Israeli police on Monday arrested two Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament who had taken refuge in a Red Cross compound for a year and a half. They were arrested for conducting “Hamas activities inside Jerusalem,” said the police.
According to an Israel Police spokesman, Khaled Abu-Arafa and Muhammad Totah did not resist undercover officers who made the arrests. Newspapers provided conflicting accounts, with the Jerusalem Post reporting the officers entered the compound, while Ha’aretz and the Associated Press reporting the arrests occurred only after the Hamas lawmakers ventured outside the Red Cross compound.
According to the Jerusalem Post:
The men had been staying in the building with Hamas MP Ahmad Attoun, who was arrested last year. They had used the Red Cross as a hide out since the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) ordered them to leave the city last year after having their Jerusalem residency revoked.
Officers made the arrest upon sight, [Police spokesman Micky] Rosenfeld said.
“They are suspected of Hamas activity in Jerusalem,” he said. Under the law, all activity related to the terrorist organization is banned.
Because they refused to break their ties with Hamas – which the U.S. also lists as a terrorist organization – Israeli authorities revoked their residency permits, requiring them to move out of Jerusalem by June 30, 2010. On July 1, the Red Cross allowed them to hold a protest on its property to draw attention to their issue.
The Jerusalem Post reports:
The ICRC denied at the time that it offered the politicians a haven.
“We don’t have anything to say about them,” Cecilia Goin, spokeswoman of ICRC for Israel and the Occupied Territories, told The Jerusalem Post last year. “Our work is only related to humanitarian issues,” she added.
Goin told the Post that the Red Cross immediately informed the police the men were on its property. Still, the organization gave them a room to sleep in and provided electricity and water for their protest tent, according to the Post’s report at the time. Being on Red Cross property does not provide diplomatic immunity, but Hamas figures know any raid on a Red Cross facility would draw negative media attention and thereby deter Israel from enforcing its laws.
Staging a street fight outside the Red Cross compound last year, police managed to lure one of the Hamas members outside where officers arrested him.
The Palestinian news service Ma’an reports about Monday’s arrests [with a different transliteration of the names of the same lawmakers]:
At the ICRC compound, a crowd of Palestinians smashed its gate to protest against what they saw as the failure of the organization to protect the MPs. Hamas noted the two men were legislators and should enjoy immunity from arrest.
The arrests of Tawtah and Abu Arafa came days after Israeli forces detained two [Hamas] MPs in the West Bank, including the speaker of the Palestinian parliament Aziz Dweik…
Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri told the Associated Press:
“This is a Zionist crime,” he said. “Their abduction is a violation of their rights.”
The AP also reports the two arrested Monday were previously arrested in 2006 after Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by a terrorist group allied with Hamas. The AP spoke with Israeli officials:
“Hamas forcing itself on the Red Cross is not new,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said. “It raises serious questions about the abuse by Hamas of Red Cross neutrality and about the impotence of the Red Cross to counter such abuse.”
In July last year, Israel sought clarifications from the Red Cross following a demonstration outside the organization’s Gaza headquarters for Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, including many involved in deadly attacks. Israel charged that the Red Cross helped organize the event and said such activities compromise its neutrality.
NGO-Monitor is an Israeli non-profit that aims to expose the anti-Israel bias of many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Israel and funded by foreign groups and governments. NGO-Monitor’s Legal Adviser Anne Herzberg tells The Blaze:
The International Committee for the Red Cross routinely markets itself as “impartial, neutral and independent” and raises funds from donors on this basis. It is therefore outrageous that this organization would have sheltered Hamas terrorists in its East Jerusalem offices for more than a year and a half — in clear violation of these principles.
It is also shocking that an organization which prides itself on being “exclusively humanitarian” and supposedly devoted to the protection of civilians would engage in the overtly political act of hiding terrorists who blatantly flout the rules of armed conflict and deliberately aim to murder innocent women and children. This is the antithesis of humanitarian work. Based on these immoral actions, the ICRC can no longer claim any credibility regarding its role in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
As a result of the perceived bias, Israel’s history with the Red Cross has been checkered. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies withheld membership from the Israeli equivalent, Magen David Adom (translation: Red Star of David), until 2006. Most recently, tensions have again surfaced as the Red Cross does not allow Magen David Adom to operate in the West Bank and treat Jews living there. The ICRC also expressed concern last October that Palestinian terrorists released in the exchange deal for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit weren’t given the “free will” to choose what country they would live in.