JERUSALEM—A 24-hour standoff between Italian diplomats visiting Gaza and the Hamas terror group ended Tuesday evening with the Italians’ release.
The incident began Monday when a group of Italians who were part of a diplomatic team which arrived in Gaza for advance security preparations ahead of a visit by the Italian ambassador to Israel was suspected by Hamas of being undercover Israeli agents.
Four diplomats who were armed were asked to turn over their weapons by Hamas operatives at a checkpoint in Gaza. They refused and fled the checkpoint, seeking refuge in a UNRWA building. They were released only after the Italian ambassador intervened.
Some reports say they were questioned by Hamas before their release.
Hamas has been on high alert and on edge since IDF Special Forces operating inside the Strip in November were exposed. An IDF officer was killed and another moderately injured in the gunfight that ensued, while some 15 Hamas terrorists were killed during the IDF’s rescue operation.
Hamas has been working feverishly since to expose Israel’s intelligence gathering activities inside Gaza.