Hamas arrests Gaza peace activists for Zoom chat with Israelis

Gaza beach (Wikimedia)

Oliver Holmes

The Guardian  /  April 9, 2020

Rami Aman and others held for ‘establishing normalisation activities … via the internet’.

Hamas security forces in the Gaza Strip have arrested local peace campaigners for treason after they held a Zoom virtual conference with Israeli activists.

Eyad al-Bozom, a spokesperson from the Hamas-run interior ministry, said the prominent Palestinian figure Rami Aman and others had been detained on charges of “establishing normalisation activities with the Israeli occupation via the internet”.

“Any activity or communication with the Israeli occupation under any cover is a crime punishable by law, and a betrayal of our people and their sacrifices,” Bozom said.

The online conference call on Monday lasted for nearly two hours. The participants exchanged details of their daily lives, and talked about the coronavirus pandemic and the difficulties of life under Israeli occupation.

The event was advertised publicly on a Facebook page and a recording was later published online, leading to some angry comments on Arabic-language social media.

Aman, the main organiser, opened the talk by saying he led a group of around 150 Palestinians who were struggling for societal change.

“In the beginning, it was hard for us to work in a place like Gaza. We have no electricity, nothing to do, unemployment, and with everyone outside Gaza looking at us like we are terrorists,” he said.

“The new virus is a new addition to other viruses – the blockade, unemployment, cancer, pollution, electricity. We already have a lot of viruses.”

Aman’s family told the Associated Press he had answered a summons from the security service early on Thursday and had not been heard from since.

Hamas previously arrested him last year for holding a Palestinian-Israeli bicycle marathon on both sides of the frontier, calling for Israel to end its siege of Gaza.

Hamas has fought three major wars with Israel and does not recognise the country, forbidding the roughly two million inhabitants in Gaza from activities seen as normalising relations.

Israel characterises Hamas as a terrorist organisation, and has enforced a crippling blockade on Gaza for almost a decade and a half, to international condemnation.

The foes have held indirect talks via Egyptian and UN mediators to reduce hostilities in exchange for concessions from Israel, including some easing of movement restrictions on people and goods.

Oliver Holmes is the Jerusalem correspondent for The Guardian