Former Hamas chief behind Armistice Day pro-Palestine protest group

Revealed: Former Hamas chief who lives in London council house is behind one of the groups planning Armistice Day pro-Palestine protest

  • Muhammad Kathem Sawalha is said to have led Hamas in the West Bank

A former Hamas chief is behind one of the groups planning a pro-Palestine protest in London on Armistice Day, it emerged today. 

Muhammad Kathem Sawalha led the terror group in the West Bank in the late 1980s and allegedly ‘masterminded’ its military strategy as recently as 2019 before moving to the UK, where he lives in a London council house. 

Mr Sawalha, 62, is a founder of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) – one of the groups behind the proposed march this Saturday, The Telegraph reported. 

Half the groups organising the march this Saturday, which the Met Police has called on to be cancelled, have links to Hamas, the newspaper claimed. 

Mr Sawalha, who was granted British citizenship in the early 2000s, lives in Barnet, North London. In 2006, the BBC’s Panorama programme claimed that he was ‘said to have masterminded much of Hamas’ political and military strategy’.

Muhammad Kathem Sawalha of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), pictured in 2007, is said to have led the West Bank branch of Hamas in the late 1980s

Police officers guard the Cenotaph war memorial in Whitehall during protests on November 4

He is said to have worked as a director of MAB between 1999 and 2007 before serving on the Hamas politburo between 2013 and 2017.

It is also claimed that Mr Sawalha had a place in an official Hamas delegation to Moscow in 2019.

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, which is based in Israel, said he joined the delegation which was led by Musa Abu Marzouq, a member of the Hamas political bureau. He is also reported to have visited Russia in a separate delegation in 2017, and a delegation to Instanbul, also in 2017.

Israeli sources claim his son, Obada Sawalha, is now the vice-president of MAB.

One of the other three co-founders of MAB, Dr Anas Altikriti, also co-founded a group called the British Muslim Initiative with Mohammed Sawalha, a senior Hamas commander, and Azzam Tamimi, who has previously been described as a ‘special envoy’ for Hamas in the UK.

According to findings by the British government published in 2015, MAB has been ‘dominated’ by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and association with the group is a ‘possible indicator of extremism’.

A second group involved in organising this weekend’s protests, the Palestinian Forum in Britain, is led by Zaher Birawi, who was described by Labour MP Christian Wakeford as ‘a senior Hamas operative in Europe’ and a ‘national security risk’.

He is also understood to be living in Barnet, not far from Mr Sawalhi.

Mr Birawi, 62, who has previously been photographed with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, is the trustee of a UK-registered charity, Education Aid for Palestinians, which has raised more than £3 million since 2017. 

He has also previously been interviewed by Hamas’ daily newspaper, according to Israeli intelligence. 

He described Israel as a ‘racist colonial crime state’ on his Facebook page last month, and berated those who have supported Israel following the appalling October 7 Hamas terror attacks, which left more than 1,400 dead and 200 in captivity, including women and children.

He wrote: ‘Shame on them and f*** all the accomplices in killing our people.’

As well as being the trustee of Education Aid for Palestinians, he has also been involved with EuroPal Forum, a charity that has been designated as a ‘terrorist organization’ by the US and Israel. It has fiercely denied any terror links. 

The third group with links to Hamas involved in the protests is Friends of al-Aqsa, founded and run by Leicester optician Ismael Patel.

One of the other three co-founders of MAB, Dr Anas Altikriti (right), also co-founded a group called the British Muslim Initiative and has been previously pictured with former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (left)

Mr Patel, like Mr Birawi, has allegedly met with Hamas’ senior political leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza.

READ MORE: Hamas fugitive who ‘ran terror group’s operations in the West Bank’ lives in council property in North London borough home to roughly fifth of UK’s Jewish community, report reveals 

In 2021, he spoke at an online conference alongside a speaker sanctioned by the UN for allegedly providing funding to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the newspaper reports.

He has also reportedly claimed that Hamas is not a terrorist organisation.

In response to the findings, the Campaign Against Antisemitism said: ‘These findings are extremely serious, and demand investigation by the authorities. Is it any wonder at the level of anti-Semitic hatred and calls for violence that we have seen at these marches if these are the organisers?

‘These revelations are all the more reason for the Met Police to heed our call and ban this weekend’s march. London cannot become a no-go zone for British Jews, yet again, on Armistice Day. What a disgrace that would be to the heroes who fought for our freedom to leave without fear.’

Chairman of the parliamentary group on anti-Semitism Andrew Percy added that the links to Hamas show protests are ‘not about peace’ but instead aimed to ‘stir up Jew-hate and a hatred of Western values’.

He continued: ‘They are organised to celebrate the murder of innocent civilians in the most grotesque ways, including ripping out babies from pregnant mothers, cutting off limbs of children and worse. These people have no interest in peace and it is time the UK stopped indulging their hateful ideology.’

The Muslim Association of Britain and Friends of al-Aqsa have been contacted for comment.

Responding to the Telegraph’s report online, the MAB described it as ‘sensationalist’, ‘baseless’ and ‘Islamophobic’, but did not directly deny Mr Sawalha’s alleged links to Hamas.

The Palestinian Forum in Britain could not be reached for comment.

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