Gazans call on Saudi Arabia to free imprisoned relatives

1 / 2

Palestinians Saudi Arabia

Families of Palestinians held in jails in Saudi Arabia, hold placards in Arabic that some read, "Release our sons in Saudi prisons, and No for the policy of isolation and torture for the prisoners in Saudi jails" during a protest, in front of the International Committee of the Red Cross office, in Gaza, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Several families of Palestinians detainees imprisoned by Saudi Arabia held a rare protest in Gaza Wednesday, calling on the kingdom to free them.

The families gathered outside the International Committee of the Red Cross office in Gaza City, holding banners against the detention and calling for an end to their "torture" in Saudi prisons.

Most of the nearly 50 detainees are believed to be affiliated with Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza.

Hamas officials say Saudi authorities intensified a crackdown on the Islamist group's supporters in the kingdom this year, rounding up dozens of Palestinian doctors, engineers and traders across the country. The move apparently came as Hamas announced it has fully restored ties with Iran, Riyadh's longtime regional rival.

Hamas says Saudi Arabia arrested the Palestinians for collecting donations for Palestinian charities, not on security charges.

Bassem Naim, a Hamas official, said the prisoners did not carry out any "political activities" in Saudi Arabia. Condemning the detentions, he said the arrests hurt the Palestinian cause.

"Many signs suggest that these detentions have a political framework to pursue anybody who engages with the worries of their people and their just cause. Certainly, these arrests only serve the Israeli occupation, its programs and projects in the region," he said.

Mohammed al-Aqqad, who attended the sit-in, said his three nephews, who were born in Riyadh, were recently arrested.

"They work in a society that presents donations for the poor in Gaza and builds mosques in Gaza, this is what we know about the society," he said.