4 East Jerusalem residents charged with Hamas ties, planning attacks during Ramadan

Prosecutors accuse Sur Baher man of contact with terror group officials, conducting weapons training in Turkey; orphan charity allegedly funneled money for terror purposes

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Illustrative: Palestinians hold Hamas flags and banners, and Palestinian flags, near the Al Aqsa Mosque, in Jerusalem's Old City, on July 20, 2021. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)
Illustrative: Palestinians hold Hamas flags and banners, and Palestinian flags, near the Al Aqsa Mosque, in Jerusalem's Old City, on July 20, 2021. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

Four residents of East Jerusalem were indicted Friday over alleged ties to Hamas, with police prosecutors charging some to have planned attacks in the coming month after conducting weapons training and meetings with terror group officials in Turkey.

Following a lengthy joint investigation with the Shin Bet security agency, police said three of the suspects — a family from Sur Baher — were detained upon their entry to Israel last month.

A fourth suspect — a resident of Beit Hanina — was also arrested, with 500,000 NIS (approximately $155,000) in cash, vehicles, and other assets seized, as well as the freezing of bank accounts belonging to a charitable organization.

The charity, Lajnat Zakat al-Quds, which has offices in the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem’s Old City, was accused of funneling money for Hamas, tax offenses, and money laundering.

According to the indictment, one of the accused, Khaled Sabah, was appointed in 2019 by senior Hamas officials in Turkey as the terror group’s treasurer in Jerusalem. He assisted in transferring Hamas funds from Turkey to Jerusalem, and distributing them to Hamas operatives and their families, under the guise of the charity, prosecutors charged.

The charity advertised itself as assisting orphans, but much of the funding went to families of Hamas members killed while committing terror attacks or in clashes with Israeli forces, prosecutors charged.

Between 2007 and 2020, Lajnat Zakat al-Quds had a total income of nearly NIS 28 million ($8.6 million), the indictment read.

Cash confiscated from an East Jerusalem charity, with alleged ties to Hamas, in February 2022. (Israel Police)

In late January this year, Sabah traveled to Turkey to meet with Hamas officials, during which they discussed the terror group’s preparations for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, in the event of clashes with Israeli forces.

“During the meeting, the defendant agreed he would purchase a weapon for this purpose, if necessary,” the indictment read.

Sabah, and his now arrested sons, Musab and Munib Sabah, conducted firearms training in Turkey in preparation for a potential attack, prosecutors said.

According to the indictment, Sabah was also ordered to recruit members for the terror group in Jerusalem, and “lay the groundwork” for activities during Ramadan.

The January meeting in Turkey came as negotiations were underway for President Isaac Herzog to hold a meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. That meeting eventually took place earlier this month.

According to a report by Channel 12 news, Herzog and Erdogan discussed Turkey’s relationship with the Hamas terror group, and specifically recent visits by Hamas leaders to Ankara — long a sore point for Israel’s leaders.

Meanwhile, officials have warned of a possible flare-up of violence during Ramadan next month.

Shin Bet head Ronen Bar held talks with his FBI counterpart in Washington this week on the matter. And Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, who oversees the police, warned in response to several recent stabbing attacks in Jerusalem, that “terrorists and extremists will try to set the area on fire” in the coming weeks.

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