'Unseen since the 1980s': Israel accused of widespread abuse of Palestinian prisoners

'Unseen since the 1980s': Israel accused of widespread abuse of Palestinian prisoners
5 min read
West Bank
16 November, 2023
Another Palestinian prisoner has died in Israeli jails, the fifth since 7 October, and is believed to have been tortured to death by Israeli forces.
Israel has arrested around 2,500 Palestinians since 7 October. [Qassam Muaddi/TNA]

Israeli forces arrested 78 Palestinians across the West Bank between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, the Palestinian Prisoners' Club reported on Wednesday, 16 November. 

According to the Prisoners' Club statement, the detainees included 17 female students from Hebron University. A spokesperson for the association told The New Arab that according to the latest updates, the number of female students arrested was 13, of whom four were released hours later, and nine remain in detention.

An ongoing Israeli mass-arrest campaign in the occupied West Bank continued since 7 October, with the number of Palestinians held in Israeli jails reaching 7,000, not including Gazan workers in Israel arrested in the first days of Israel's new war, estimated to be in the thousands. About 2,200 of the total number of current Palestinian prisoners are held without charges under the Israeli "Administrative Detention" system.

The latest detentions came after a fifth Palestinian died in Israeli jails since 7 October. On Tuesday, both the Palestinian Prisoners' Club and Addameer Prisoner Support Association reported the death of 33-year-old Abdul Rahman Marei from the village of Qarawa Bani Zeid, near Salfit, in the Megiddo prison in northern Israel.

Marei was the father of four children, the oldest at 11 and the youngest at four years old. His older brother, Mohammad Marei, was killed by Israeli forces in 2005. He was arrested in February, and according to Addameer, he had no health issues at the time of his arrest.

Since 7 October, Israel suspended all visits to Palestinian prisoners and detainees. Palestinian human rights groups have accused Israeli authorities of introducing new repressive measures to the detention conditions of Palestinians, including ill-treatment and torture.

"Currently, our only source of information on the conditions inside the occupation jails is the detainees who are released", Ayah Shreiteh, spokesperson for the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, told TNA.

"They all are reporting that the occupation forces are beating detainees from the moment of arrest and no longer giving them assistance when they are hurt, even if they are bleeding. We have also documented various testimonies of Israeli army staff being deployed inside jails, in several instances threatening prisoners of killing them", she noted. "Thousands have been transferred to different jails, and we have no information about their whereabouts".

"The detention conditions that we are documenting through testimonies, and the current blackout on occupation jails, the visits suspension and the deployment of the army, all amount to a carceral situation for Palestinians that has not been seen since the 1980s", Shreiteh added.

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Families of Palestinian prisoners have been demonstrating across cities in the occupied West Bank, demanding international intervention to access information about their family members in Israeli jails.

"Since 8 October, we have had no information about my father's whereabouts", Guevara Taha, the 22-year-old daughter of Palestinian administrative detainee Thaer Taha, told TNA.

Taha was arrested in May 2022 under a 6-month detention order. Israeli forces renewed his detention order for another six months, days before his original detention order expired, then continued his detention for a second time. He is currently in the last month of his current detention order.

"We and other families of detainees have formed Whatsapp groups where we connect with each other", said Taha's daughter. "Whenever any family has any information about a detainee in a given jail, they share it on Whatsapp, and that is our only way of knowing anything about the detainees' conditions".

"It has been a constant anguish, thinking all the time about what could be happening to my father, what conditions he is in, preventing us from sleep", Taha added. "The media are talking all the time about Israeli hostages in Gaza, but our detainees are effectively hostages but don't receive the same attention".

On Tuesday, Israeli media reported that negotiations between Israel and Hamas, through mediators, have come very close to reaching an exchange agreement that would include the release of Israeli children held by Hamas since 7 October, estimated by Israeli media sources to be around 30, in exchange of some 200 Palestinian children held in Israeli jails.

In the months before 7 October, Israeli authorities had been escalating restrictions on Palestinians' detention conditions in its jails, mainly under instructions of Israel's security minister, far-right Itamar Ben Gvir.

Restrictions included the cut-down of shower time to 4 minutes a day per prisoner, the cut-down of sunlight time to half an hour a day, and the cut-down of family visits to 40 minutes every two months.

Israel has arrested around 6000 Palestinians since the beginning of 2023, including 2500 since 7 October. Since 1967, about one million Palestinians have been arrested by Israeli forces, representing about half of the Palestinian population in the occupied West Bank.