Middle East Eye / August 15, 2023
Israeli authorities accuse Aya Khatib of aiding Hamas but she says her sentence is an attempt to intimidate humanitarian activists.
An Israeli court has sentenced a prominent Palestinian activist accused of spying to four years in prison on Tuesday, but the charity worker insists the money she raised was to help children in the besieged Palestinian territory of Gaza.
Local Arabic-language news outlets said that Aya Khatib was accused of “providing information with the aim of harming state security” and that the money she raised had gone towards helping families who belonged to Hamas, the Palestinian movement that controls the area.
The 33-year-old activist, who is currently under house arrest, called the sentence “unjust” and said that her work was aimed at helping Palestinian children suffering from medical issues.
“They [Israeli courts] will not be able to defeat or break us, they will not be able to change an ounce of our principles,” Khatib told local media.
“I hope that people will not be afraid and refrain from doing good deeds because of what is happening,” she added.
Khatib, a well-known Palestinian activist from the town of Ar’arat al-Naqab in Israel’s Negev region, used Facebook to launch fundraising campaigns to help children in Gaza, as well as the occupied West Bank.
She says the donations were put towards paying for medical costs for treatment within Israel for children unable to access care in Gaza.
Since 2007, Israel and Egypt have placed the Palestinian territory under an air, sea and land blockade, which restricts the entry of goods and people in and out of the region.
The restrictions mean that there is a shortage of medicines and medical equipment in Palestinian hospitals there.
Khatib, a mother of two, also said she helped disadvantaged university students who were struggling to pay their fees.
She was detained three years before her sentencing and was originally arrested in February 2020 when she was interrogated by Israeli intelligence officers before an indictment was submitted against her.
The case was then referred to the Central Court in Haifa. At the time, Israeli media reported that she was accused of transferring money to Hamas.
Responding to the sentencing, Khatib told local media that she would continue to stand firm in her principle to help others.