Sister of Hamas chief indicted for praising Oct. 7 attack, ties to terror group

Sabah al-Salem Haniyeh, one of three Israeli sisters of the exiled Hamas politburo chief, faces nearly 20 years in prison

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Ismail Haniyeh, the Doha-based political bureau chief of Hamas, speaks to the press after a meeting with the Iranian foreign minister in Tehran on March 26, 2024. (AFP)
Ismail Haniyeh, the Doha-based political bureau chief of Hamas, speaks to the press after a meeting with the Iranian foreign minister in Tehran on March 26, 2024. (AFP)

A sister of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was indicted in an Israeli court Sunday for supporting the terror group and cheering on its October 7 attack on southern Israel.

Sabah al-Salem Haniyeh, 57, was charged in Beersheba’s Magistrate’s Court with identifying with a proscribed terrorist organization and incitement to terrorism, three weeks after she was arrested during a raid on the Israeli town of Tel Sheva, where she lives.

Haniyeh stands accused of having sent two WhatsApp messages to dozens of her contacts, including Haniyeh himself, “praising, encouraging and supporting” Hamas’s actions on October 7 when it slaughtered some 1,200 Israelis and perpetrated mass atrocities in southern Israel.

Three messages sent to WhatsApp groups on October 9 and October 10 asked members to pass around a prayer that would help “destroy the enemy.” The messages included a prayer beseeching God to ” count them in number and kill them and do not leave any one of them.”

Haniyeh was hit with three counts of incitement to terrorism, which carries a five-year prison sentence, and two counts of identifying with a terrorist organization, which carries with it a three-year prison sentence were she to be convicted.

The State Attorney’s Office requested that the court order Haniyeh to be held in detention until the end of the legal proceedings against her.

A picture of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh found during a raid on the home of his sister, who lives in the southern community of Tel Sheva, April 1, 2024. (Israel Police)

Haniyeh, the Hamas political leader, lives in exile in Doha, Qatar. His three sisters live in Tel Sheva and were married to Arab Israelis.

Two are now widowed and have fallen foul of Israeli authorities in the past by making illegal trips into Gaza in 2013 via Egypt. They were both given eight-month suspended sentences for the visits in 2015.

Later that year, Israel denied Haniyeh’s request that his sisters be permitted to attend his son’s wedding in Gaza.

The three sisters all have Israeli citizenship and according to a 2006 report from the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, some of their children have served in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Police arrested Sabah al-Salem Haniyeh on April 1 in a joint raid with the Shin Bet that was dubbed “Early Dawn.”

Police said that during a raid on the suspect’s home officers found documents, media, telephones and other evidence linking her to “serious security offenses.”

Police also said they found hundreds of thousands of shekels in cash at the premises.

Southern District commander Superintendent Amir Cohen vowed at the time that his forces “will use all the means and tools at its disposal, everywhere, in order to create deterrence at the same time as thwarting terrorist attacks, with the aim of ensuring the safety and security of the citizens of Israel,” according to the police’s statement.

Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.

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