Three East Jerusalem residents were sentenced by a Jerusalem court on Thursday for affiliation with Hamas and for illegally transferring funds to a terror group.

According to the sentence, the three suspects — Ya’qub Abu Asab, Kifah Sarhan, and Ahmed Alian — were found guilty of operating as Hamas leaders in the capital, and of actions “in the areas of religion, education and welfare” intended “to bring the public closer to Hamas ideology and to advance its aims.” The court found that the three also visited the homes of deceased terrorists and met with security prisoners.

Abu Asab and Sarhan were sentenced to 7 years in prison, while Alian received 4.5 years.

The three conducted clandestine weekly meetings and held a number of larger gatherings in support of Hamas, according to the court.

Sarhan was also charged with funding terror, transferring 200,000 Jordanian dinars to Hamas and an additional JD 300,000 for undetermined purposes from Jordan to Israel.

“There is no doubt that the social value these crimes damaged is the security of the state and the security of its residents,” the sentence read. “This is not a minor terror organization, but rather one that has made its goal to destroy the State of Israel.”

The suspects protested that they were not involved in terrorism, but merely oversaw organizational activities.

However, the judge dismissed these claims and said all Hamas activities are liable to strengthen the organization as a whole and ultimately lead to military or terror activity.

“As was written in the verdict, this is an attempt by Hamas to take control in Jerusalem by bringing people together, seemingly through social action. However, you cannot separate this activity from possible military operations,” the sentence read.

On January 28, the Shin Bet security service announced it had arrested 16 Hamas operatives in Jerusalem and warned that Hamas was investing significant efforts in expanding its sphere of influence beyond the Gaza Strip.

It is illegal in Israel to be involved with Hamas. According to a Shin Bet statement related to the case, involvement in nonviolent activities of the organization are a gateway to terror activities. “The organization’s activists in Jerusalem, who begin as organizational activists, become an attractive draft pool for military actions, and constitute over the years the long arm of Hamas military infrastructure in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and internationally, enabling serious terror attacks against Israeli civilians.”

Mitch Ginsburg contributed to this report.