2020 'worst year for Palestinian prisoners', official says
The head of the Palestinian Authority's Prisoner Affairs Commission has described 2020 as the "worst" year yet for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention.
According to figures collected by Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, at the end of September Israel held more than 4,184 Palestinian prisoners, including 157 children.
"Twenty-twenty is the worst year for Palestinian prisoners," Prisoner Affair Commission chair Qadri Abu Bakr was quoted by Anadolu as saying. "The prison administration raids and attacks detainees' sections almost every day."
Abu Bakr's remarks come as Israel comes under sustained criticism for its policy of holding Palestinians without charge under administrative detention, as well as for its handling of coronavirus outbreaks in Israeli prisons.
Last month, Israel closed the Gilboa prison in northern Israel after 73 Palestinian detainees tested positive for Covid-19.
The Palestinian Prisoners' Club, which campaigns for the rights of Palestinian detainees, said in a statement in November that it had "warned for months of the high possibility of a quick and widespread increase in infection" in Israeli jails.
Prisons were a "ready environment" for the spread of coronavirus due to overcrowding and "deliberate neglect", it added.
The statement said that Israel had forced prisoners into "increased isolation" ever since the coronavirus pandemic started earlier this year without providing any safety measures.
Israel was also detaining more Palestinians, including women, children, the elderly and the sick.
It added that the Israeli practice of moving Palestinians between prisons had helped spread the novel coronavirus.
Israel has illegally occupied the West Bank since 1967 and is accused of various abuses against Palestinian civilians.
In April, the UN Human Rights Council and the Red Cross urged Israel to release vulnerable prisoners, saying that they were at danger of contracting coronavirus.