Arab Citizens of Israel Released in Deals With Hamas Fear a Backlash

About one-fifth of Israelis are Arabs whose families were living in what would become Israel before the state was founded in 1948. Unlike the Palestinian refugees who ended up in the West Bank, Gaza and neighboring Arab countries, this group remained in Israel and received citizenship.

While they carry Israeli passports, vote and can exercise other civil rights, many Israeli-Arabs accuse Israel of treating them as second-class citizens and sympathize with Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and around the Middle East.

The Hamas-led attacks on Israel on Oct. 7 killed more than 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, and saw 240 others taken back to Gaza as captives, according to Israeli officials. Israel responded by launching a vast military campaign in Gaza against Hamas, which controls the enclave. The health authorities there say the military campaign has killed more than 15,000 people, mostly women and children.

As the war escalated, most of the 15 women made social media posts that led to their arrest.

One woman shared a joke about capturing a female soldier and a post that said, “Where were the people calling for humanity when we were killed?” over photos of Palestinian children, according to screenshots viewed by The New York Times.

Another woman added a beating heart emoji to a post that read “Gaza today” with a photo of Palestinians riding on a captured Israeli military vehicle and shared a photo of Palestinians breaking through a hole in the Gaza border fence on Oct. 7 with text that read: “While the army that can’t be beat was sleeping.”

Those two women and 12 others were arrested and charged with identifying with a terror group and other charges. Another woman in the group had been detained earlier on charges including attempted murder and identifying with a terrorist group, but had not been convicted of any crimes.

On Nov. 24, Israel and Hamas agreed to the first of several cease-fires that would last a week and allow the release of 105 hostages from Gaza, mostly women and children, in exchange for 240 Palestinian women and minors held by Israel.