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Hamas denounces Israel over 'disgrace' of harassing families of prisoners

Israel's parliament decides to give Oren Hazan a security detail after he hurled insults at Palestinian women visiting prisoners
A rally in Gaza City on 14 December to mark the 30th anniversary of Hamas's founding (Reuters)

Hamas rebuked Israel over allowing a right-wing lawmaker to harass the families of Palestinian prisoners on a bus.

On Monday, Oren Hazan boarded a bus at the Gaza border with TV crews in tow. He said on Twitter he told the relatives that the prisoners were "terrorists who belong in the ground".

He also shouted at one prisoner's mother that her son was an "insect" and a "dog".

Videos of the incident were widely circulated online and received condemnation from rights groups, including the Red Cross, which escorted the convoy to Nafha prison in southern Israel.

Hazan is a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, and has a long history of spewing racist remarks and being embroiled in controversies. 

He has claimed that he orchestrated the incident to promote legislation to cancel such family visits until Israeli prisoners in Gaza and the remains of Israeli troops were returned.

Hamas is accused of holding three Israelis who crossed into Gaza. In addition, Israel is seeking the return of the remains of two soldiers it says were killed in its 2014 war on Gaza.

The Islamist group has demanded the release of its members who were re-arrested and imprisoned by Israel in 2014 for alleged security offences after they were freed in a 2011 swap for a captured Israeli soldier.

On Tuesday, Abu Obeida, spokesperson for Hamas's armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, said Israel lacks the honour to resolve the issue through prisoner swap negotiations.

"Instead of the disgrace of sending your idiots to carry out childish acts... have the courage to address this problem at the right place," he said in a statement to Israeli authorities.

Although the statement did not include threats or even mention Hazan by name, numerous Israeli media outlets claimed that the Palestinian group threatened the Israeli lawmaker.

On Tuesday, Israel's parliament decided to give Hazan a security detail.

Hazan defended his stunt in an interview with Israeli television i24 News, saying his message was understood “loud and clear” by Hamas, which he said only understands force.

The far-right lawmaker said harassing the women on the bus left Hamas scared.

“Even Hamas (is not) used to a leader like me and my friends here that said 'enough is enough',” he said.

In 2015, Hazan was suspended from his position as deputy speaker of Israel's parliament after a televised report accused him of involvement in pimping and drugs.

He also once agreed to stage a fistfight at the border with a member of Jordan's parliament, only to cancel it on the orders of Netanyahu.

In May, Hazan was heavily criticised after taking a selfie with US President Donald Trump when he landed in Israel.

Hazan is a fervent supporter of Trump and follows the US president on Twitter.

The right-wing lawmaker has pledged to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest site.

“It would not be responsible at this point in time to tell you how we would do it (destroying Al-Aqsa), but I will say it clear and loud, when I have the opportunity to do it, I will,” he was quoted as saying by Mondoweiss last year.

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