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Palestinians ramp up 'disobedience' in Israeli jails

Palestinian prisoners ramp up disobedience campaign following Israeli raid on cells
4 min read
West Bank
02 March, 2023
Currently, Israel holds 4,780 Palestinian in its jails, including 29 women, 160 children and 915 detainees without charges under the "administrative detention" system, according to human rights groups.
Palestinian prisoners announced a mass hunger strike to start on 22 March 2023. [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails ramped up their protests on Thursday by refusing to leave their cells.

The Palestinian Prisoners' Club described the protest action as "a new act of defiance to the Israeli prison services", ahead of an announced mass hunger strike scheduled to start on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, set for 22 March 20233.

The move came following a raid by Israeli prison guard forces on Palestinian prisoners in the Negev prison, south of the country on Wednesday.

"The occupation prison guards cut electricity for all the Palestinian prisoners' sections in the Negev late on Wednesday, then began to search the rooms and confiscate electric devices," Ayah Shreiteh, spokesperson for the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, told The New Arab.

"Earlier last week, the occupation prison services informed prisoners in the Negev that if their families send them new clothes, they would have to give back the old ones, which adds to the recent repressive measures introduced by the occupation government against Palestinian prisoners," she pointed out.

Earlier in February, the Israeli security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir ordered restrictions on shower time and quantity of water for Palestinian prisoners. Ben-Gvir has been introducing more and more repressive measures against Palestinian prisoners, which began with the transfer of tens of Palestinian prisoners between several Israeli jails to break any attempts to organise.

Palestinian prisoners escalated their civil disobedience campaign in early February to demand the end of the new repressive measures, pledging to conduct a mass hunger strike in which Palestinian prisoners from all political affiliations would participate in late March.

On Wednesday, the Israeli Knesset approved in a preliminary phase a bill put forward by Ben-Gvir to enable the death penalty sentence for Palestinian prisoners. The bill has been pushed for by the Israeli far-right for more than a year.

"The preliminary approval means that the death penalty bill has entered in the legislation process, which includes a first reading and second reading approvals, before a final vote," Milena Ansari, spokesperson for Addameer Prisoner Support Association, explained to TNA.

"It remains unclear if the bill will eventually pass because Israeli has signed international conventions against the death penalty, which means that the Knesset is breaching Israel's international obligations," she said.

"This move increases the already-high tensions between Israeli authorities and Palestinian prisoners, which indicates that the hunger strike is probably going to happen," she added.

On Monday, The 'Higher Emergency Committee' of the Palestinian prisoners' unified leadership body said in a statement made public by the Prisoners' Club, "We, who have come out to resist the occupation, ready for martyrdom, are not scared by a death penalty bill, but it only makes us more resilient to confront the occupiers, inside and outside of prison."

"We will continue or protest leading to the mass hunger strike on the first day of Ramadan," the prisoners' statement added.

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Israeli authorities have been intensifying repressive measures against Palestinian prisoners since the Gilboa prison break in September 2021, which triggered this latest wave of civil disobedience campaigns by the prisoners. 

In January, Itamar Ben Gvir pledged to resume all suspended repressive measures and introduce further restrictions as soon as he assumed Israel's security ministry. Israeli far-right ministers also championed the death penalty bill as part of their electoral program.

Currently, Israel holds 4,780 Palestinian in its jails, including 29 women, 160 children and 915 detainees without charges under the "administrative detention" system, according to human rights groups.

Since 1967, around 1 million Palestinians have been arrested by Israeli forces.