On April 17, Palestinians marks Prisoners Day showing solidarity with thousands of incarcerated Palestinians, many of them minors.
Palestinians held protests and vigils in Gaza and across the West Bank to remember and honor their loved ones languishing in prisons. The demonstration took place amidst heightened tensions between Israel and Palestine, as the Great March of Return — a six-week campaign demanding the Palestinian refugees’ right of return — is expected to continue till May 15.
Palestinians who attended the demonstration held up portraits of relatives who are currently held up in Israeli prisons.
There are more than 6,500 Palestinians, including 350 children, 62 women, currently being held in Israeli detention centers and jails. Out of the 62 women, 8 are female child prisoners and out of the 1,800 prisoners who are in need of medical attention, 700 suffer from severe, chronic diseases.
Over 400 Palestinians are being held illegally in a practice called by Israel “administrative detention,” in which a detainee is held without charge or trial. This practice is illegal.
WATCH: There are more than 6,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails. 427 of those prisoners were thrown in jail without a charge and without a trial, in what is called 'administrative detention'. pic.twitter.com/QIIKMgLnHT— The IMEU (@theIMEU) April 16, 2018
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah called the jailed citizens “prisoners of war.” In Gaza City, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah Party organized a demonstration, which protested outside the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) offices. Speakers called on the group to urge Israelis to improve the living conditions of their prisoners and to immediately release the Palestinians.
In Ramallah, hundreds of Palestinians waving flags and carrying pictures of their loved ones marched from Arafat Square to the neighboring Jewish only Beit El settlement. They were met with Israeli forces using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
Other such demonstrations were also held in the cities of Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem, Tulkarem and Qalqiya. In Jenin, schoolchildren painted graffiti on the walls.
Palestinians have long condemned the Israeli military’s mistreatment of prisoners which amounts to the violation of international law.
More than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned by Israel since the state began its military operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967. The number represents 20 percent of the Palestinians population. It also includes 10,000 women and over 215 prisoners who died in the detention centers, of which 61 died due to medical neglect and 72 died due to torture. Moreover, 8,000 Palestinian minors have been arrested since 2000.
Israeli occupation arrested brothers Ameer & Hatem, ages 8 & 10 from their family home from Occupied East Jerusalem #NoWayToTreatAChild #Israel #Colonialism #PutIsraelUpOnTheListOfShame #ListOfShame #PalestinianPrisonersDay #BornAPrisoner pic.twitter.com/MNMUTBlZqr— Ola Qawasmi (@ola_qawasmi) April 16, 2018
“There is no justification or legal basis for persisting with such crimes,” Hanan Ashrawi, executive committee member Palestine Liberation Organization said. “Denying Palestinian prisoners of their fundamental rights and dignity, goes against all forms of international law and international humanitarian law.”
In 2017, Palestinian Prisoners Day marked the first day of a mass hunger strike by 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. The movement was organized by notable Fatah Party member Marwan Barghouti and called to end torture, mistreatment and administrative detentions.
Today marks 16 years since Israel's arrest of Palestinian leader #MarwanBarghouthi . As we mark Mandela's centenary this year, we reiterate the call for the freedom of Barghouthi, the 'Palestinian Mandela', and all other Palestinian political prisoners. #FreeMarwanBarghouthi pic.twitter.com/ehR0J3ny36— Kathrada Foundation (@KathradaFound) April 15, 2018
The strike, named “Freedom and Dignity,” lasted for 40 days until an agreement was reached to restore family visits to the prison twice a month.
Under the Geneva Convention and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Israel is legally bound to exercise his power for the benefit of the occupied population. However, it never has done so and sadly, has never faced any repercussions for the violations.
Banner/Thumbnail credit: JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP/Getty Images