Palestinian prisoners in danger

Mohamed Abu Shaar , Friday 5 May 2023

One of several Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who had reached a critical condition as a result of their continued hunger strike has died

Prisoners in danger


On Tuesday Khedr Adnan, a Palestinian detained by Israel who had been on hunger strike for three months, died as a result. The health of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike to protest unjust detention, in many cases ongoing without charge or trial, has been deteriorating rapidly. The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry for Detainees and Former Detainees Affairs had warned of the possibility of their death.

Israel detains around 1,000 Palestinians “administratively”, that is without charging them, out of a total of 4,900 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, according to the ministry’s latest statistics. These include 31 women and 160 children under the age of 18. Some 400 prisoners have spent over 20 years in Israeli prisons.

Among the most prominent Palestinian prisoners is Nael Al-Barghouti, who spent 34 years in Israeli jails before his release in 2011 as part of the Egypt-mediated Shalit prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel. In 2014 the Israeli authorities re-arrested Barghouti — who remains in custody.

The ministry has warned that 700 prisoners suffer from various illnesses, and several started an open hunger strike to pressure the Israeli authorities to release them. They include Khedr Adnan, who has been on hunger strike for three months.

Minister of Detainees Qadri Abu Bakr said Sheikh Adnan has been on hunger strike for so long that his health is deteriorating by the day, and his life is in danger. Adnan’s only request is to be released or charged. Abu Bakr told Al-Ahram Weekly another detainee is Ezzeddin Amarneh, who is blind, and has been on hunger strike for ten days. He too is demanding to be set free and not have another administrative detention order issued against him. The condition of another detainee, Walid Abu Daqa, has deteriorated rapidly. He is in urgent need of a bone marrow transplant. Essam Al-Rifaie, meanwhile, has cancer and requires treatment.

“There are dozens of ill detainees in the prisons of the Israeli occupation whose requests for treatment are being denied by the Israeli Prison Authority, due to a policy of deliberate medical negligence which threatens the lives of all ill detainees,” asserted Abu Bakr. “We are taking Arab and international action to shine a spotlight on the suffering of Palestinian detainees in the prisons of the occupation, beginning with a conference on detainees at the Arab League in the next few weeks.”

The new Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu has tried to impose a fait accompli on Palestinian prisoners by adopting a series of restrictive measures. Detainees reacted by threatening to go on a mass hunger strike at the beginning of Ramadan, before an agreement was reached on some arbitrary measures and the strike was called off.

Raafat Hamdouneh, the director of the Detainee Studies Centre, told the Weekly that the circumstances of detainees have been appalling especially since Netanyahu came back to power. That is due to the Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir, who adopted very dangerous policies that violate international laws on the treatment of detainees. The Israeli occupation continues to abuse detainees, denying them their basic rights that are guaranteed by international law. There are also unfair policies against female Palestinian detainees including denying them treatment. Israel does all this without any deterrent and without fear of international accountability.”

He asserted that Israel is violating international law and dealing with Palestinian detainees as prisoners, denying them the legal status guaranteed by international law. Hamdouneh stressed the need to prosecute Israel on the international stage on several issues, especially that of detainees and withholding the corpses of dozens of detainees who died in prison.

Official Palestinian figures show that since the start of 2023, Israel detained some 2,300 Palestinians including 350 children, most of whom are from Jerusalem. Some 40 women and girls were also detained.

Israeli forces carry out raids on towns in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem on an almost daily basis to arrest Palestinians, releasing a few after briefly hold. It also orders the arrest of others for various periods of time.

The Palestinian Detainee Club, a quasi-official institution focused on detainees, stated that Israel attempted to pass racist laws that impact the fate of detainees and their families, such as a draft law for the execution of detainees who carried out attacks that killed Israelis, and a law revoking the citizenship and residency of released prisoners from Jerusalem.

Israeli abuses against Palestinian detainees increased after the escape of several prisoners from Gilboa prison in September 2021. Six prisoners, mostly from the Islamic Jihad, escaped from the maximum security prison before they were recaptured. Although detainees had abandoned a planned mass hunger strike, they are now threatening to go ahead with it in response to Israel escalating policies against them, especially solitary confinement for long periods of time, frequent raids on detainee cells, tampering with their personal possessions, and preventing them from seeing their families.

Armed Palestinian factions, especially the Islamic Jihad, continually threaten to escalate against Israel if it continues abusing Palestinian detainees. Meanwhile, Arab and international parties are trying to contain a potentially explosive situation on the ground.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 4 May, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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