Palestinians mark support for prisoners in Israeli jails
LONDON - Palestinian protesters, politicians and rights campaigners marked an annual day in support of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails by highlighting the plight and numbers of those detained.
Approximately 6,500 Palestinians are being held in Israeli prisons, about 500 of whom are detained under so-called administrative detention laws, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club said. Administrative detention allows Israel to detain people without charge or trial for renewable six-month periods.
Thousands gathered April 17 in the Gaza Strip and there were smaller demonstrations across the West Bank to mark Prisoners’ Day.
Dozens of girls carrying photographs of women prisoners demonstrated outside the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross, west of Gaza City. In Nablus, in the northern West Bank, approximately 1,000 people gathered and a few hundred demonstrated in Bethlehem and Ramallah.
There were no reports of major clashes.
The prisoners’ club said approximately 1 million Palestinians have been detained by Israel since the country was founded in 1948.
International criminal court
“We call on the Palestinian Authority to make a submission to international criminal court on the issue of administrative detention as soon as possible,” read a statement by the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.
Figures from the prisoners’ club indicate that about 700 prisoners, including 26 cancer patients, suffer from chronic diseases and require medical attention.
“Israel continues to violate the rights of Palestinian political prisoners, including the arbitrary arrests of Palestinians, its continued use of administration detention and solidarity confinement, the ill-treatment, abuse and torture of Palestinian men, women, children and the elderly, the transfer of detainees from occupied Palestine to Israel, the deliberate medical neglect and lack of health care for Palestinians and the constant prevention of visitations by family members, among other flagrant violations,” Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement.
Palestinian prisoners receive widespread support at home, where they are often thought to have been targeted for political purposes.
“The prisoners are a national icon and a source of pride for our people and we must emphasise the legitimacy of their struggle for freedom and salvation from the occupation,” said Hassan Abd Rabbo, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) spokesman for the prisoners and ex-prisoners’ committee.
“They are political prisoners, legitimate activists,” Issa Qaraqe, head of the PLO’s committee on detainees’ affairs, told Anadolu, a Turkish news agency. “Their respective cases will be an integral part of any future political settlement.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah called the detainees prisoners of war. “The Palestinian government is fully supporting the prisoners and their families, with no discrimination between one prisoner and another,” said Hamdallah.
The Arab Parliament, a body linked to the Arab League, supported the Palestinian Authority in a statement urging the United Nations “to send an international investigative committee to the Israeli occupation prisons to be acquainted with the racist practices and massive violations being committed on a daily basis against Palestinian prisoners.”
Israel maintains that Palestinians held in its prisons were there in accordance with the law.
In Gaza, Ismail Haniya, the head of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, said the group was ready to negotiate with Israel to trade two Israeli captives and the bodies of two soldiers it is holding.
The movement had suggested it was willing to reach a deal similar to the 2011 one in which Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was freed in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails but Haniya’s comments about a potential exchange were the most direct yet.
Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin are believed to have been killed in the 2014 war in Gaza and their remains held by Hamas. Two Israeli civilians, both said to be mentally unstable, are believed to have entered Gaza and to be held by Hamas. They are Avera Mengistu, an Israeli Jew of Ethiopian descent, and a Muslim Bedouin, Hisham al-Sayed.
Talks about a potential deal have long been rumoured but little public progress has been reported.
(AW staff and news agencies)