Israel charges Hamas leader’s sister weeks after her arrest

Ismail Haniyeh speaks to the press upon his arrival on the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing, in the southern Gaza Strip on September 19, 2017. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI

April 21 (UPI) -- Israel has finally charged Sabah Haniyeh, the sister of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, three weeks after first arresting her.

Haniyeh, a 57-year-old resident of the town of Tel Sheva, has been held in custody since April 1 when she was arrested in an early morning police raid. Police also arrested two of her children at the time and released them later that day.

She was indicted on charges of incitement and identification with a terrorist group. Israel and its allies, including the United States, consider the Palestinian militia to be a terror group. Her charges were reported by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and Al Jazeera, citing the Israeli Justice Ministry.

Haniyeh is accused of sending messages to her brother and other contacts that allegedly included words of praise and encouragement in the wake of Hamas' attack on Israel on October 7.

The attack, which occurred after hundreds of Palestinians were killed by Israelis in 2023, led Israel to respond with further violence.

Prosecutors have requested to keep Haniyeh in detention until she can face trial for her alleged crimes.

News of the charges came just hours after Ismail Haniyeh met with Recep Tayyip Erdogan for lengthy talks in Istanbul on Saturday, after which the Turkish president encouraged Palestinian unity amid Israel's war. It was not clear if the timing of the charges intentionally coincided with the meeting.

"Stressing during the meeting the need for an end to the brutality and an urgent permanent ceasefire is emphasized at every opportunity, President Erdoğan stated that Türkiye continues its diplomatic efforts to draw the attention of the international community to the atrocities inflicted on the Palestinians," Erdogan's office said after the meeting.

"Pointing out that all the efforts are exerted to establish the independent State of Palestine, which is the key to regional peace, for bringing permanent peace to the region, President Erdoğan expressed that Israel will one day pay the price for the atrocities it imposes on the Palestinians and that Türkiye will continue to speak out about the massacres in Gaza on every occasion."

Both Turkey, a member of NATO, and Israel are strong allies of the United States.