Layla Issawi holds a picture of her son, Samer Image Credit: Supplied

Ramallah: A mother of a sick Palestinian prisoner has been cheated by a fraudster who impersonated a physician and convinced her that a ‘wealthy shaikh’ from Qatar had donated money to treat her son on his release from prison.

Dalal Hassan Hamdan Khalil, 64, the mother of Mohammad Al Taj from Tubas of the West Bank who is in an Israeli prison, told Gulf News, the fraudster contacted the city municipality and asked for the family’s contact number.

Officials took the man’s details and provided them with Dalal’s address. He claimed to have an official money transfer letter in the name of the sick prisoner ‘whose lungs need to be replaced’.

He asked her to pay him 1,000 shekels (Dh1,012) as a fee for the money transfer and asked her to meet him at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) premises in Nablus.

She met him, paid the money and received a packet after which the fraudster disappeared. The fraudster claimed that it contained 70,000 shekels to cover Al Taj’s treatment.

Dalal said that the way the man disappeared fuelled her suspicions. The fraudster claimed to have been an UNRWA staff member, but when Dalal checked she learned that his name did not exist in the records. “Only then was I sure I had been cheated,” she said.

Dalal reported the case to the Palestinian Police who instructed her to complain to the court. But the woman preferred to warn other families about such fraudsters.

“I have told officials at the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, who raised the issue with the PNA [Palestinian National Authority] and got the security apparatus involved to hunt for the suspect,” she said.

Al Taj has been in an Israeli prison since 2003, after being sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment. He topped the Israeli list of most-wanted Palestinians for three years before he was caught. He was arrested three months into his marriage and suffered while under Israeli custody. He later launched a hunger strike, during which he was subject to torture.

A senior security official told Gulf News that a team had been formed to arrest the suspect. He stressed that families of prisoners have been instructed to report any mysterious calls and possible fraudulent operations.