestinians.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Wednesday that Shaaban was not killed by Hamas snipers, as Egypt had claimed, but was killed mistakenly by the Egyptian side who were aiming for two Palestinian teenagers near him.
He cited the comments of the Ministry of Health representative in Northern Sinai Tarek Al-Mahalawy, who had said that Shaaban was killed by two shots received in the back.
On Monday Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Egypt knew the names of the snipers that killed Shaaban and would request from Hamas that they be arrested.
“We know their names and we shall request that they be apprehended, he said, “and we shall see how Hamas deals with this matter.
Abu Zuhri, whose brother Yousef died in an Egyptian prison last year, expressed his astonishment with Aboul Gheit’s comments, saying it was an attempt to flee responsibility and cover up the Egyptian attempts to fire at Palestinian youths.