In November 2020, 413 Palestinians, including were abducted and detained by Israeli occupation forces, as documented in a monthly report issued by Palestinian prisoners’ organizations and human rights institutions. The report was issued by the Prisoners’ and Former Prisoners’ Affairs Commission, Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association and the Wadi Hilweh Information Center – Silwan, and is translated here by Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.
During November 2020, occupation forces seized 157 Palestinians from Jerusalem, 40 from Ramallah and Al-Bireh, 74 from al-Khalil, 31 from Jenin, 33 from Bethlehem, 30 from Nablus, 18 from Tulkarem, 18 from Qalqilya, 3 from Jericho, 7 from Tubas, one from Salfit and one from Gaza. The total number of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in occupation prisons was approximately 4,400 prisoners, including 41 women prisoners, 170 child prisoners and 380 administrative detainees jailed without charge or trial. 102 administrative detention orders were issued in November, including 47 new orders and 55 renewed/extended orders (administrative detention orders are indefinitely renewable.)
Some of the key aspects of Israeli occupation repression of prisoners and their families during November 2020 included the policy of collective punishment, the use of the coronavirus pandemic as a tool of suppression and abuse of prisoners, deliberate medical neglect (the policy of slow death), and the intensification of arrests and oppression in Jerusalem, which faces the highest number of arrests per month, including systematic harassment and and targeted attacks by occupation forces.
Collective punishment policies: The case of Kobar village
The occupation authorities continue to impose a policy of collective punishment upon Palestinians, as reflected by the ongoing invasions, arrests, attacks and destructive operations. The occupation practices collective violations against Palestinian villages and camps through daily incursions, arrests, intimidation and terror against residents of the village or camp.
In November 2020, the village of Kobar, northwest of the city of Ramallah, has been subjected to a massive campaign of arrests and night raids, mainly against the Zebar family, as part of an attempt to pressure a relative to surrender himself; he is still being pursued today. This campaign included deliberate harassment of members of the family, repeated raids of homes, and the arrest of a number of family members, essentially using the family members as hostages in an attempt to make the wanted person surrender himself.
The number of detainees from the village reached 26, along with six from the neighboring town of Birzeit. The Israeli occupation forces continue to detain 13 people from Kobar and 4 from Birzeit, most of whom are being held under interrogation.
Continuous invasions of the village and home demolitions
In the past, the Zebar family has faced repeated attacks and targeting, including ongoing arrests on a nearly daily basis and raids in the dawn hours, in many cases carried out in a brutal manner to terrorize the family, including the use of dogs to threaten and attack family members.
The wife of the wanted man, a former prisoner, as well as his sons, nephews and other relatives were seized as hostages and beaten. Many were released later the same day, except for his oldest son, who is still being held in the Moskobiyeh interrogation center.
This comes in addition to the continuous detention of residents of the village, including the arrest of one citizen two days after his wedding and his brother two days before his own wedding. Both are members of the family, and after occupation soldiers stopped them and took their identification cards, they were seized and taken to the Halamish settlement where they were held on the cold floor, their hands tied with plastic cuffs and blindfolded for seven hours before they were released. During that time, they were repeatedly interrogated.
The occupation attacks did not end with the Zebar family. Instead, the forces stormed the homes of other families, as Addameer documented with several people from the village who confirmed that a number of homes were searched and raided in the same way, including empty homes, and a number of people were seized and interrogated for hours. Occupation force continue to detain human rights activist Mohammed al-Azzah as part of their ongoing arrest campaign on Kobar village; they raided his home and ransacked and destroyed many of his possessions.
Kobar village has faced numerous invasions and arrests since 2017, in addition to checkpoints being placed at the entrance to the villages, invasions by hundreds of soldiers with dogs. This is a scene that has also been enacted in Dheisheh camp, Deir Abu Mishaal, and other Palestinian villages, cities and camps.
The policy of collective punishment is a systematic practice of the Israeli occupation in violation of articles 33 and 34 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Detainees in Gilboa prison confront the coronavirus pandemic
The Palestinian prisoners’ institutions followed with great concern the continuing spread of COVID-19 among Palestinian prisoners, especially in Gilboa prison during the month of November, where more than 100 cases were recorded, especially in section 3, which proved to be a focus for the spread of the virus. This threatened all 360 Palestinians held in Gilboa prison, including sick and elderly detainees.
The risks to the prisoners are increasing and multiplying as the prison administration continues to monopolize the response to the pandemic, without allowing for a neutral or outside medical committee to oversee testing of prisoners, their conditions and their health status, especially since the prisoners suffered before the pandemic and continue to be subjected to deliberate medical neglect in addition to the harsh conditions of detention that forms a fertile ground for the transmission of disease among the prisoners. Palestinian prisoners have been forced to buy sanitary supplies and masks at their own expense to confront the pandemic.
With the spread of the virus in Gilboa prison, Palestinian prisoners have suffered from the policies of the Israeli prison administration, which have essentially used the virus as a tool of suppression and abuse. It delayed in testing prisoners from the beginning of symptoms among a group of detainees in section 3. This delay and procrastination eventually led to the spread of the virus among the entire section as well as to detainees in other sections. This came in addition to their procrastination in providing necessary treatment. One prisoner stated that the prison administration gave the detainees one lemon per room and reduced some of their food supplies, apart from the transfers that targeted a group of detainees affected by the virus. This was a harsh journey of abuse, especially for those transferred into isolation in the Ramleh prison, which is considered one of the worst prisons with the harshest conditions of confinement. The prison administration also transferred section 3, which contained the highest infection rate, into a quarantine section, while transferring a number of prisoners to other prisons’ isolation sections.
Despite the pandemic, the occupation forces continue to carry out arrest campaigns against Palestinian civilians, which affect all sectors of society, including the elderly, sick and wounded, without any consideration to the potential for transmission of the virus, in addition to their detention of large numbers of detainees in squalid conditions in detention and interrogation centers. These centers are being used as quarantine locations, despite the fact that they were unfit for human occupancy even before the pandemic.
The prison administration also continues to transfer prisoners, raising a heightened concern about the potential for viral transmission and spread to all prisons. It has also continued with repressive units’ incursions and searches, imposing new contacts on the detainees that pose a further risk. These repressive forces continue to harass the prisoners, and the invasions in Ofer prison were the most violent incursions since the beginning of 2020.
Despite all of the calls by Palestinian human rights institutions from the beginning of the pandemic, most urgently the release of sick and elderly prisoners as well as child prisoners and detained women, the Israeli occupation has responded only by increasing its arrest campaigns.
Medical neglect (slow death) in the occupation prisons is a systematic and deliberate policy
The Israeli occupation prison administration is pursuing a policy of deliberate medical neglect (slow killing), which is part of a systematic policy that targets the fates and lives of the prisoners. Over the past years, dozens of testimonies have been recorded from detainees suffering as a result. These testimonies confirm that the policy of medical neglect starts not only from the moment of detection or diagnosis of a disease but rather from the absence of proper health care and preventative checkups in the first place. This contributes to the danger to Palestinian prisoners’ health.
The prison administration has implemented a series of deliberate measures that lead to worsened health outcomes and even the death of detainees, including delays in providing treatment, refusal or delay in surgical operations, lack of access to specialists, experienced doctors or psychologists inside prisons, lack of access to medical devices for people with disabilities, such as prosthetics or even eyeglasses. There is also a lack of clean, sanitary isolation rooms or wards for detainees with infectious diseases.
The prison administration transports sick prisoners in a “bosta” vehicle rather than an ambulance, which leads to a torturous journey for the detainees. This comes in addition to the detention of wounded prisoners, including those with bullet wounds, in conditions that lack the necessary sanitation, leading to a worsened health condition and the development of serious or chronic disease. Most significantly, medical treatment is used as a tool to blackmail or bargain with the prisoners, turning their right to health care into a tool of suppression and abuse. The prisoners are also provided with poor food in quantity and quality, contributing to the weakness of their bodies and leading to multiple diseases.
According to the human rights institutions, around 700 prisoners are ill, including 300 with chronic diseases. There are 10 prisoners suffering from different types of cancer.
The Ramla Prison Clinic is part of the crime of willful medical neglect or slow killing. It lacks the minimum characteristics to be considered a clinic. Indeed, the prisoners call it a “slaughterhouse,” and in the last several years, most of the prisoners who were martyred as a result of medical neglect, were at the Ramla Prison Clinic before their death. Today, there are 16 prisoners held there, including seven held there permanently and who use wheelchairs to move. The most prominent of these cases are those of Mansour Muqtadah, Khaled al-Shawish, Nahed al-Aqra, Mutassim Raddad and Saleh Saleh, as well as three prisoners assigned to assist them.
Kamal Abu Waer, the latest martyr of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement
The martyr Kamal Abu Waer, sentenced to six life sentences and 50 years in prison, faced a long journey of suffering during the years of his detention from 2003 until his death in November 2020, including the harsh conditions of confinement as he developed throat cancer during the past year. He also experienced the set of policies that fall under the umbrella of willful medical neglect or slow killing, including procrastination in providing treatment. After several demands made by human rights insitutions for his release and for him to be provided appropriate health care, he underwent radiation treatment at the Israeli Rambam hospital. During his transfers for treatment, he was cuffed to the bed and surrounded by soldiers.
The Israeli occupation prison administration announced that he had the novel coronavirus in July 2020, after his transfer from Gilboa prison to an Israeli hospital for an operation, where a tube was implanted to aid his breathing. He was then transferred to the Ramla clinic despite his urgent need for full hospital care, and he faced the policy of slow death in Ramla like the other ill prisoners there, where there is no meaningful medical care or health treatment available. It was announced that he had a new tumor in his throat, and he died on 10 November 2020 at the age of 46, and the occupation continues to detain his body. He begame the 226th martyr since 1967 in the Israeli occupation prisons.
Since the beginning of this year, four prisoners have lost their lives (Nouraddine al-Barghouthi, Saadi al-Gharabili, Daoud al-Khatib and Kamal Abu Waer) and the occupation continues to detain the bodies of three of them, Saadi al-Gharabili, Daoud al-Khatib and Kamal Abu Waer. Five more were martyred in recent years, including Anis Dawla, Aziz Oweisat, Nasser Taqatqa, Fares Baroud and Bassam al-Sayeh.
Jerusalem: Systematic arrests and persecution
Israeli occupation authorities continued their systematic harassment and repression against people in Jerusalem, through systematic arrests. 157 Jerusalemites were seized in November 2020, including 30 children and two women. These arrests were concentrated in the town of Issawiya in particular, where 51 people were seized. The occupation intelligence summoned the Palestinian Authority minister for Jerusalem, Fadi al-Hidmi, and threatened him with restricting his movement inside Jerusalem and the West Bank. He has been arrested four times and summoned for interrogation since he assumed this position in April 2019.
Among the detainees were Khaled Abu Arafa, the former minister for Jerusalem, who was summoned to interrogation, his detention extended, and then transferred to administrative detention without charge or trial for four months. He was banished from Jerusalem since 2014 according to a decision by the Israeli occupation forces to withdraw residency from the Palestinian Legislative Council members Muhammad Abu Tair, Ahmad Atoun, Mohammed Totah and Abu Arafa. The occupation intelligence also summoned the secretary of the Fateh movement in Jerusalem, Shadi Mutour, several times consecutively, then prohibited him from entering the West Bank and forbidding him from participating in any activities in Jerusalem.
Within the framework of the collective punishment policy, Israeli occupation forces arrested several family members of the martyr Nour Jamal Shqair, from the town of Silwan, shot dead by Israeli occupation forces in late November at the Zaim military checkpoint. His brother Yahya was seized from the site of the shooting after he arrived trying to check on the condition and health of his brother, and his father and other brother were summoned for interrogation at the Moskobiyeh interrogation center. During the funeral of the martyr, two young men from the family were seized and detained by occupation forces after they were prevented from participating in the burial.
Harassment and threats against released prisoners and their families
Israeli occupation authorities continue to pursue and harass former prisoners and their families in Jerusalem. These include the former prisoner Ahmed Ghazaleh from the Old City of Jerusalem, whose home has been repeatedly invaded. He and his wife were detained under the pretext of “illegal residence of his wife in Jerusalem” because she has a West Bank identity card.
Ahmed Ghazaleh married a Palestinian woman from Ramallah 11 years ago. They have four children, the oldest being 10 years old and the youngest, eight months. The harassment of the family began after Ghazaleh was released after three years in occupation prisons. He and his wife were arrested in October, after occupation forces stormed the family home to arrest his wife, despite her presentation of official documents proving her right to reside in Jerusalem. Their infant child was detained with them in al-Qashlah police station in Jerusalem before their release.
The occupation forces also arrested Ghazaleh’s wife last August, when they stormed the family home and seized her and her then five-month-old baby, leaing her other children at home. After several hours of arrest and interrogation, she was released and forcibly transferred to the West Bank and released at Qalandiya military checkpoint. The occupation separated the family for several months, while the husband lived with two children in Jerusalem and the wife with two other children in Ramallah, until he was able to present the documents to enable his wife’s return to her home in Jerusalem.
Another former prisoner, Anwar Sami Obeid, from the town of Issawiya, was subjected to detention, house arrest and forced transfer from Jerusalem. He was last seized by occupation forces in November, two days after his return to Jerusalem after he was forcibly transferred and excluded from his own city for four months by a military order.
At the beginning of 2020, occupation authorities imposed a night house arrest on him and six other young men from Issawiyah for a three month period. They were seized three consecutive times under a pretext of not adhering to this night house arrest. Obaid was summoned for interrogation again, and forcibly expelled from Jerusalem. While the expulsion order initially covered east Jerusalem, it was amended on the second day to expel him from both east and west Jerusalem.
Adel al-Silwadi, another former prisoner, was also persecuted – forcibly expelled and transferred from Jerusalem for five days after his release from Israeli occupation prisons, where he had been detained for two years without charge or trial under administrative detention. Note that he had previously spent five years in the occupation prisons.
Palestinian prisoners’ and human rights institutions noted that Israeli occupation authorities continue to pursue repressive policies against prisoners and detainees. These policies do not exclude any group. Rather, arrests are continuing against ill people, the elderly and children, including violent repression and violation of the most basic rights under international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions.
They also renewed their call to pressure the occupation to end its violations and hold it accountable, and to put an end to the official international state of silence that has provided a green light for the Israeli occupation to continue to intensify and accelerate its crimes and violations.