London, Oct 22 (SocialNews.XYZ) An apparently fairly important leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, Muhammad Qassem Sawalha, lives in London in a flat he bought from the local Barnet Council.
This was disclosed in a sensational headline story in The Sunday Times.
Hamas carried out a sudden attack on Israel on October 7, killing an estimated 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and taking approximately 200 Israeli citizens as hostages, who are being held in Gaza. The action has generated one of the worst crises between Israelis and Palestinians, since the partition of Palestine and the controversial creation of Israel on the former's soil in 1948.
Sawalha, 62, reportedly fled to Britain from the Palestinian administered territory of Gaza (now under heavy bombardment by Israeli military forces) in the 1990s, hoodwinking Israeli security with a relative’s passport. He thereafter obtained British citizenship. He was granted a British passport probably in the early 2000s.
In 2004, the United States Justice Department indicted him of illegally financing "terrorist activities" in Israel. The indictment alleged Sawalha continued to work for Hamas even after coming to London.
In 2006, a BBC programme reported he was "said to have masterminded much of Hamas’ political and military strategy". It further charged that though MI5 – Britain’s internal intelligence agency – knew about Sawalha, they "let him operate freely here (in the UK)".
In 2009, Sawalha signed a declaration that praised Allah for having "routed the Zionist Jews". He is officially designated by Israeli authorities as belonging to Hamas and will be arrested if he returns to Israel, which is unlikely. He is said to have been a member of Hamas’ politburo between 2013 and 2017.
The British paper indicated it was in 2017 that it was confirmed that Sawalha continued to be involved with Hamas, when he joined the organisation’s official delegation to Russia. The Council of Muftis, a Russian Muslim body, posted on its website that Sawalha was ‘head’ of Hamas’ ‘foreign policy’. He was pictured with Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister.
London’s reputed Metropolitan Police force, popularly known as Scotland Yard, confirmed they received a referral in June 2020 mentioning a breach of the UK’s Terrorist Asset Freezing Act. This accusation was assessed by officers of the Yard's National Terrorist Financing Investigation Unit. In a statement they said: "It was determined that the evidential test was not met. No further action was taken."
The leader of Barnet Council, Barry Rawlings, remarked he was "horrified to think (Sawalha) could be living in our midst". He promised to review the case.
Britain proscribed Hamas’ military wing on the perception that it was a terrorist outfit in 2001. However, it was not until 2021 that Hamas was banned in entirety. The Sunday Times stated he has kept a low profile since and is understood to divide his time between London and Istanbul.
Sawalha has never been charged with any crimes in or by the UK. He lives in a property he bought for 320,700 pounds in June 2021 with his wife Sawsan, 56. His lawyers told The Sunday Times that its approach to the investigative piece contained a "number of serious false allegations". They maintained: "Mr Sawalha is a law-abiding British citizen."