Sleepless nights for mothers of Palestinians jailed in occupied West Bank: AFP report

AFP , Friday 8 Mar 2024

"I don't sleep anymore," Latifa Abu Hamid said while looking at pictures of her children hanging on the walls of her living room, two women and 10 men, all have passed through Israeli prisons.

Palestinian mother
Palestinian Latifa Abu Hamid, 74, holds a portrait of one of her children, at her house in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. AFP


Four are still languishing in jail while a fifth died in custody 14 months ago. His body remains in the hands of the Israelis, she said.

Another died in 1994, in an operation triggered by the death of an Israeli.

Hamid, 74, said she wanted to pave "another path" for her children, one of "education and knowledge".

"Every mother's dream is to teach their children and to see them start families. There is no mother who says to their children: 'Go and attack'", she said.

"No mother wants their son to be behind bars or to be killed," she added, yet her children "live the reality" of an occupied territory.

"When they see a mother and a father being beaten in front of them and they see hundreds of heavily armed soldiers storming a camp, a village or a town and wreaking havoc, they store those events in their memory... and chart their own course accordingly."

Hamid lives in a house in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, given to her by the president of the Palestinian Authority, which has its seat in the city.

Her home, in the Al-Amari refugee camp, was demolished three times by Israeli authorities who eventually confiscated the land on which the house was built.

Israel demolishes the homes of Palestinians. It is a policy denounced by human rights organisations who say it is a collective punishment.

For Hamid, what matters most is the fate of her children still detained by Israel.

The situation has become more complicated for her since the start of the war in Gaza.

Israeli authorities have announced a state of emergency in the prison system, which has translated into harsher conditions for detainees, including an end to family visits.

Israel's assault on Gaza has killed at least 30,878 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry.

'Forever scarred'

Since 7 October, according to the Palestinian Authority, more than 420 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli forces or settlers. Thousands of others have been arrested.

Palestinian prisoner advocacy groups say the number of incarcerated Palestinians has jumped from 5,200 before the onset of the war to about 9,000.

Hamid said she had "no information" about her jailed children.

"We hear information that a detainee has died or another is ill," she said.

"In the morning, I open the living room, I greet my children one by one, I talk to them and I tell them about myself," she said.

"I give the impression of being strong and solid, and I have a great faith in God," which, she said, hides intense sadness and pain.

For other Palestinian mothers, the drama is larger and more recent.

Among them is Ibtissam Hussein Hazza, 53, who said she was "forever scarred" by 7 January.

That day, four of her 10 children were killed in a drone strike in Jenin, in the north of the West Bank.

"One of my sons called me and told me that his brother was martyred. I tried to call... my sons, but no one answered," she said.

The shock caused her to have a stroke affecting her left arm and leg, she said.

Seven people who were in a cafe were killed, witnesses said, including Hazza's sons Darwin, 29, Hazza, 27, Ahmed, 24, and Rami, 22.

Hazza stated her sons never took part in any attack.

"I don't know how they died. Did they suffer a lot?" she said.

"I don't sleep anymore... at most two hours. I wake up in the night and pray... I open their photo albums and look at them for hours."

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