Israel will not end administrative detentions – as thousands join hunger strikes


An Israeli military court has refused an appeal by long-term hunger-strikers Thaer Halahla and Bilal Diyab to end their detention without charge, prisoners groups said.

Muhjat al-Quds society for the defence of prisoners said Ofer military court rejected the appeal against the prisoners’ administrative detention, on the 56th day of their hunger-strike.

Lawyer Jamil Khatib will now take their petitions to Israel’s Supreme Court.

The rulings show the negotiations to end the prisoners’ hunger strike have failed, as they refused Israel’s suggestion to deport them to Gaza.

Negotiations are more difficult now that over a thousand prisoners have joined the hunger strike, as Israeli authorities say they refuse to encourage others by agreeing not to renew the hunger-strikers’ administrative detention, Khatib said.

Thiab, from Jenin, has been held without charge since August. In February, Israel extended the 27-year-old’s sentence for a further six months without a trial.

Halahla, from Hebron, was detained in July 2010. Israel has renewed the 33-year-old’s administrative detention order several times, most recently on March 5 for another six months.

A wave of hunger strikes has drawn attention to Israel’s decades-long use of administrative detention, under which over 300 Palestinians are currently held without charge.

Israel says it refuses to disclose accusations or evidence to lawyers or detainees due to security concerns.

Administrative detainee Khader Adnan, 33, was on hunger-strike for 66 days before agreeing to a deal to secure his freedom. He was released last Tuesday, on Palestinian Prisoners Day.

Inspired by Adnan’s protest, a female prisoner, Hana Shalabi, refused food for 43 days before Israel decided to deport her to Gaza, barring her from returning to her native West Bank for at least three years.

On prisoners day last week, at least 1,200 prisoners in Israeli jails launched an open-ended hunger strike. Prison authorities have responded by denying them family visits and separating them from inmates not taking part in the protest.

Non-violence activist Bassem Tamimi was released on bail late on Tuesday after spending 13 months in prison, a popular committee said.

Tamimi, from Ramallah district village Nabi Saleh, has been recognised as a human rights defender by the European Union and a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

He was detained by Israeli forces on March 24, 2011, and accused of organising illegal demonstrations in the village, which holds weekly protests against seizure of their land by nearby Israeli settlement Halamish.

On Tuesday, an Israeli military court rejected the Military Prosecution’s appeal against his release on bail, and released him on 12,000 shekel ($3,193) bail, the popular struggle coordination committee said.

Tamimi will not be able to return to his village, as bail conditions prescribe he remain inside the city of Ramallah, and he is under house arrest between Thursday and Sunday.

He will next appear in court on May 13, when the court will give its verdict on his case, committee spokesman Jonathan Pollack said.

Throughout his trial, Tamimi has repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of the military court system that rules over Palestinians in the West Bank, and Israeli regulations that deem any gathering of more than 10 people an illegal demonstration.

Since protests began in Nabi Saleh in December 2009, Israeli forces have detained more than 80 residents, around 10 per cent of the entire village, according to the Popular Struggle Committee.

Two of Tamimi’s sons have been injured by Israeli soldiers at protests, and his wife has been detained twice.

Israeli’s Civil Administration has ordered the demolition of Tamimi’s home, which was built in 1965.

l PLO official Saeb Erekat said on Tuesday that Palestinian leaders are examining ways to secure a resolution from the UN Security Council condemning Israeli settlement building, after Israel gave legal sanction to three settler outposts.

In an interview with official PA radio Voice of Palestine, Erekat called on the Israeli government to choose between peace and settlement expansion, warning that sanctioning more settlements on Palestinian land will kill the two-state solution.

In February 2011, the PA sought a UN resolution declaring Israeli settlement building illegal.

Fourteen members of the 15-member Security Council voted in favour of the resolution, but it was vetoed by the US.

The text of the resolution was based on Washington’s own statements on the illegality of Israeli settlements.

After vetoing the resolution, the US maintained that it considered Israeli settlements to be illegal and a threat to prospects for peace.

Israel said on Tuesday it had granted legal status to three settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank, a move that could shore up the governing coalition but which drew sharp Palestinian condemnation.

Israeli officials played down the decision taken by a ministerial committee late on Monday and rejected accusations that the government had effectively created the first new Jewish settlements for more than 20 years.

The three outposts – Bruchin, Sansana and Rechelim – were built on land Israel declared ‘state-owned’ in the West Bank, an area it captured in the 1967 war and which Palestinians want as part of a future state.

‘The panel decided to formalise the status of the three communities . . . which were established in the 1990s following the decisions of past governments,’ said a statement issued by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office.

Spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas Nabil Abu Rdainah condemned the decision, saying, ‘Netanyahu has pushed things to a dead end yet again.’

Palestinian leaders are awaiting a formal response from Netanyahu to a letter they sent last week in which Abbas repeated his call for an end to all settlement activity. Peace talks have been frozen since 2010 over the issue.

All Jewish settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law. However, Israel distinguishes between settlements it has approved and the outposts which were never granted official authorisation.

Some 350 settlers live in Bruchin and 240 in Rechelim, both in the northern part of the West Bank, while Sansana, with a population of 240, lies further to the south.

None has been granted final Israeli legal status as formal communities and Netanyahu, though politically strong, has faced questions from within his own Likud party and other right-wing coalition partners about his commitment to settlers.

Israeli officials blamed unspecified technical issues for delaying the status change.

For years, Israel has promised its main ally, the United States, to remove dozens of outposts, but has done little to fulfill the pledge in the face of domestic political friction.

Netanyahu, however, drew fire from settlement leaders and Likud members after police evicted Jewish settlers three weeks ago from a building they said they had bought from a Palestinian in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement group, said the change of the three outposts’ status marked the first time since 1990 that the Israeli government had established a new settlement, adding that the four-man committee did not have the authority.

‘The Netanyahu government is trying to deceive the public and hide its true policy,’ it said in a statement. ‘This announcement is against the Israeli interest of achieving peace and a two-state solution.’