The three Hamas officials who were expelled from Bulgaria returned to the Gaza Strip Saturday and condemned the Bulgarian authorities for “succumbing to Israeli pressure.”

One of the officials, Salah Bardaweel, accused the Bulgarians of violating the Hamas members’ parliamentary immunity. He noted that he and his colleagues, Ismail Ashkar and Mushir al-Masri, were elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Bardaweel said shortly after arriving in the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt that the expulsion “reflected the submission of the European Union to Israel and continued denial of Palestinian rights.”

Bardaweel complained that the decision to expel him and his colleagues was a humiliation not only to the legislators, but to all Palestinians and Arabs. He demanded that the Bulgarian government issue an apology for its “immoral” behavior toward the legislators.

He said the expulsion violated international laws and diplomatic protocols. He pointed out that he and his colleagues enjoyed parliamentary immunity and had entered Bulgaria after obtaining a visa.

“We entered the country legally but were expelled in an illegal and offensive manner,” the Hamas official said.

Bardaweel and other Hamas figures in the Gaza Strip claimed over the weekend that the Palestinian Authority foreign ministry also played a role in the expulsion of the delegation. They said PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki phoned his Bulgarian counterpart and told him the Hamas legislators did not represent the PA and had no mandate to meet with Bulgarian officials and lawmakers.

Musa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas official, urged the Bulgarian government to apologize to his movement for expelling the three legislators, denouncing the expulsion as a “despicable act.” He also criticized the PA leadership for failing to condemn the expulsions.

“The expulsion of the legislators from Bulgaria is an insult to our people,” he added. “These were representatives of the Palestinian people who had entered Bulgaria with a visa.”

Marzouk, too, accused the Bulgarian government of bowing to Israeli pressure.

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