Overcrowded prisons force Israel to halt arrests against Palestinians in West Bank

Overcrowded prisons force Israel to halt arrests against Palestinians in West Bank
Overcrowded prisons have forced Israel to cancel planned arrest operations against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank due to a lack of space.
3 min read
25 June, 2024
Israel's national security minister has called for Palestinians to be executed to free up space in Israeli prisons [GETTY]

Overcrowded prisons have reportedly forced Israel from conducting 20 arrest operations against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, according to reports.

The Israeli army was due to make 20 arrests of Palestinians in the coming week but was forced to cancel due to a lack of space in prisons, where detainees have reported horrific conditions.

There are as many as 9,300 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails, according to Palestinian NGO Adammeer, with the number surging since the start of the Gaza war in October.

Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation reported that the army and Shin Bet, the domestic security service, were forced to cancel 20 arrest operations planned for this week due to a lack of space in prisons.

"Due to worsening conditions in detention facilities, security services are compelled to assess the risks posed by detainees,” the corporation said.

Israeli forces have been conducting near-daily raids in towns and cities across the occupied West Bank which often escalate into hours-long battles with local armed groups.

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Club which monitors conditions for Palestinian prisoners has said there are 6,627 Palestinians imprisoned without charges, in a status known as administrative detention.

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Administrative detention places individuals behind bars on secret security grounds which enables Israel to hold people for an undetermined period without charges.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented testimony of horrific cases of torture and degradation imposed on Palestinians by Israeli prison authorities.

Israel’s military detention camp Sde Teiman was recently at the centre of a media investigation which exposed distributing conditions Palestinians detained from Gaza were being kept in.

Whistleblowers said Palestinian men were kept in cages, permanently blindfolded and kept in stress positions while injured detainees were strapped to hospital beds naked and forced to wear diapers.

In response to the revelations, Israeli state attorneys said it was “phasing out” the use of the site which served as a military base before being turned into a detention camp during the war.

The Palestinian Prisoners Club is calling for investigations into the death of at least 18 Palestinians in Israeli jails. Last week, there were reports in the Israeli media that the International Committee of the Red Cross was being barred from visiting prisoners, against international conventions on the treatment of detainees.

In April, Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has previously called for prisoners to be executed to free up jail space.

"The death penalty for terrorists is the right solution to the incarceration problem, until then - glad that the government approved the proposal I brought forward," Ben-Givr said, in reference to approved plans to build 936 additional prison cells to take in more Palestinians.

UNRWA published a report in April stating it had documented the release of 1,506 Palestinian detainees via Gaza’s Karam Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing on 4 April, many of whom had suffered torture, ill-treatment and sexual violence at the hands of Israeli forces.