Hamas MPs caught hiding with e. J’lem Red Cross sentenced to 30 months in prison

Men had been staying in the Sheikh Jarrah compound to avoid arrest after their e. J'lem residency was revoked.

July 14, 2013 19:20
2 minute read.

MDA Ambulance. (photo credit: WIkicommons)

The courts on Sunday announced the sentencing of two Hamas politicians to 30 months in prison, about a-year-and-a-half after their dramatic arrest inside an east Jerusalem Red Cross building where they had been in hiding for over a year.

The actual sentence was handed down Thursday, but its announcement was delayed for reasons which were unclear, though sometimes similar decisions are delayed due to security considerations.

The two men, Khaled Abu- Arafa and Muhammad Totah, agreed to a plea bargain in which they were convicted of participating in a terrorist organization, supporting a terrorist organization and having illegally crossed into Israel.

The court said that despite the fact that the two were involved in activities that could be defined as “civilian” activities, it was clear that the purpose of their actions was to raise public Palestinian support for Hamas, including its military wing.

In January 2012, undercover officers entered the Red Cross compound in Sheikh Jarrah after receiving approval for the raid from Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino.

The two men did not resist arrest, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said at the time.

The men had been staying in the building with Hamas MP Ahmad Attoun, who was arrested in 2011. They had used the Red Cross as a hideout ever since the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) ordered them to leave the city last year after their Jerusalem residency was revoked.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.

Then interior minister Eli Yishai had revoked the men’s residency cards, 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.

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 at the time. “Our work is only related to humanitarian issues,” she added.

The Red Cross had 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 watercooler, 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.

Yaakov Lappin contributed to this story.

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