An Israeli lawmaker who intercepted a bus carrying Gazans seeking to visit their imprisoned relatives in Israel was given extra security by the Knesset on Tuesday after receiving death threats from the Hamas terrorist group.
On Monday, Likud MK Oren Hazan and a small group of protesters prevented Palestinians from entering Nafha prison in southern Israel. They were protesting Hamas’s refusal to give Israel or the Red Cross information about Israeli captives held in Gaza.
During the protest, Hazan, a right-wing firebrand known for sometimes indecorous behavior, boarded the bus and began berating those aboard. Eventually, the bus was able to continue to the prison, but the visits were cut short due to the delay.
Video of the incident quickly spread on Arab media, prompting Hamas officials to denounce Hazan’s actions and threaten the lawmaker.
Knesset spokesperson Yotam Yakir said in a statement Hazan would receive extra security after he reported personal threats against him from Hamas.
On Tuesday, the spokesperson for Hamas’s military branch Abu Obeida released a rare statement lashing out against Hazan.
“Have the courage to deal with this issue in the right place and resolve the issue courageously instead of pretending to be strong against women,” said Obeida, referring to elderly women with whom Hazan engaged in a shouting match on the bus.
Hamas is currently holding the remains of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed during a 50-day conflict with Hamas in 2014. The terror group is also believed to be holding three live Israeli citizens — Avraham Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed — who are said to have entered the Gaza Strip of their own accord.
The terror group has refused to give proof of life or captivity for any of those individuals.
Repeated attempts by Israel to negotiate a prisoner swap with Hamas have failed.
“You put your soldiers into a battle in Gaza and left them to the unknown. Instead of confronting the truth and behaving with honor and manhood, you’ve chosen the path of cowardice to give up your responsibilities and run away from paying the price,” Obeida said.
“We assure our heroic prisoners and their families that the occupation is doomed to fall and the dawn of freedom is inevitable,” the Hamas spokesperson concluded.
Hamas, which seeks the destruction of Israel, has fought three wars with the Jewish state since taking over the Gaza Strip in 2007.
Hazan’s actions also drew swift criticism from the Red Cross, which had organized the bus trip into Israel.
“The ICRC takes very seriously what happened today during the visit of Palestinian families to their relatives detained in Israel. Families have the right to visit their loved ones in a dignified manner,” Red Cross spokesperson Suhair Zakkout said.
“It is the responsibility of the competent authorities to ensure that the visits take place safely and without interference. The ICRC, as a humanitarian organization, remains committed to facilitating contacts between detained persons and their families,” Zakkout added.
The Red Cross facilitates family visits for Palestinians in Israeli jails.
Gazans can technically visit their relatives in Israeli jails once every two months, though Israel refuses entry to many, citing security concerns.
Earlier this month, Hazan was indicted on assault charges dating back three years.
Hazan has also been dogged by a wave of scandals since entering parliament in 2015. Shortly after he went into politics, Channel 2 News reported that Hazan had hired prostitutes for his friends and taken crystal meth while managing a casino in Bulgaria in 2013. He sued journalist Amit Segal for libel but the court rejected the bulk of the lawsuit, saying the report amounted to “responsible, serious journalism and reflected the reality as it was.”