Israeli arrest raids target Palestinian women activists and leftist organizers: Free Khitam Saafin, Shatha Tawil and all Palestinian prisoners!

In the pre-dawn hours of 2 November 2020 – on the anniversary of the colonial Balfour declaration and only days after the one-year anniversary of the imprisonment of Palestinian feminist, leftist and parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar – Israeli occupation forces stormed the homes of women’s movement and student movement leaders, former prisoners and leftist organizers throughout the occupied West Bank of Palestine. They seized Khitam Saafin, the president of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and student leader Shatha al-Tawil, a Bir Zeit University student, after invading their homes in al-Bireh.

Photo from 2017: Joe Catron

The Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees denounced the arrest of Saafin, who has previously been subjected to arbitrary administrative detention, noting that it comes amid an ongoing attack on Palestinian women, especially women students. Shatha Tawil is now among hundreds of Palestinian university students imprisoned by the Israeli occupation, including a number of student leaders at Bir Zeit University.

Photo: Shatha Tawil

The UPWC called on “all strugglers for freedom in Palestine and internationally to carry out campaigns of solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners and all of the strugglers of our people until their liberation.”

Photo: Khitam Saafin

At almost the same time, Israeli occupation forces seized former prisoner and longtime trade union activist Mohammed Jawabreh, 55, from Izbat al-Jarad southwest of Tulkarem, and prominent Palestinian leftist Jamal Barham, 60, from the village of Ramin, also near Tulkarem, ransacking their homes and abducting these community leaders.

Photo: Mohammed Jawabreh

Jamal Barham has been detained in the past without charge or trial under administrative detention and served as the head of the Arab Studies Department in the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Photo: Jamal Barham

In Qalqilya, occupation forces invaded and ransacked the homes of and seized Shaher al-Rai, 50 and Ahmed Mohammed al-Rai, 65, longtime community leaders. Shaher al-Rai is a former prisoner who has been detained on multiple occasions by Israeli occupation forces, often under administrative detention, indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial. He has been arrested seven times, including three stints in administrative detention, and imprisoned for over 12 years in total.

Photo: Shaher al-Rai

Al-Rai is married to Palestinian activist Manal al-Rai and they have three children, Jarrah, Wajla and Kanaan. Manal al-Rai spoke about the impact of her husband’s earlier administrative detention on their young son in this video from Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association:

Shaher Al-Rai was earlier imprisoned by Palestinian Authority security forces for multiple years after he and his cousin were implicated in a false affidavit given by a Palestinian prisoner under Israeli torture. The confession was proven false by incontrovertible evidence and the Palestinian who made the confession under torture released and later compensated by Israeli intelligence, in an unusual case. Nevertheless, al-Rai remained held in PA prison for years after the discrediting of the confession, and released only after a widespread campaign.

Photo: Ahmad al-Rai

These latest attacks come amid several urgent situations threatening Palestinian prisoners, including an announcement of an outbreak of the novel coronavirus among at least 12 Palestinian prisoners detained in the Israeli occupation’s Gilboa prison, where around 90 prisoners in total are held. Palestinian prisoners in Gilboa, Ramon and Nafha prisons announced that they will escalate their protests given the ongoing negligence and deliberate neglect of Palestinian prisoners’ health by the Israeli prison administration.

Meanwhile, Palestinian detainee Maher al-Akhras is entering his 99th day of hunger strike against his Israeli administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial. His health condition has weakened dramatically and he is no longer able to walk and can barely talk. He has insisted on continuing his hunger strike until he wins his freedom from unjust imprisonment. Al-Akhras’ case has spurred worldwide outrage, including a statement from Irish trade unions, international lawyers and multiple social media campaigns to demand his immediate release.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network and many organizations, including Within Our Lifetime – United for Palestine, will campaign on social media on Tuesday, 3 November, the 100th day of Maher’s hunger strike for dignity, justice and freedom. We urge you to join us with tweets, photos and videos – and protests and actions – to share your solidarity at this critical moment. Follow @SamidounPP on Twitter to join the Twitterstorm at 10 am Pacific time, 1 pm Eastern time, 7 pm in central Europe and 8 pm Palestine time.

Samidoun Network in occupied Palestine, alongside the families of the prisoners and the martyrs, will hold a protest in occupied Ramallah, Palestine, at 4:30 pm on Tuesday, 3 November, to march for liberation for Maher al-Akhras and all Palestinian prisoners.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network denounces these latest attacks on the Palestinian women’s movement, student movement and community organizers. We urge women’s organizations, student organizations and people of conscience everywhere to raise their voices and act in solidarity with Khitam Saafin, Shatha al-Tawil and their fellow Palestinian prisoners targeted by the Israeli occupation – including by building the movement for the boycott of Israel, its institutions and complicit corporations like HP, Puma and G4S. The Israeli occupation wants, on this anniversary of the Balfour declaration, to continue its colonization of Palestine unchecked by isolating and detaining the leaders of the Palestinian people’s movement. Join us to act and urge their immediate release and the liberation of all Palestinian prisoners, and of Palestine, from the river to the sea!