Updated Sunday,22October2023-19:09

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Mohamed Qassem Sawalha, 62, considered for years to be Hamas's foreign policy chief, has been living in London since the <>s, obtained British citizenship and even bought public housing in Barnet, one of the districts with the largest Jewish population, according to The Sunday Times.

The British Sunday recounts how Qassem Sawalha led at least two visits by the Hamas delegation to Moscow, the first in 2017 with the number two of the organization. Mousa Mohamed Abu Mazook, and the second in 2019, in which he met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.

The British government has considered Hamas "a terrorist organization" since 2021, including its military and political branches. Since that year, Qassem Sawalha has apparently led a double life between Istanbul and London, where he continues to live with his wife Sawsan and where he has even become director of the Finsbury Park mosque, where the radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza, convicted of terrorism, once preached.

The case has exposed the security services and the Department of the Interior in the midst of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, given the possibility that members of the organization are living freely on British soil. Qassem Sawalha's lawyers have responded to the news in The Sunday Times by assuring that he is "a law-abiding British citizen" and that many of the allegations against him are "false".

According to the London newspaper, Mohamed Qassem Sawalha bought public housing for €366,000 in 2021 from the Barnet district, benefiting from a €140,000 discount thanks to the Right to Buy program, after having lived in rental since 2003. Barnet District Leader Barry Rawlings said he has contacted police and ordered a thorough review of his case.

Although it has never created problems in the neighbourhood in this time, the group UK Lawyers for Israel had already contacted the district in 2020, warning of Sawalha's alleged links to Hamas. The complaint was referred to Scotland Yard, which deemed that there was no evidence to take action.

The Hamas militant, born in the West Bank, reportedly managed to elude the Israeli security services, which considered him a fugitive, and obtain British citizenship within months of his arrival.

In 2004, the U.S. Justice Department warned that Sawalha continued to work for Hamas and held secret talks to "revitalize terrorist actions in Israel and assist in the laundering of money to pay for the organization in Gaza and the West Bank." In 2001, the British government had already declared the military branch of Hamas a "terrorist organization," but not the political branch.

In 2009, Sawalha signed a statement thanking Allah "for having defeated Zionism," calling for arms shipments to Gaza and calling for the opening of "a third jihadist front," alongside the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That same year, the Israeli Defense Ministry ratified his ties to Hamas and warned that he would be arrested if he dared to return.

Mohamed Qassem Sawalha was linked in 2009 to the British Muslim Initiative (BMI), which organized a chain of pro-Palestinian demonstrations under the slogan: "Stop the Holocaust". That same year, he and 60 clerics signed the Istanbul Declaration with 60 clerics, calling for "jihad and resistance to occupation."

Ten years later, the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs considered Sawalha "Hamas's representative in the United Kingdom," after having been between 2013 and 2017 "at the helm of the group's international relations."

  • Hamas
  • Terrorism
  • London
  • Jihadism
  • War in Israel
  • Gaza Strip
  • Palestine
  • United Kingdom
  • Articles Carlos Fresneda