Hamas arrests Gaza activists after Zoom call with Israelis

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — 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 are 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 for the people and their sacrifices,” it said in a statement.

Hamas, which seized Gaza from rival Palestinian forces in 2007, does not recognize Israel and has carried out scores of attacks against Israelis over the last few decades. Israel, the U.S. and the EU view Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Hamas has nevertheless been holding indirect talks with Israel through Egyptian, Qatari and U.N. mediators for months. The negotiations are aimed at easing an Israeli and Egyptian blockade imposed on Gaza after Hamas took power in exchange for calm along the frontier.

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 incitement against the Gaza activists on social media.

The family of Rami Aman, the main organizer, said he answered a summons from the security service early Thursday and that they have not heard from him since.

Hamas praised the arrests.

“The relationship with the Zionist occupation is only a continuing fight until it is forced out of all Palestinian lands,” spokesman Hazem Qassem said.