Israel transfers dozens of Palestinian prisoners to desert prison ahead planned protests

Israel transfers dozens of Palestinian prisoners to desert prison ahead planned protests
"Since the Gilboa prison break, the occupation has been trying to break the prisoners' organisation structures, through massive transfers between jails," explained Ayah Shreiteh from the Palestinian Prisoners' Club.
4 min read
West Bank
09 January, 2023
Prisoners announced last week plans for a mass hunger strike on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. [Qassam Muaddi/TNA]

Israeli jails authority has reportedly begun the transfer of all Palestinian prisoners from the Hadarim high-security prison in the north of the country to new facilities at the Nafha prison in the Negev desert, south of the country.

The Palestinian Prisoners' Club confirmed to The New Arab that 40 of the 80 Palestinian prisoners facing heavy sentencing in Hadarim were transferred on Sunday, whereas the remaining 40 Palestinian prisoners are scheduled to be transferred on Monday to isolation in the Nafha desert prison.

The move comes less than a week after the Palestinian prisoners' leadership announced a coming protest action against the Israeli jails authority's restrictions on prison life.

Last Wednesday, Palestinian prisoners announced that they will escalate civil disobedience against Israeli prison services, possibly leading to a mass hunger strike in March.

The announcement was made in a press statement by the "High Emergency Committee of the Prisoners' Movement", the leadership body of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, grouping all Palestinian factions. The statement was made public by the Palestinian Prisoners' Club.

"With the escalation of the occupation's state terrorism, and the rise of the Kahanists [far right wing] to power in the occupation state, and in light of their continuous threats, we affirm that we will not allow our determination to be broken," the statement read.

"Prisoners in all jails will confront the Zionist government's fascist measures united, under the Palestinian flag and under a united command," the statement continued. "Any aggression on our rights will be met with full-scale disobedience and uprising in all prisons, and will culminate with a freedom hunger strike that will only end with our liberation, alive, or with our martyrdom."

On Wednesday, Palestinian-French human rights lawyer Salah Hammouri, whom Israel deported to France in December after being detained for nine months without charges, confirmed that Palestinian prisoners might declare a hunger strike in March.

According to Hammouri, who spent five months in Hadarim, Palestinian prisoners feel threatened "in light of the new Israeli government, and especially with the extremist Itamar Ben Gvir appointed as minister of security, which includes the prison conditions, prisoners".

The leader of the Israeli far-right "Jewish Force" party, is known for his hard-line stands against Palestinian prisoners and has declared that he would 'tighten up' their life conditions.

Last week, Ben Gvir inaugurated his new function as security minister by visiting the desert prison of Nafha. He inspected the new facilities where Palestinian prisoners began to be transferred on Monday from Hadarim.

"Prisoners have sent a warning to the Israeli jails authority that there will be a big confrontation in March, to start on the first day of [the Muslim fasting month of] Ramadan, if any further repressive measures are taken against them," said Hammouri. "Palestinian prisoners will fast their own way."

Palestinian prisoners announced a mass hunger strike last year in March, in protest of the restrictions introduced by Israeli authorities following the Gilboa prison break in September 2021. The strike was suspended one day before it started after Israeli authorities agreed to suspend all restrictions.

The strike was announced again in September, one year into the Gilboa prison break after Palestinian prisoners declared that Israeli authorities had broken the previous deal. The strike was called off once more after a renewal of the agreement.

"Palestinian prisoners have gained over the years the right to organise inside the occupation jails," Ayah Shreiteh, spokesperson for the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, said to TNA.

"Since the Gilboa prison break, the occupation has been trying to break the prisoners' organisation structures, through massive transfers between jails, as well as isolating many of the high-ranking prisoner leaders, and this is why transfers of prisoners are such a delicate matter," Shreiteh pointed out.

"In recent weeks, Israeli jails security has increased their search raids on prisoners' cells in several prisons, which accompanied by Ben Gvir’s threats and take over, has triggered the prisoners' alarm bells," she said.

"This will most probably escalate in coming weeks, and we might be heading towards a full-scale confrontation between the prisoners and the occupation's jails authority," she added.

Over one million Palestinians have gone through Israeli detention since 1967. Currently, some 4700 Palestinians are held in Israeli jails according to human rights groups, including 34 women, 150 children and 835 under administrative detention without charges.