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Hamas arrests Gaza peace activist over conference call with Israelis

Elhanan Miller
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Published: 21 March 2019

Last updated: 4 March 2024

A PALESTINIAN PEACE ACTIVIST was arrested in Gaza by Hamas security forces on March 20, amid widespread demonstrations protesting the deteriorating economic situation in the beleaguered Gaza Strip.

Rami Aman, 37, head of the Gaza Youth Committee, was taken away after about eight armed men belonging to Hamas’s Internal Security Agency raided his office in Gaza city at 2pm on Wednesday afternoon.

He was released eight hours later.

Aman said the immediate reason for his question was a conference call in which ten members of the Gaza Youth Committee spoke to some 200 Israelis on March 18. Live video calls with Israelis are a central element of the Gaza-based group. In an attempt to break him, he added, his interrogators said they know of calls he received from Israeli intelligence agents.

“They investigated me about my activities with Israelis and the protests taking place in Gaza,” Aman said following his release. “I told them I never said anything wrong. I didn’t give away military information and I’m no spy. I never speak on behalf of others by on behalf of myself only.”

“They tried to stress me out and confiscated my phone,” he said, “but I denied everything.”
“They investigated me about my activities with Israelis and the protests taking place in Gaza,” Aman said following his release.

Manar al-Sharif, who works with Rami at the Youth Committee, was witness to the arrest. “Rami and I were surprised to hear men’s voices on the street calling his name,” Sharif said. “The men in uniform entered the office and Rami offered them something to drink, but they treated him badly and asked him to come with them. It was effectively a kidnapping.”

His detention followed mass protests that have swept the Gaza Strip in recent days on the backdrop of Gaza’s worsening economic situation. Hundreds of Palestinians have taken to the streets in what a report by the Associated Press has dubbed “the biggest demonstrations yet against its 12-year rule of the Gaza Strip.” Hamas has responded to the demonstration heavy-handedly, arresting dozens of local civilians.

Aman had been called in for questioning by Hamas numerous times since 2010, when he launched the Gaza Youth Committee which advocates peace with Israel. But this time, his colleague Sharif said his treatment by Hamas security was worse.

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READ ‘Skype with your enemy’: Gaza’s youth want intellectual, not food aid

“In the past they would send him a written summons for investigation or call him at home. However, last November, he was also kidnapped from the street, blindfolded, and driven to an area nobody knew about. He was eventually released after his cellular phone was confiscated.”

Aman usually tells his interrogators that he coordinates all of his activities with the various security agencies active in the Gaza Strip, Sharif noted.

Sharif photographed Aman’s arrest in secret from her office window “in order for the world to see. There is no law here," she said. "They can arrest anyone forever without any charges. Many young people here were released with emotional trauma and no one can utter a word.”

Ofir Gendelman, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Arabic media spokesman, has tweeted footage of Hamas forces firing at the Gaza protesters. “They said: ‘we want to live,’ Hamas said: ‘we will kill you for saying this!’,” Gendelman wrote.

Many international partners of the Gaza Youth Committee have intervened on Aman’s behalf since his arrest on Wednesday. Aman said he was deeply moved by the international efforts to release him, especially from Israeli activists.

“Hamas is very scared of the media and has taken control of all media outlets in Gaza,” Sharif said, explaining her public appeal on Facebook and through a press release. “Older citizens have shared with me their nostalgia about the Israeli presence in Gaza before 2005. True, it was occupation, but the situation then was much better than now.”

Aman said he would not be deterred by the arrest and would continue to advocate for dialogue meetings with Israelis.

“I know these meetings come with danger, but I’m willing to face it. They help both sides change their views about the other. I’m determined to continue.”

READ MORE
How Hamas became another enemy of the Palestinian people (Haaretz)
When Gazans declare: 'We Want To Live,’ Hamas smears them as traitor and manipulated fools – then beats them up. No wonder Gazans find it hard to distinguish between the repression of Hamas, Abbas and Israel

Activists call for renewing anti-Hamas protests (Jerusalem Post)
PLO official: "Hamas's actions resemble those of Nazis' Gestapo"

Hamas crushes protests at cost to its popularity (Haaretz)
AMIRA HASS: Even if demonstrators don't dare protest again, the Hamas government has inflicted upon itself a powerful blow

Photo: Rami Aman (Facebook)

 

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