Last July, the European Union’s envoy to the region, Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, chose a unique and provocative way to mark the end of his tenure: paragliding along the Gaza coast. In a “solidarity demonstration” intended, in his words, to draw global attention to the “ongoing Israeli siege on the Palestinian enclave,” the German diplomat flew for several minutes off the Gaza coast, despite an Israeli ban on such flights from Gaza.
At the end of the demonstration, the official European envoy proudly announced, “This is the first flight in the history of Gaza. What can we learn from this?” he continued enthusiastically, “That you too can do it!… Anything is possible in Gaza.” Von Burgsdorff emphasized that his paragliding demonstration was meant “to show you the way forward… We will continue to work towards this,” he declared then.
According to reports, a spokesperson for the European Union delegation to the Palestinians also participated in that paragliding flight. The equipment was likely smuggled into Gaza under diplomatic immunity enjoyed by the organization’s envoys to the region. For years, Israel has been trying to prevent the import of goods and equipment that might be used for terrorist activities against it. In hindsight, it is clear to what extent Hamas activists and commanders used these civilian products for terrorist purposes.
“A Provocative Act”
A spokesperson for the European Union delegation to the Palestinians told Reuters at the time that the paraglider belonged to von Burgsdorff and that the Israeli authorities were not informed in advance about this “local and purely sporting activity.”
In response to the provocative act of the German diplomat, Israel issued an official statement condemning the paragliding flight. “This is a provocative act that served as propaganda for militant groups in Gaza,” warned the Israeli Foreign Ministry in an official statement. A spokesperson for the ministry cautioned that “the European diplomat has long forgotten that he represents the European Union and its member states, continuing to represent the Palestinian narrative and serving as a propaganda tool in the hands of the terrorist organizations ruling Gaza.”
Only three months after that “first and historic” flight of the European envoy, it is clear why and to what extent it was so important for Israel to try to prevent such flying equipment from entering the Strip, and why it condemned that “sporting activity.” As of now, at least 1,300 Israelis have been murdered in Hamas October 7th attack, which included an infiltration to Israel using dozens of paragliders.