Hamas Delivered Thousands of Dollars to Prisoners Released in Shalit Swap, Israel Police Charges

Palestinian man charged over deliveries; believed to be part of wider web of couriers.

A Palestinian man was charged on Sunday for delivering tens of thousands of dollars to prisoners released in the Gilad Shalit exchange deal, as part of a wider Hamas-led web of couriers. Hamas is believed to have operated the network in Israel for the past few months.

The man, Zagloul Shweiki, 33, is a resident of the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem who works as a courier. Approximately two months ago he was arrested by Israeli police at the Hawara checkpoint near Nablus. During the investigation, police found a large envelope containing 24,000 dollars in his possession.

Shweiki first tried to claim that the funds were meant for the purchase of cell phones, but later admitted he received the envelope from a Palestinian taxi driver he did not know, who introduced him to a man living in Shuafat. The taxi driver offered Shweiki "easy money" – a delivery with a reward. According to the instructions Shweiki received, he was to drive to Hawara checkpoint, where he was to meet a woman and deliver the envelope to her. The reward, Shweiki told investigators, was NIS 200.

Woman next to West Bank fence

In the early stages of the investigation, Shweiki said this was the first time he had carried out a delivery of this sort, but the investigators discovered this was not so. According to the indictment, Shweiki has carried out more than 10 such deliveries since January, which led to his arrest.

According to the suspect, each incident involved sums of between a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars. He delivered the envelopes to addresses given to him by his operators, who were different in each case. According to Shweiki, he was unaware of the identity of each recipient, except in one instance, when he passed on money to the wife of Rageb Tachan, who planned the 2003 terrorist attack in Haifa on bus line 37 in which 17 people were killed. The indictment said that, according to the suspect, all those who received money were security prisoners released as part of the prisoner exchange deal with Israel Defense Soldier Gilad Shalit, or family members of the released prisoners.

The "brains" of these operations, describes the indictment, is a man nicknamed "Ahmed Madi," believed to be a Gaza resident, who instructed Shweiki and various other agents from afar. By the manner in which Shweiki was given his orders, it seems that Madi's instructions were similar in every instance: he, or a middle man, would contact Shweiki and request the latter comes to a preplanned location where he would be given the sum of money to be delivered.

In most cases, that location was the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station. Once Shweiki's identity was verified by the person he met there, the money was handed to him. He was requested to keep the money at his house at first, and, following that, would drive on a set date to a prescribed address, where he would give the money to a person recognizable by a set of identifying factors prescribed in advance. In some cases, the locations included Palestinian villages beyond the Green Line, for example Kfar Akab.

Other locations were in East Jerusalem, such as Abu Tor or Ras Hamis. In some cases, the money was even delivered within Israel, like one transfer that was carried out near the Interior Ministry in Jerusalem. For every envelope Shweiki delivered, he received only a few hundred shekels.

After sitting for about one and a half months in custody, the suspect was released to full house arrest for an unlimited time, about a fortnight ago. His lawyer, Yacob Jaber, said in response that his client "denies knowing this was a terror organization. They took advantage of his innocence. This is a courier who has no interest in endangering the public or getting entangled with a serious offense." Jaber added that he believes "the police have failed to catch the real criminals and hopes the truth will come out soon."