(JTA) — Hamas authorities have arrested seven Gaza residents for participating in a videoconference with peace campaigners in Israel.
The arrests, which Hamas confirmed and defended as rooted in national security, have triggered a debate in Palestinian society over free speech and prompted multiple condemnations.
Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, bans many forms of communications with Israel and what it calls the “normalization” of relations with the Jewish state.
“We absolutely condemn arrests of individuals because of practicing their right to peaceful expression and assembly,” Saleh Hijazi, the Amnesty International human rights group’s deputy director for the Middle East, told the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.
Rami Aman, 36, the founder of the Gaza Youth Committee, and the six others were accused of treason after speaking on Zoom to the dozens of Israeli activists last week, the newspaper reported Tuesday. The participants discussed their daily lives and expressed hopes for better leadership for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Hind Khoudary, a former Amnesty International activist, reportedly played a key role in having the seven arrested, according to Asharq al-Awsat. She criticized Aman on Facebook over what Khoudary called “normalization” with Israel and also tagged several Hamas officials in the online post, prompting them to monitor the call, according to Asharq al-Awsat.