HUNDREDS of Palestinians held a mass demonstration throughout the Israeli-occupied territories to express their deep resentment over the rising levels of violent attacks on their communities and the Israeli police’s collaboration with criminal gangs.
Protesters converged on Land Day Square in Deir Hanna, (23 kilometres southeast of Acre) on Saturday evening and marched towards a funeral parlour in the town in support of young Palestinian Jihad Hammoud, who was killed in a shooting attack by a group of unknown gunmen last week.
Two other Palestinians were also injured in the incident.
The demonstrators carried Palestinian flags and placards condemning the Israeli police’s complicity with criminal gangs and outlaws.
Among the protesters were mayors of Arab communities, members of Arab political factions in the Israeli Knesset (parliament) and representatives of civil society.
Meanwhile, UN rights experts have warned of the surge in Israeli settler violence against Palestinians saying: ‘Already, during the first three months of 2021, more than 210 settler violence incidents were recorded, with one Palestinian fatality.’
Spiralling levels of crime and violence against the Palestinian communities, as well as the Israeli police’s inaction in the face of the violence, has outraged Arabs living in Israel, prompting tens of thousands of them to stage mass demonstrations.
They took to the streets in the city of Umm al-Fahm northwest of Jenin on March 5th in what has been described as the largest rally against violence and organised crime in the Israeli-occupied territories since the 1980s.
The demonstrators said Israeli forces refuse to crack down on powerful criminal organisations in the occupied territories.
In recent years, there has been a steep rise in crime and violence against Arab communities all across the occupied territories.
More than 22 Arabs have died in violent Israeli attacks. According to Israeli police, 113 murders took place in Arab communities in 2020, making it the deadliest year yet.
In 2019, at least 91 Palestinian citizens were killed as a result of violent Israeli crimes, accounting for 71% of the 125 homicide victims in the occupied territories, where the community makes up about 21% of the population.
Moreover, the Arab Parliament has called for the formation of an international fact-finding committee to launch an inquiry into the situation of Palestinians being held behind bars in Israeli detention centres.
The legislative body of the Arab League said in a statement on Saturday that members of the committee should visit Israeli prisons, and learn about violations of the rights of Palestinian prisoners, especially those on hunger strike in protest at their detention conditions.
‘The Israeli regime has not returned the bodies of 68 martyred Palestinians to their families since 2016, and has buried 254 bodies in mass graves,’ the statement read, stressing that Israeli forces must be pursued and punished for their illegal acts and crimes against humanity.
Under the so-called ‘administrative detention’ policy, the Israeli regime has been detaining Palestinians without legal trial or charges for long periods of time.
The Arab Parliament also called on lawmakers worldwide, regional parliamentarians, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres, the International Committee of the Red Cross and human rights organisations to take immediate action to save the lives of Palestinian prisoners.
Israeli prison authorities keep Palestinian inmates under deplorable conditions lacking proper hygienic standards. The prisoners have also been subjected to systematic torture, harassment and repression.
There are reportedly more than 7,000 Palestinians currently being held in Israeli jails. Hundreds of them have been incarcerated under the practice of administrative detention.
A number of human rights groups have also called on the UN and humanitarian organisations to stop Israel violating the basic rights of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention centres.
Addameer Prisoner Support, Human Rights Association, the Palestinian Prisoner Society, and the Prisoners’ Affairs Commission in a joint statement on Thursday appealed to UN agencies and diplomatic missions to hold the Israeli authorities fully responsible for the safety and protection of Palestinian detainees.
The Israel Prison Service (IPS) is disregarding the right to life by keeping Palestinian prisoners under deplorable conditions lacking proper hygienic standards, the statement added.
Since the prison breakout by six Palestinian inmates on Monday 6th September 2021, the IPS has banned all Palestinian families from visiting their loved ones in jail, and Israeli special military units have taken punitive measures and launched a brutal crackdown on all prisoners.
Addameer’s statement comes amid simmering tensions in prisons in the wake of the breakout which has been described by the Israeli regime’s extremist prime minister Naftali Bennett as a ‘grave incident’.
A former commander of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade in Jenin, and five members of the Islamic Jihad group tunnelled their way out through their cell’s drainage system and escaped from the maximum-security Gilboa prison in the predawn hours of Monday September 6th.
Palestinians and supporters worldwide hailed the jailbreak as ‘heroic’.
Israeli forces then launched a brutal manhunt and stormed dozens of areas across Jenin to find the six escapees.
The rights groups have urged the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to undertake serious efforts to protect the Palestinian prisoners from collective punishment and punitive measures taken by the occupying regime.
The measures against thousands of Palestinian prisoners have included attempts to disperse around 400 of them who are affiliated with the Islamic Jihad and relocate them to other prisons.
The brutal crackdown has prompted Palestinian inmates, especially in the prisons of Negev and Ramon, to set fire to cells.
In a separate statement, Addameer expressed ‘grave concern over the series of collective, punitive, retaliatory, and arbitrary measures by Israeli occupying authorities against Palestinian political prisoners.’
‘They stand in stark contrast to Israel’s responsibility as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention, serving as collective punishment against all Palestinian prisoners,’ it said.
It emphasised that ‘without third-party supervision of IPS policies, the rights of Palestinian prisoners will continue to be violated with impunity, and the gravity of the situation will only increase.’
Palestinian prisoners have been subjected to systematic torture, harassment, and repression all through the years of Israel’s occupation of their territories.
The Israeli regime has arrested at least 1,900 Palestinians, including a large number of minors, throughout the occupied territories since the beginning of 2021, and over 17,000 minors since 2000.
The IPS keeps Palestinian prisoners in deplorable conditions. More than 7,000 Palestinian prisoners are currently held in some 17 Israeli jails, with dozens of them serving multiple life sentences.
- A senior Syrian official has condemned Israel’s assassination of former Syrian lawmaker Midhat Saleh al-Saleh in the occupied Golan Heights as a cowardly act, saying the crime is rooted in ‘Israeli nature’ which will be avenged.
Saleh, who had been imprisoned in Israel for 12 years, was killed by gunfire while returning home in the Syrian village of Ain al-Tinah opposite the Israeli-occupied town of Majdal Shams in Golan last Saturday.
Israeli media cited locals as witnessing a heavy presence of helicopters and UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – drones) in the vicinity of the assassination site.
‘Regarding the murder of our former MP and hero, this is just another cowardly act by the criminal Israelis which is typical of them. This is not the first time they have committed such crimes. Every day, there are crimes whether they are against innocent Palestinian civilians, women, children, elderly or against Syrian civilians,’ Syria’s former MP Fares Shehabi told the media.
‘It comes within the context of Israeli aggression and Israeli nature; and this instability in the region cannot be solved with the existence of this criminal entity, this colonial apartheid entity called Israel.
‘We will never accept to live under constant terrorism by this entity; we will be defiant and we will respond in the time and manner of our choosing,’ he added.
Shehabi underlined Golan’s resistance against the Israeli occupation over the years and said the people in the region have never recognised the illegal entity as a state.
‘Our martyr is from the Golan, which proves that the Golan people, the natives of the Golan, are against the Israeli occupation and they do not recognise Israel. If they are Israeli citizens, like Israel claims, then why would the Israeli army assassinate them and kill them in cold blood,’ the former Syrian MP said.
Born in Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights, Midhat Saleh was arrested by Israeli forces in 1983, and, following his release, was arrested again in 1985 and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
He left for Syria in 1998, a year after he was freed, and then worked to establish a committee to support prisoners and detainees.
Saleh served as a member of Syria’s parliament until 2005, and was later appointed as head of the Golan Heights’ portfolio by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Syria has repeatedly reaffirmed its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, saying the territory must be completely restored to its control.
The United Nations has also underlined Syria’s sovereignty over the territory.