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Crisis over Italy security guards in Gaza resolved

January 17, 2019 at 12:16 pm

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas before their meeting at the Chigi Palace in Rome on 3 December 2018 [Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP / Getty Images]

A crisis surrounding three Italian security guards thought to be undercover Israeli forces operating in the Gaza Strip has ended.

In a statement issued yesterday, the spokesman of the Palestinian Interior Ministry in Gaza, Iyad Al-Bozm, said that: “In the past few hours an investigation was carried out into a suspicious vehicle, in which three Italians were travelling, that coincidentally was in the same area as a shooting in the Gaza Strip which took place on January 14, 2019.”

“Following the incident, the car went to the UNSCO [United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process] headquarters in Gaza City,” he continued, adding: “During the investigation, the identity of three Italians and their proper entry into Gaza was confirmed. It also became clear that the car was not connected to the shooting.”

The ministry thanked all parties who facilitated the investigation into the incident, mainly the UN Special Envoy to the Peace Process in the Middle East, Nicholay Mladenov, the UN Security Advisor in the Palestinian territories, the UNSCO director in Gaza, the Italian embassy and the Qatari Ambassador, Mohamed Al-Imadi.

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Reports said that the Italian ambassador had conducted a phone call with Hamas Chief, Ismail Haniyeh, regarding the issue.

China’s Xinhau news agency reported that the Italians were security guards who were in the besieged Gaza Strip to prepare for a visit by the Italian Ambassador to Israel, Gianluigi Benedetti, which should have taken place yesterday.

On Monday, Palestinian security guards suspected that the three men were undercover Israeli forces, as the trio was carrying automatic guns and refused to stop at a security checkpoint in central Gaza.

Palestinian forces chased the three suspects, who then took refuge in the head office of UNSCO in Gaza. The security forces followed internationally-recognised norms and did not enter the office in pursuit, instead asking for official permission to investigate the three men.

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