The Crown Prosecution Service announced on Friday that two British women were charged with terrorism for carrying posters depicting Hamas militants paragliding at a pro-Palestine demonstration.
“Heba Alhayey, 29, and Pauline Ankunda, 26, have been charged with single counts of carrying or displaying an article, namely an image of a paraglider, in order to arouse reasonable suspicion that they are supporters of a proscribed organisation, namely Hamas,” the prosecutor said, describing the actions as violations of the UK’s Terrorism Act 2000.
Both women face up to six months in prison for bringing the posters to the protest in central London last month.
Hamas militants allegedly used paragliders to enter Israel on October 7 as part of a larger surprise attack that evaded the country’s sophisticated border surveillance. The element of surprise allegedly allowed the fighters, who are said to be members of Hamas’ elite Nukbha unit, to kill over 1,400 Israelis and kidnap over 200 more, bringing the captives back to Gaza, where the majority of them are said to be still held.
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, Israel quickly declared war on Hamas and bombarded Gaza with the most intense bombardment in the enclave’s history, levelling entire neighbourhoods, displacing hundreds of thousands of residents, and killing up to 9,488 Palestinians as of Saturday.
The London Metropolitan Police arrested 15 people during a protest against Israel’s bombing of Gaza that Alhayey and Ankunda attended. While police had previously warned demonstrators that “anyone with a flag in support of Hamas or any other proscribed terrorist organisation will be arrested,” they later told the BBC that the offenders were apprehended for less ideological offences such as setting off fireworks in public and assaulting emergency workers.
Since Israel’s declaration of war on Hamas, thousands of pro-Palestine demonstrators have taken to the streets of London, led by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Protesters continued to wave Palestinian flags and chant lines like “from the river to the sea” despite a warning from Home Secretary Suella Braverman that both could be considered criminal offences.