Hamas Leader's Israeli Sisters Rapped For Gaza Visit

ismael HaneyyehAFP – Sisters of Hamas chief Ismael Haniyeh given suspended prison terms for crossing into Gaza from Egypt in 2013 without obtaining permit from Israel; both say they traveled for purposes of family reunification.

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 20,000 shekels ($5,000, 4,276 euros) 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, occupied east Jerusalem or the occupied West Bank, Israeli rights group Gisha says.

“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 Islamic Hamas movement won a sweeping victory in legislative elections.

West Bank-based Palestinian 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 buried the hatchet and decided to form a consensus government.

Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by many Western states, is still the de facto power in Gaza, which is subject to an Israeli blockade.
Even so, several of Haniyeh’s ailing relatives have been allowed to cross into Israel for medical treatment.

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