Reports claim that the Egyptian government has refused permission for a high-ranking Palestinian delegation to leave Gaza via the Rafah crossing in order to visit Switzerland at the invitation of the Swiss parliament. According to sources at the Swiss Foreign Ministry, invitations had been sent to Health Minister, Dr. Bassem Naem, and a delegation of five parliamentarians and health officials to meet with their parliamentary colleagues in Switzerland as well as local health and civil society organisations.
The sources told Quds Press that all the necessary procedures have been followed and the required permits were obtained some time ago, but the Egyptian authorities have prevented the delegation from leaving the Gaza Strip; they are, it is claimed, being "extremely rigid" about this issue. This is the second time that the authorities in Cairo have stopped Dr. Naem from leaving Gaza to visit Switzerland, after a similar situation a few months ago.
The programme for the Palestinian delegation was to have included meetings with Swiss government officials, parliamentary meetings, visits to hospitals and health institutes and meetings with human rights organizations and NGOs. Swiss officials and human rights groups have expressed their surprise at the Egyptian stance. The head of the Geneva-based NGO Rights for All said, "I am surprised that the Egyptian government is taking this course of action to prevent the visit of the Palestinian delegation to Switzerland." Mr. Anwar Al-Gharbi added, "It is very strange that the Egyptians are basically continuing to impose the blockade having just announced that the border crossing at Rafah is open until further notice following the hijacking of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla."