An Israeli court sentenced two sisters of former Hamas Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniyeh to suspended prison terms Thursday for illegally entering the coastal strip.
Court documents said Sabah Haniyeh, 48, and Leila Abu Rkaik, 65, both Israeli citizens, were sentenced to eight months, suspended for three years, and fined NIS 20,000 ($5,000) for crossing into Gaza from Egypt in 2013 without obtaining a permit from Israel.
Both women, who are the widows of Arab-Israeli men, said they made the trip to visit relatives they had not seen for several years.
Israel rarely grants permits such visits, limiting them to very specific humanitarian cases concerning couples where one partner lives in Gaza and the other in Israel, East Jerusalem or the West Bank, Israeli rights group Gisha said.
“The Israeli authorities only grant permits under conditions which are far too restrictive — the death or marriage of a close relative,” Gisha co-founder Sari Bashi said.
“This policy does not respect the right of family reunification. There are Palestinians who have not seen their fathers or mothers for 20 years,” she said.
Ismail Haniyeh became prime minister in 2006 after the Islamist terror group Hamas won a sweeping victory in legislative elections.
West Bank-based Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas fired him in June 2007 after Hamas forcibly ousted his Fatah movement from the strip.
Haniyeh did not acknowledge his dismissal and continued to head a rival administration in Gaza until June 2014 when Hamas and Fatah decided to form a unity government.
Hamas is still the de facto power in Gaza, which is subject to an Israeli and Egyptian security blockade, designed to prevent Hamas and other terror groups from importing weapons.
Even so, Israel has allowed several of Haniyeh’s ailing relatives to cross into Israel for medical treatment.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.