Hamas denies any link to Belarus plane diversion
Belarus forced passenger plane to land to arrest opposition journalist
GAZA CITY, Palestine
Palestinian group Hamas on Tuesday denied any link to the diversion of a passenger plane by Belarus.
A Belarusian fighter jet intercepted a Ryanair passenger plane - flying from Greece – and forced it to land in Minsk on Sunday, claiming a bomb was on board. None was found. Police then detained an opposition journalist Roman Protasevich when the plane landed in the Belarus capital, Minsk.
Belarusian authorities claimed that they had received a threat from alleged Hamas operatives to bomb the plane over Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.
The scrambling of the passenger plane has provoked outrage in the West amid calls for imposing sanctions on Belarus.
“Allegations by the Belarusian Transport Ministry are baseless and absurd,” senior Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk said on Twitter.
“Since Hamas’ foundation, our battle has been exclusively with the Israeli occupation,” Abu Marzouk stressed.
At least 253 Palestinians, including 66 children and 39 women, were killed, and more than 1,900 others injured in 11 days of massive Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian health authorities.
The violence erupted against the backdrop of tension over an Israeli court ruling to evict Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem and police assaults on worshippers inside the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Thirteen Israelis were also killed in Palestinian rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. The fighting, the fiercest in years, came to a halt on Friday under an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire.
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Ahmed Asmar contributed to this report from Ankara