Hamas-run security forces have arrested several peace activists in the Gaza Strip on treason charges after they took part in a web conference with Israeli activists, officials said Thursday.
The Hamas-run Interior Ministry said the activists were accused of “holding a normalization activity with the Israeli occupation.”
“Holding any activity or contact with the Israeli occupation under any cover is a crime punishable by law and a betrayal of the people and their sacrifices,” it said in a statement.
The activists held a nearly two-hour meeting on Monday over Zoom, an online conferencing service, discussing issues of common interest, including the coronavirus pandemic.
The meeting was advertised on a Facebook event page and a recording was posted online by Israeli participants, prompting an outpouring of Palestinian outrage against the Gaza activists on social media.
The family of Rami Aman, the main organizer and the founder of the Gaza Youth Committee which organized the call, said he answered a summons from the security service early Thursday and that they have not heard from him since.
According to a report in the New York Times, during the conference call, Aman joked with participants: “In my opinion, thank you, corona, because corona put the Gaza Strip equal with everyone outside.”
Aman, 38, has been arrested in the past for similar activities. In March of last year, he was held for several hours before being released after a conference call in which 10 members of the Gaza Youth Committee spoke to some 200 Israelis.
Following his release on that occasion, he said: “They investigated me about my activities with Israelis and the protests taking place in Gaza… I told them I never said anything wrong. I didn’t give away military information and I’m no spy. I never speak on behalf of others, on behalf of myself only.”
“They tried to stress me out and confiscated my phone,” he said, “but I denied everything.”
A Hamas spokesman praised Thursday’s arrests.
“The relationship with the Zionist occupation is only a continuing fight until it is forced out of all Palestinian lands,” Hazem Qassem said.