Marwan Barghouti among thousands of Palestinian prisoners transferred to southern desert jail by Israeli forces

Marwan Barghouti among thousands of Palestinian prisoners transferred to southern desert jail by Israeli forces
Israeli authorities are relocating thousands of Palestinian inmates to a prison in the southern desert in an attempt to break their organisational structure.
3 min read
10 January, 2023
Marwan Barghouti has been imprisoned since 2002 [Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images]

Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti is being moved to the Nafha prison in the southern Naqab (Negev), as part of a larger plan to relocate thousands of Palestinian prisoners to the desert region where temperatures can reach 46 degrees. 

Seventy other inmates were also transferred to the desert prison, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, and the relocation could see as many as 2000 prisoners transferred. 

Many are being transferred from the high-security Haradim prison, in the north of the country, in an attempt to sever relations between Palestinian prisoners following the September 2021 breakout of Gilboa.

The move comes just weeks after Israel swore in a new ultranationalist far-right government, which includes the appointment of extremist settler Itamar Ben-Gvir as national security minister. 

The plan had been put in place before Ben-Gvir took office, according to Haaretz, but has been speeded up since the far-right politician was made a minister

Marwan Barghouthi is a Palestinian leader who rose to prominence in the Fatah movement during the Second Palestinian Intifada, which broke out in 2000 following the failure of Camp David peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

He was captured by Israeli forces in 2002 and sentenced to five life sentences.

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"Palestinian prisoners have battled for decades to be able to organise in Israeli jails," said Qassam Muaddi, The New Arab’s correspondent in the occupied West Bank. "When they are moved in such a massive way and scattered by the Israeli prison services they don't just feel that their own organisational body threatened, but also that their conditions, and the condition of future prisoners, are threatened."

The move comes a week after the leadership of Palestinian prisoners announced a protest against the Israeli jails authority's restrictions on life in prison. Last Wednesday, Palestinian prisoners announced they would launch a civil disobedience movement against Israeli prison services which could escalate into a hunger strike in March. 

The strike could have far-reaching effects across the entire country, according to Muaddi, as nearly every Palestinian household has someone in an Israeli prison leading to potential large-scale mobilisations on the streets of the West Bank, as was seen during a general strike in April 2017. 

"As a figure that has kind of a national consensus among Palestinians, [Barghouti] can and most probably will play a central role in any nationally-unified prisoners hunger strike, which is why it's only logical to expect Israel to move him away and isolate him," he added.

Israel could also reportedly introduce a new bill giving Palestinians the death sentence

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"Palestinians feel that if their prisoner movement is not strong enough, it wouldn't be able to protest effectively when this bill comes back to discussion for passing or for eventual implementation," added Muaddi. 

Israel holds more than 4,700 Palestinians in prison, according to rights group Addameer

The confrontation between Palestinian prisoners and Israeli authorities has been building up throughout 2022. With the rise of Israel's far-right government, these tensions are expected to intensify over the coming weeks.