After 16 months, Israel finally frees Hamas senior leader

Hassan Yousef was initially handed a six-month detention order that was extended. (Twitter pic/pal_resi)

JERUSALEM: Israel on Thursday freed a senior leader of Hamas in the West Bank after imprisoning him without trial for 16 months, his son said.

Hassan Yousef, a co-founder of the Palestinian Islamist group, was arrested on April 2 last year at his home near Ramallah in the occupied territory.

“He is now at home and is in good health,” his son Owais Yousef told AFP.

Following his arrest, Yousef was handed a six-month detention order that was extended for another six months and then for a further four, his son told AFP.

The 65-year-old, who has been arrested multiple times, had been released from a previous 10-month term of imprisonment in October 2018.

Israel’s administrative detention system allows the internment of prisoners for renewable periods of up to six months each, without bringing charges.

Israel says the procedure allows authorities to hold suspects and prevent attacks while continuing to gather evidence, but critics and rights groups say the system is abused.

Around 350 Palestinians were being held under administrative detention orders at the end of May, the latest data currently available, according to Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem.

The group said the evidence against detainees was not disclosed.

A member of the now-defunct Palestinian parliament, Hassan Yousef is estranged from his eldest son, Mosab Hassan Yousef, who for 10 years spied against his father’s movement.

From 1997 to 2007, Mosab Hassan Yousef worked for Israel’s internal security agency Shin Bet, before relocating to the US, where he lives under a new identity.

Israel has fought three wars with Hamas in Gaza since 2008 and considers it a terrorist organisation.