PALESTINIAN prisoners have again rejected their meals in protest against the Israeli Prison Service’s plans to stop supplying 140 products – including cleaning products – to the canteen, and to halt medical visits for detainees.
This time, however, the protesters are expressing a further serious concern – the danger of contracting the life-threatening coronavirus inside the prison, and the deadly dangers that could add to the Palestinian prisoners’ ordeal.
There are approximately 1,200 prisoners in need of treatment who suffer from medical negligence. Some 700 urgently need surgery and 24 suffer with cancer.
And according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club, 90 per cent of prisoners have become ill while in prison due to poor conditions and negligence which may have exacerbated their health.
Palestinian rights group Addameer’s Alaa Alskafi explained: ‘We sent a letter to Israeli authorities, asking them about any coronavirus measures they take in their prisons. They replied only that they have prevented prison visits from families and lawyers.
‘This was however brought into question, as Israeli prison authorities are also banning Palestinian detainees from communicating with their families via telephone.’
Addameer also noted that, while prison authorities are supposed to provide sterilisers, they have banned nearly 150 cleaning materials from the canteen.
Ali Almoghrabi, spokesman of the Asra information office, has specifically warned: ‘The Israeli prison system is the perfect environment for a disease like coronavirus to spread easily among inmates, due to the regularly overcrowded and unsanitary cell conditions.
‘The authorities don’t take any preventive measures for Palestinian prisoners, even though they deal directly with their Israeli jailers, who of course can also become infected.’
Rights groups have called for the immediate release of 500 Palestinian prisoners – currently jailed in Israeli administrative detention without charge or trial – in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Now the Palestinian Prisoner Society have reported, last Thursday, that four Palestinian inmates have contracted the new coronavirus in an Israeli prison.
In a press release, the non-governmental organisation said the Israel Prison Service announced that the prisoners had caught the virus in Megiddo Prison, after being transmitted to detainees by a prisoner who was interrogated by an Israeli investigator at the Petah Tikva Investigation Centre.
‘The detainees face the risk of infection from the jailers and investigators who pose a threat to their lives,’ the NGO added.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Saturday asked the Israeli authorities to release immediately the Palestinian prisoners languishing in Israeli jails. Shtayyeh asserted too that the release should include child prisoners and those suffering from chronic diseases.
In fact, according to the Palestinian authorities, 5,000 Palestinians – including women and children – are currently held in Israeli detention facilities.
The virus, which originated in China last December, has now spread to 164 countries and territories, the World Health Organisation data shows.
Out of over 219,000 confirmed cases the death toll is now nearly 9,000, while more than 84,000 have recovered, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the U.S.
COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is not fatal in all cases and a vast majority of patients do fully recover.
- Israeli troops abducted three Palestinian youth before dawn on Thursday in the West Bank refugee camp of Deheishe, which is located near the city of Bethlehem.
Local Palestinian security sources confirmed that Israeli army forces abducted Yousef Albal’awi, 19, Ramez Allaham, 22 and Mustafa Hasanat, 22, after the soldiers broke into, vandalised and inspected their residential homes.
The sources said that right after the invasion by Israeli troops of Deheishe, dozens of locals took to the streets in protest. In response, Israeli troops fired volleys of tear gas canisters, with no casualties reported.
Meanwhile, the West Bank city of Qalqilia saw a similar Israeli abduction of local Palestinian youth, on Thursday at dawn.
Witnesses told local media outlets that Israeli troops broke into the family home of Khalil Abu Samra, a 22-year-old local youth, and abducted him – leaving his family members in a great deal of concern.
Israeli abduction of local Palestinian youth across the occupied West Bank occurs every morning before dawn, and is a direct violation of the Oslo Agreement, a long-standing peace agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation which recognised Israel’s right to exist back in 1993.
Since then, Israel has vastly expanded its colonial settlement blocs in the West Bank, using abductions as a pretext for invading and taking over Palestinian land.
- Now Israel has increased its activity to build settlements in the occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank area by 25% since US President Donald Trump assumed office in 2017, said an annual report on settlement activity.
According to Peace Now – an Israeli activist group promoting a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – during President Trump’s tenure over the past three years 6,800 new units (yearly average of 2,267 units) have been constructed.
During his predecessor Barack Obama’s tenure, on an average 1,805 such units came up in occupied lands.
‘Nearly 63% (1,200 housing units) of the new construction was in settlements east of the proposed Geneva Initiative border, i.e. settlements likely to be evacuated in a two-state agreement,’ said the report.
The 14-page report noted that the Israeli government had started construction of 1,917 new housing units since the beginning of 2019 in different areas across the occupied the West Bank.
The voluntary group revealed that the construction was largely focused in isolated settlements and in areas that are highly problematic and fall under the two-state solution formula.
The report further noted that already eleven new Israeli settlement posts have been built by Israeli settlers across the occupied West Bank areas – in Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah and in occupied east Jerusalem.
Following Netanyahu’s announcement to annex the Jordan Valley to Israel, an increase in settlement activity there was reported in the area, the report said.
In 2019, four new settlements were established in the Jordan Valley, including the construction of a 110 housing unit construction.
Israel occupied Jerusalem and the whole of the West Bank following the 1967 Six-Day War, and began establishing settlements in the area in the following year.
The Palestinians have been vying to create a full-fledged future state comprising areas of the West Bank of the River Jordan and Gaza on the Mediterranean coast.
The UN considers both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories – and considers Israeli settlement-building activity in these areas as illegal.