Over 3,100 Palestinians detained by Israeli occupation in May 2021: Prisoners’ associations report

Palestinian prisoners’ rights and human rights institutions, the Prisoners’ Affairs Commission, Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, and the Wadi Hilweh Information Center – Jerusalem, issued their monthly report on Sunday, 13 June, detailing the latest statistics and reports on Israeli repression targeting Palestinian detainees. The report covers key issues in the current uprising in Palestine, including ongoing violations and abuses by occupation forces, and documents specific cases followed by the institutions that prepared the report. The report is translated into English by Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.

According to the research and follow-ups made by the Palestinian prisoners’ institutions, Israeli occupation authorities arrested 3100 Palestinians, including 42 women and 471 children, throughout the month of May, in different areas of Palestine, at demonstrations, in night raids and random arrests.

As of the end of May 2021, there are approximately 5,300 Palestinian detainees, including 40 women and 250 child prisoners. Of these, 81 child detainees are from occupied Palestine ’48 – that is, Palestinian citizens of Israel. There are currently approximately 520 Palestinians jailed without charge or trial under administrative detention, after 200 administrative detention orders were issued since the beginning of May.

The month of May 2021 marked a serious escalation in repression and attacks against the Palestinian people in multiple forms, especially with the spark of events that began at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem on 13 April 2021, where occupation forces attempted to prohibit Palestinians from entering the area. This repression came hand in hand with the forced displacement and forced expulsion being planned and threatened against the Palestinians of Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied Jerusalem.

As events continued and the confrontations with occupation forces escalated, the occupation launched massive repression and attacks, including mass arrests that affected all sectors. These continued to escalate, especially with the launch of the Israeli aggression on Gaza, which lasted for 11 days and prompted Palestinians everywhere to take action in the streets to confront the grave crimes of the occupation.

This is not the first instance in which Palestinians face this type of escalation, including attacks during which the occupation has used all of its mechanisms and policies over the past decade. Systematic arrests are among the most prominent of these colonial mechanisms by which the occupation seeks to suppress any efforts by the Palestinian people to seek liberation and self-determination.

Since 2015, which also constituted a turning point for Palestinian prisoners and detainees, especially regarding the number of arrests at one time, this moment also constituted a milestone in terms of the number of detainees and the large number of serious violations documented by institutions, activists, journalists and citizens, who played an important role in conveying and exposing these crimes.

The highest number of arrests were recorded in occupied Palestine ’48, where approximately 2,000 Palestinians were arrested, including 291 children, as documented by Palestinian human rights institutions in occupied Palestine ’48. Many serious crimes were recorded, accompanying mass and systematic arrests in various cities and villages. These did not stop at the moment of arrest against the detainees and their families, but continued through a series of mechanisms and policies later, including intimidation, threats and torture. Over 170 Palestinian detainees later had indictments filed against them, and the most common of these charges was participation in demonstrations rejecting the policies of the occupation.

Israeli occupation forces of various types, along with settlers, contributed to attacking and attempting to intimidate the Palestinian population, storming their homes, destroying their property, deploying undercover forces among them, firing live ammunition and rubber-coated metal bullets at them and brutally assaulting them physically.

Similar to the situation in occupied Palestine ’48, harsh campaigns of arrests targeted many Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, where 1,100 Palestinians were arrested, including 180 children and 42 women and girls — the highest number of arrests took place in Jerusalem, where 677 were detained.

The institutions documented the continued series of arrests targeting Palestinian Legislative Council election candidates; occupation forces seized six candidates from the “Jerusalem is Our Promise” list, one of the electoral lists for the Legislative Council, in addition to two former Palestinian Legislative Council members, along with nightly raids on homes and searches and vandalism targeting families’ properties. Occupation authorities engaged in systematic methods of repression, intimidation and suppression, extending to collective punishment for all sectors of society.

There were 200 administrative detention orders issued during the month of May, including 116 new administrative detention orders.

The 1948 Occupied Territories: Blurring the Image Through Fabricated Charges

Israeli occupation police arrested journalist and former political prisoner Raafat Abu Ayash, 27, from the occupied Naqab, while he was actively reporting on a sit-in for Palestinian students at Beersheba University in protest of events in Jerusalem, in front of the university building. They were attacked by far-right Jewish Zionist groups, who outnumbered the Palestinian students and threatened to kill them, prompting the Palestinian students to move their protest to the students’ residence. Abu Ayash reports that police, including the special “Al-Yasam” unit came to the scene of event and attacked the Palestinian students, despite the fact that they had called for protection from the attacks by the right-wingers. The police violently beat the students with batons and arrested two Palestinian students.

As Abu Ayash documented the police repression against Palestinian students, he was arrested. He was asked for his name. As soon as he identified himself, undercover police began to beat him, seized him and took him by police car to several locations, eventually ending at the Ashkelon Detention and Interrogation Center, where he was held for three days before his release.

When he asked for the allegations against him, he was accused of assaulting a settler and burrning his car while he was detained, and accused of joining a “terrorist faction.” He was subjected to three days of interrogation by the Shin Bet for four sessions that lasted for six hours each. After he finally proved that he was at the university to cover the event – where he was initially detained – due to camera footage, he was finally released from the interrogation center.

During his detention, Abu Ayash was subjected to several violations, in addition to the wrongful arrest and the trumped-up allegations against him. He was subjected to “shabeh,” or stress positions, in the interrogation chair for long hours, while he was handcuffed to the chair. His detention was extended for 5 days pending interrogation, during which he was not provided with clothes other than those of the prison administration. During his interrogation, he was repeatedly screamed at, cursed, insulted and threatened with “destroying his life.” He was unable to open his eyes when he arrived at the interrogation center due to Israeli occupation forces’ severe beating of his face.

Detaining candidates for postponed elections, attacking the role of politicians and activists

Two months after his release on 21 March 2021, Israeli occupation forces once again detained former prisoner and electoral candidate for the Palestinian Legislative Council on the “Jerusalem is our Promise” list, Yousef Qazzaz, 49. They seized Qazzaz after invading the family home in Dura, al-Khalil on 20 May 2021, as nearly 20 soldiers removed the main door of the home and ransacked it, storming the bedrooms and pointing guns at the heads of the sleeping residents, as his wife recounted.

Qazzaz is a former prisoner who has spent 5 years in Israeli occupation prisons. In his previous detention he was held without charge or trial under administrative detention for 18 months; he previously was held in administrative detention for 24 months. Qazzaz suffers from several illnesses, but was prohibited from taking his medication with him by the occupation forces.

On 9 May 2021, occupation forces seized Nasser Abu Khdeir, 59, a candidate rom the “Pulse of the People” electoral list, after storming his home in Shuafat, Jerusalem. He was ordered into forcible house arrest at his home in Shuafat for an unspecified period of time, stripped of his health insurance and national insurance and prohibited from entering the West Bank for 6 months.

Abu Khdeir was last released the previous March from Israeli occupation prisons. He has spent almost 17 years in occupation prisons over various periods of detention.

Child abuse: 13-year-olds detained

During May 2021, Israeli occupation forces seized 180 children from the West Bank, and cases of abuse and mistreatment were documented through field researchers for Palestinian human rights institutions.

Occupation forces seized the 13-year-old child, J.A., while he was in Al-Balou Park near the illegal settlement of Beit El outside Ramallah. He was beaten repeatedly by an Israeli soldier in the pelvic area, causing him severe pain, and pepper-sprayed in his right eye at zero distance while laying on the ground.

J.A. was ordered to lie on the ground and handcuffed with plastic ties before being taken to Beit El military camp. He was blindfolded and taken to the Benjamin police station, where he was placed on a chair facing the wall and tied with plastic handcuffs and ties. The soldiers deliberately held him there for approximately 3 hours, unable to move, until the interrogation began. In the end, he was thrown out of the military vehicle in which he was taken, hit on the neck and the head and his blindfold and handcuffs removed. The child discovered that he had been thrown out of the back of the vehicle in the Hizma area of occupied Jerusalem.

The child K.D., 13, from Tayseer village, was detained near the Tayseer military checkpoint east of Tubas on 15 May 2021, where a demonstration was organized against the Israeli aggression on Gaza. Occupation forces followed him and shot at him before beating him in the face and arresting him. He was then taken from Tayseer Checkpoint, handcuffed and blindfolded. He was released the next day at the same checkpoint. However, intelligence officers then called his father the day after his release, demanding he hand over his son for interrogation.

K.D. suffered psychological trauma as a result of his experience. His father reported that he was shocked and unable to speak for a lengthy time after his release.

Al-Moskobiya: Continuous witness to the crime of torture

Al-Moskobiya, known as the Russian Compound, once again came to the fore during the escalation of repressive attacks carried out by the occupation forces. Dozens of detainees were subjected there to physical and psychological torture. Since August 2019, occupation forces and interrogators have escalated their methods of torture, returning to many of the same tactics of physical and psychological torture used in the 1960s and 1970s. During the current confrontation, Palestinian human rights institutions have continued to document testimonies of torture to which detainees were subjected.

The case of the detainee, Jalal Jabarin (36 years), from the town of Sa’ir, al-Khalil

Jabarin was arrested from his home at dawn on 14 May 2021, after occupation soldiers forced him to take off his clothes, searched and ransacked his house using police dogs. He was taken to an area near the Etzion military camp, where he was taken out of the military vehicle and beaten severely by occupation soldiers. He fell to the ground twice from the severity of the beating, and later he was transferred to the Etzion detention and investigation center, where they asked him to sign a paper exonerating the soldiers from assaulting him. However, he refused to sign.

Jabarin indicated that he was transferred on the same day to the Al-Moskobiya interrogation center, where he was tortured for ten days and for long hours, including being interrogated for 38 hours continuously, while he was forcibly held in stress positions on a chair, while handcuffed, with his hands and feet tied. He was denied sleep and clean, safe food, forcing him to refrain from eating during the first two days of his detention.

During his detention, an order was issued preventing him from meeting with a lawyer. Jabarin is a former prisoner who had previously been arrested several times.

Maryam Afifi: Arrest, abuse, and unconditional release

Israeli occupation forces arrested Mariam Afifi, 26, on 8 May 2021 at about 10:30 pm while she was in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. A witness stated that they saw occupation soldiers attacking a girl, causing her to fall to the ground. They went towards the girl and while attempting to get close to the girl, one of the soldiers shouted at her and pushed her harshly. The witness attempted again to approach her to check on her as a soldier attacked her and started violently pulling at her hijab. As he pulled her back, her shoes came off and the soldier stepped on her legs and joined a number of other soldiers who began to kick and hit her. They handcuffed her behind her back and tied her legs, dragging her to an area where many soldiers and police had gathered, and forced her to the ground. After around 30 minutes, she was taken to the occupation police station, where she was held until the morning of the next day in a room with many other detainees.

The next day, she was transferred to the Al-Moskobiya interrogation center, where she remained in a very cold cell, and when she asked to turn off the air conditioner, they did not respond to her request. Then she was transferred to the court to extend her detention in the Al-Moskobiya center, during which a female soldier handcuffed her hands with iron handcuffs and pulled them, tightening her shackles and causing her severe pain. Maryam stated that she was taken twice to the court, the first time where the judge was not present because of the court break in the afternoon hours, and then they brought her back to the cell, and after a period of time they returned and brought her to the court, and during these movements the shackles were digging into her hands and feet. Maryam was presented to the court, and while the public prosecutor asked to extend her detention, the judge ordered her released without conditions on 9 May after seeing the photo and video evidence of her arrest.

Jerusalem: a double confrontation

The occupation authorities continued their unprecedented campaigns of daily arrests in the city of occupied Jerusalem during the month of May. They arrested hundreds of people on the streets in addition to the storming of homes throughout the city. In Jerusalem, 677 people were detained, including 124 children, of which 20 of whom were aged 13 or 14 years, in addition to 32 women, including 8 girls.

Arrests on the street took place around Al-Aqsa and its gates, where 117 Palestinians were detained; 138 were arrested from Bab al-Amoud and the nearby areas; 79 were detained in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, and hundreds from different areas.

From 13 April 2021, the beginning of confrontations and protests at the Damascus Gate, through the end of May, 845 Palestinians were detained. Most detainees were released under conditions, most commonly forced exclusion from the place of detention, home confinement for 3 days to two weeks, payment of cash bail, while a number of them were presented with indictments and others are still detained in interrogation centers.

Harsh excessive force was used during many arrests and detentions, including assaults inside police vehicles and during transportation to detention centers. Scores of detainees were injured, including people with broken hands, noses and ribs, as well as wounds in the face and head. Dozens of Palestinian detainees were transferred from interrogation centers to hospitals for treatment, some of whom remained in detention, and some were released on condition that they return to interrogation after treatment.

The detainees were accused of a number of charges, the most common of which were: participation in confrontations and demonstrations, throwing stones, using firecrackers and Molotov cocktails, raising the Palestinian flag, protesting at Al-Aqsa, tearing the flag of the occupation state, destroying surveillance cameras or burning property for nationalist reasons, assaulting police or assaulting settlers. Dozens of Palestinian detainees were indicted, others are still held under interrogation, and hundreds were released under various conditions and restrictions.

During May, Israeli occupation authorities ordered 11 Jerusalemites to administrative detention by order of the “Defense” Minister, for periods ranging from three to six months, including Palestinian prisoners whose health insurance was cut off.

The occupation also escalated deportation orders during the past month, as over 270 orders forcibly excluding Palestinian Jerusalemites from various areas, including Al-Aqsa, the Old City, Bab al-Amoud and adjacent streets, the entire city of Jerusalem, and the rest of the West Bank, were issued in May for periods ranging from one week to six months. These decisions were issued through the courts or after hours of interrogation in various centers, especially the Al-Qashla detention center in the Old City of Jerusalem and the Salah al-Din police station. Dozens of young men and women seized from Sheikh Jarrah were excluded from the neighborhood, and a number of young people were forcibly expelled from their areas of residence in Al-Tur, Issawiya and Jabal al-Mukabber.

Ahmed Abu Sneineh: He lost his eye and was arrested inside the hospital

Israeli occupation forces wounded, Ahmed Abu Sneineh, 28, with a rubber-coated metal bullet fired inside Al-Aqsa Mosque, on the 25th day of Ramadan, while he was heading to the mosque to deliver an item to his mother, who was praying Tarawih prayers in the mosque.

The occupation forces hit Abu Sneineh’s eye with a rubber bullet, causing him to lose consciousness. He was taken to the hospital in serious condition and approximately two weeks after the injury, he was seized from inside the hospital by occipation forces.

Abu Sneineh said, “My eye was hit inside Al-Aqsa, then I completely lost consciousness and was transferred in a very serious health condition to the hospital due to a fractured skull. I had several surgeries during my treatment, for injuries to the eye, head and abdomen, and the medical staff said I needed to stay in the hospital for treatment and follow-up for 60 days.”

Abu Sneineh continued: “On 27 May, I was surprised by the presence of a nurse who told me he would get me out of the hospital, and a few minutes later a group of ‘Shabak’ agents invaded the room wearing civilian clothing. They showed their badges and identified themselves and then they arrested me.”

He said that he was transferred to the detention center, and stayed for more than 6 hours, being moved between the police and the Shin Bet intelligence, despite his fatigue and dizziness. He was then released and transferred to house arrest for four days on condition that he return to interrogation. On the appointed day, 30 May, he returned to interrogation at the Al-Qashla police station where he was left to wait in the sun for several hours before being released and ordered to another day of house arrest.

Cancellation of health insurance

As part of the policy of collective punishment against the released prisoners and their families, the occupation authorities cut off their right to national health insurance for 19 Palestinian Jerusalemites, including three jailed prisoners and the wife of a Palestinian prisoner. The remaining victims of this policy are all former prisoners. The families were surprised to learn of the cancellation of their health insurance when they went for treatment in health centers, without any legal warning or clarification.

This measure targeted former prisoners who were subjected to arrest and forced exclusion or deportation from Jerusalem or Al-Aqsa. They were also barred from entry to the West Bank and their bank accounts were seized.

The pretext given for the cancellation of the former prisoners’ health insurance was an allegation that they maintain “residence outside the city of Jerusalem”, which they denied, emphasizing that most of their homes are inside the walls of the Old City or its surroundings.

Collective punishment: Turmus Ayya and Aqraba

The villages of Turmus Ayya and Aqraba were repeatedly invaded and raided by Israeli occupation forces during the first third of May 2021, following the shooting of Israeli occupation soldiers at Za’atara checkpoint south of Nablus. Nine residents of Aqraba and five residents of Turmus Ayya were seized by occupation authorities, while many homes were raided with police dogs as occupation soldiers threw gas bombs and posed a constant threat to the people.

In a telephone conversation, Mrs. Basma al-Shalabi, the wife of Palestinian detainee, former mayor Lafi Shalabi, explained that occupation special forces known as the “Al-Yaman” unit invaded Turmus Ayya village at 3 a.m., raided the family’s home and seized her husband on 5 May 2021. They forced off the doors of the home and attacked the couple’s 16-year-old son before one of the soldiers tried to throw the child at his mother, who was isolated in another room of the home due to her diagnosis with coronavirus. They then took Lafi Shalabi to the second floor of the house, by himself, interrogating him while threatening him, pressuring his wife and threatening her. They did not allow her to take any medications despite her coronavirus infection and high blood pressure diagnosis.

In Aqraba, large forces of the occupation army and special units attacked the town, imposed full military control over it, locking down the residents on 3 May and prohibiting them from moving, imposing closure and erecting military checkpoints around the nearby villages. The following day, they were joined by massive reinforcements and armored vehicles invading the town, storming homes and deliberately vandalizing, damaging and destroying property while searching the homes.

Dozens of wounded and injured

Israeli occupation forces used all manner of weapons and methods of attack against the detainees, including severe beatings, dragging, hitting with batons and rifle butts, release of “skunk” or sewage water, firing tear gas, sound bombs, live bullets and rubber-coated metal bullets at them, leading to dozens of injuries, some with live ammunition.

Among the cases followed by Palestinian human rights institutions is that of the case of wounded detainee Fadi Daraghmeh, 18, from Tubas. He was shot in the knee by occupation forces at Tayseer checkpoint with live ammunition. After he fell to the ground, three soldiers severely beat him and dragged him to their vehicle before he was transferred to the Israeli Afula hospital.

Fellow wounded prisoner Osama Funoun, 23, from al-Khalil, was seized on 12 May 2021 after he was shot by occupation forces in the center of the city, near the military checkpoint at the entrance to Shuhada street in the city. He was then taken to the Ramle prison clinic and forced to walk inside.

Maher Daraghmeh, 22, from Tubas, is also detained in the Ramle prison clinic after being wounded by the Israeli occupation army when he was shot while crossing the Huwarra military checkpoint south of Nablus. He has since undergone several surgeries.

The policy of administrative detention: Significant data

There has been a serious increase in the number of administrative detainees in the occupation prisons, a significant increase in comparison with the past few years. During the current confrontation, administrative detention was one of the most prominent policies of repression. During the month of May 2021, occupation forces issued 200 administrative detention orders, including 11 against Jerusalemite detainees.

Of those orders, 116 were newly issued administrative detention orders, while 84 renewal orders were also issued.

These numbers indicate a dangerous escalation in comparison to the months immediately proceeding the uprising, confirming that occupation authorities are continuing to use this policy on a large scale. The Israeli occupation’s use of administrative detention violates all restrictions imposed under international law on the use of detention without charge or trial. This form of arbitrary detention targets all of those who have a leading role in Palestinian society, including leaders in education and politics.

The Israeli occupation authorities also aim, through the use of administrative detention, to undermine any popular action or uprising for self-determination. This policy has been used in an escalating manner since the early years of the occupation, increasing in the early years and then decreasing after 1977, and then rising again in the Intifadas of 1987 and 2000, and once again rose in 2015, with the beginning of a popular uprising. The occupation once again escalated its use, issuing 1,248 administrative detention orders at that time.

Over the past decades, occupation military courts constituted and remain an essential tool in consolidating this policy, through their implementation of the orders of the occupation intelligence (the Shin Bet). This is confirmed by all the decisions issued by the military courts, in various degrees, against the detainees.

Since the beginning of this year, Palestinian prisoners have carried out individual hunger strikes against the policy of administrative detention. To this day, five prisoners are continuing their open hunger strikes in rejection of arbitrary administrative detention in occupation prisons, including Ghazanfar Abu Atwan, 28, from Dura, al-Khalil, on hunger strike for 40 days; Khader Adnan, 43, from Jenin, on hunger strike for 15 days; Amr al-Shami and Yousef al-Amer, on hunger strike for 14 days; and Jamal al-Tawil, on hunger strike for 11 days, demanding an end to his daughter, Bushra’s, administrative detention.