Israeli security service and police officers on Wednesday announced that they arrested six East Jerusalem lawyers on suspicion of relaying messages between Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza and security detainees in Israeli prisons.
The Shin Bet security agency and the Israel Police arrested the six attorneys several weeks ago, but details of the case were barred from publication until Wednesday.
According to the police, the five men and a woman took advantage of lawyer-client confidentiality permitted by Israeli authorities to act as couriers between Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and Palestinians incarcerated by Israel. The lawyers allegedly transmitted instructions for hunger strikes and details of prisoner releases, and were paid between NIS 700-500 ($200-$144) per message. Some of the communications were conveyed to Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives abroad.
The investigation began several months ago and focused on a legal office in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya run by two brothers, Mudchat Issawi, 41, and Shirin Issawi, 36. The brothers hired another four Arab lawyers from East Jerusalem to visit prisoners and pass on the messages from Gaza. Both of the accused Issawi brothers have prior security-related convictions.
Among the details contained in the messages were financial matters concerning the running of Gaza organizations, the logistics of hunger strikes, identifying which prisoners were to be released in the Gilad Shalit deal, and organizing support for Khaled Mashaal to lead Hamas.
Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas during a raid into Israel in 2006, was eventually released in 2011 in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons.
In addition to the arrests, investigators also raided nine offices in East Jerusalem and confiscated computers and notes along with receipts for millions of shekels worth of transactions
The suspects are likely to be charged in the coming days with involvement in terrorist activity and engaging in criminal activities for the purposes of terror.