Israel allows families from Gaza to visit prisoners, excluding Hamas and Islamic Jihad members
Israeli authorities announced on Tuesday that they will allow families of Palestinian prisoners from the Gaza Strip to visit their relatives held in Israeli prisons, excluding the families of members of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad movements.
In the early morning, the Red Cross in the Gaza Strip confirmed the announcement, adding that it has organised a visit of the Gaza prisoners' families for the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus more than two years ago.
Dozens of relatives of the prisoners packed into buses organised by the Red Cross and headed to the Nafha Desert Prison through the Israel-controlled Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip.
While waiting in the bus that will take her to see her son, Om Mohammed, from the town of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, expressed her deep longing to finally be able her son after two years of "deprivation".
"No one can imagine the extent of our suffering while we are deprived of seeing our children or even communicating with them because of the measures taken by the Israeli prisons administration," the 65-year-old woman told The New Arab.
The Israeli army arrested her son 20 years ago on charges of killing an Israeli soldier in the Jabalia refugee camp. He was sentenced to life imprisonment by an Israeli court.
Naima, a sister of another Palestinian prisoner, said that she was going to visit her brother instead of her mother who had passed away six months ago.
"My mother died before she saw my brother. She was constantly in pain because she was prevented from visiting him and calling him on the phone," Naima said to The New Arab.
"I don't know what to say to him, and I don't know how to console him in this calamity," she added. "But I will always carry out my mother's will to visit him."
Usually, visits to the prisoners last only 45 minutes, during which visitors are only able to communicate with them through a phone as they are separated by a glass window. Each prisoner is entitled to receive four visitors, who can also deposit a sum of money that the prisoner then can use to purchase his needs.
Palestinian women in Israeli prisons win right to make phone calls, but family visits restricted https://t.co/smTTSsHeo2— Dr. Sherifa Zuhur (@SherifaZuhur) December 14, 2021
Abdul Nasser Firwana, a senior official of the Commission of Detainees' Affairs, said to The New Arab that the resumption of the visits to the prisoners was "a victory for human rights", but he quickly added that it will "need more human rights and legal work to firmly establish this right and build on what was achieved by the struggle."
"About 220 prisoners from the Gaza Strip are held in Israeli prisons, of whom 27 are serving life sentences; the oldest of which is Diaa al-Agha, who has been detained for 30 years," the official noted.
However, the schedule of visits to the prisons will not include families of the prisoners who are members of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements, which many see as the Israeli authorities' means to punish prisoners of the two movements.
Sayeda Abd Rabbo, a mother of one of the prisoners who were excluded, says that she was shocked that her name was not included in the list of approved visits.
"I contacted several of the prisoners' mothers and found that a number of them will not be able to visit their sons over the claim that our sons are members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad," the 69-year-old elderly woman told The New Arab.
"Israel does all it can to humiliate us and our children, and violates international laws and all norms," she said.
She further called on the international community to hold Israel accountable for "its violations against the Palestinians, especially its prisoners."