‘The danger to our lives is growing hour by hour’ say Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails

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Weekly sit-in in front of the Red Cross headquarters in Al-Bireh for the families of the prisoners held in israeli jails

PALESTINIAN prisoners in Israeli jails sent a humanitarian appeal to the world yesterday calling to save them from the deadly coronavirus pandemic before it kills them.

‘The feeling of imminent threat and danger to our lives in Israeli prisons is growing day by day, even hour by hour,’ said the prisoners in the letter of appeal directed to human rights organisations and ‘those who believe in freedom’.
‘The coronavirus is spreading and is threatening the region and entire world. We are always hearing new instructions and regulations by the Israeli government to its population, like all governments in the world on what to do to stop the spread of the virus. When it comes to our situation, the political prisoners in Israeli jails, we are not hearing or seeing any measures or even answers to our most basic questions; what if the virus spreads in prisons? What are the practical and humane steps that will be taken by the prison authorities?’
They added: ‘The only thing we are told from the prison administration is that they are taking all cautionary measures and for us this is not acceptable; especially knowing that there are now hundreds of sick prisoners who are suffering many health problems, some are severe like asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.’
They said: ‘We are sending this appeal to the world and all those concerned for human rights to save what is left of us who have lost our freedom and to save us from this virus that is threatening our lives and nothing is being done by those who are responsible and accountable under international law.
‘Medical negligence and indifference has haunted Palestinian prisoners for decades and many lost their lives due to such behaviour.
‘We say this as we also hear that the Israeli medical system cannot even handle the current amount of patients in its own society and that number is increasing.
‘If this is the situation, that means we expect no response when it hits the prisons unless international pressure mounts.
‘The only way and hope to stop the spread of this disease is due diligence, prevention and hygiene.
‘The Israeli prison administration does not provide us with the required sterilisation supplies, tools or even face masks.
‘They behave in formalities that are more like threats rather than conducting tests or taking precautions.
‘We only have contact with the outside world through the jailers who are indifferent in their approach to us and can possibly carry the virus and pass it on to us and nothing is being regulated from that end.
‘They, in turn, if they fall ill, are able to take measures by moving away from the public and receive necessary treatment.
‘We hold the prison administration, the Israeli government, those who are silent about what is going on, and all those who defend human rights, the full responsibility of our wellbeing and health.’
In their appeal, the prisoners called on the ‘free people of the world’: ‘Do not leave us to die in our prison beds as this infection spreads without anyone showing any care.
‘What does the world expect of us? To rebel as some prisoners have in some countries only to be killed by bullets before they were eliminated by the virus?
‘This is a cry to the whole world, and we have lists of cases of those who are suffering from poor health conditions in Israeli prisons, knowing that the numbers of patients are much higher.’
The letter, written by The Palestinian Prison Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, included names of 35 ill Palestinian prisoners.

  • A Palestinian political prisoner in the Israeli Nafha prison in the south of Israel set fire on Wednesday morning to a room used by the prison guards to protest at the prison administration’s neglect of health conditions for prisoners.

According to Qadri Abu Bakr, head of the Palestinian Authority’s Prisoners Affairs Commission, the prisoner, Ayman Sharabati, who is serving a life sentence, set the room on fire when the prisoners were taking their daily walk out of their cells to protest at the way the Israel Prisons Service (IPS) deals with the health situation in prisons and is not taking enough precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease among the prisoners.
He said the prisoner was immediately placed in solitary confinement in the prison.
Abu Bakr said the IPS removed all the doctors and nurses from the prisons and kept only one nurse in every prison, which he described as part of the Israeli policy of medical negligence of prisoners.
He warned that this policy, if it continues, could generate serious reactions from the prisoners.
Regarding the four prisoners in Megiddo prison who were quarantined after they were suspected of contracting coronavirus disease from an Israeli interrogator, Abu Bakr said an attorney from the commission has contacted the prisoners who did not show any symptoms of the virus.
Addameer Prisoners Support and Human Rights Organisation said yesterday that its lawyer, Samer Sam’an, managed to speak via a phone call to the prisoners put in quarantine at Ramleh prison clinic.
It said the prisoners informed the lawyer that they were not tested for the coronavirus disease yet. Their temperature is taken twice a day, and no other medical tests are made so far.
Abu Bakr urged the Red Cross and other rights organisations to intervene on behalf of the prisoners to make sure they get the proper health care in this time of coronavirus pandemic.
A similar call was yesterday made by Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh during his meeting with the head of the Jerusalem office of the Red Cross.
There are over 5,000 Palestinian prisoners serving time in Israeli jails for resisting its occupation of the Palestinian lands.

  • The Palestinian Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip has called on the international community to put pressure on the Israeli regime to lift its ongoing land, air, and sea blockade, so that the impoverished coastal sliver can cope with cases of coronavirus infection.

‘We raise our voice and ask the whole world to help lift the siege on Gaza to enable it to face the coronavirus pandemic,’ Yousef Abu al-Rish, a health ministry official in Gaza, announced in a statement late on Sunday.
He reassured the Gazans that only two cases of the disease were reported, emphasising that medical teams are fully prepared to deal with the cases.
Palestinian officials announced earlier this week the first two cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the highly contagious new coronavirus, in the besieged Gaza Strip.
The first two cases have been confirmed in the densely-populated Gaza Strip, which is under the Israeli siege.
Abu al-Rish said late on Saturday that the two Palestinian patients had returned from Pakistan via Gaza’s Rafah border with neighbouring Egypt last Thursday.
The pair exhibited symptoms of the illness, which include dry cough and high fever, he told a news conference.
The senior Palestinian health official added that the two were placed in quarantine upon arrival and are now in a field hospital in the border town of Rafah.
Abu al-Rish urged Gaza’s nearly two million residents to take precautionary measures and to practise social distancing by staying home in a bid to halt the potential spread of the virus.
Israel has given its spy agency Shin Bet the green light to use ‘counter-terrorism’ operations against those infected with a new coronavirus, treating the pandemic as a security menace.
The United Nations has warned against the frightening consequences of coronavirus in the Gaza Strip in the wake of 13 years of Israeli-imposed blockade on the territory.
Jamie McGoldrick, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, stated that the Covid-19 outbreak in Gaza can be terrible due to the long-term blockade, overpopulation, and limited health facilities there.
McGoldrick said the people will get stuck in the region in case of an epidemic, resulting in the spread of the virus.
The top UN health official pointed to the weak and insufficient health care system in the Gaza Strip regarding financial sources and equipment, saying they are in contact with the Palestinian administration and the World Health Organisation over the improvement of the health system.