Hamas MPs hiding in e. J'lem Red Cross arrested

Men had been staying in the Sheikh Jarrah compound to avoid arrest after their e. J'lem residency was revoked.

January 23, 2012 14:20
2 minute read.
Members of the 'Hamas Three' at a press conference

311_Hamas Three. (photo credit: MELANIE LIDMAN)

Police arrested two Hamas politicians who had been hiding in an east Jerusalem Red Cross building for a year and a half.

Undercover officers entered the compound in Sheikh Jarrah after receiving approval for the raid from Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino.

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The two men, Khaled Abu- Arafa and Muhammad Totah, did not resist arrest, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

The men had been staying in the building with Hamas MP Ahmad Attoun, who was arrested last year. They had used the Red Cross as a hide out since the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) ordered them to leave the city last year after having their Jerusalem residency revoked.

Officers made the arrest upon sight, Rosenfeld said.

“They are suspected of Hamas activity in Jerusalem,” he said. Under the law, all activity related to the terrorist organization is banned.

The suspects will be brought before a Jerusalem court soon, Rosenfeld said.

Attoun, Abu-Arafa and Totah held blue identification cards, which gave them Israeli residency but not citizenship.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai revoked the men’s residency cards last spring, after the politicians refused to renounce their ties to Hamas.

The Shin Bet required them to leave the country by the end of June 2010.

Attoun, Abu-Arafa and Totah showed up at the ICRC office on July 1 of last year.

Fearing that their arrest and expulsion from Jerusalem was imminent, they informed the Red Cross that they wished to hold a sit-in protest on the premises to draw attention to their situation.

The ICRC denied at the time that it offered the politicians a haven.

“We don’t have anything to say about them,” Cecilia Goin, spokeswoman of ICRC for Israel and the Occupied Territories, told The Jerusalem Post last year. “Our work is only related to humanitarian issues,” she added.

The Red Cross has provided the politicians with a room inside the building where they could sleep and keep their belongings, a bathroom, electricity for their large protest tent, and a water cooler, it is understood. Family members came daily to bring food and clothes.

“They just came and informed us they were going to stay,” said Goin. “The police can come any time to arrest them, we will not act against this. We do not have diplomatic immunity, and we informed Israeli authorities accordingly, because it was an unexpected situation.”

She said that the Red Cross immediately made the police aware that the three men were staying on its property.

Police refrained from entering the compound and only arrested Attoun last year after luring him onto the street, where he was detained by officers.

Senior Hamas official, Aziz Dweik, speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of involvement with terrorist groups.

Hamas said Dweik was taken into custody at a checkpoint near Ramallah. It accused Israel of trying to prevent rival Palestinian factions from completing a unity deal.

Dweik was arrested by Israel in 2006 and spent two years in jail.

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