Tue 28 Nov 2023 8:27 am - Jerusalem Time

The prisoners deal and the Palestinian prisoners

Karen Zraick

Negotiations over the release of Israeli women and children held hostage in the Gaza Strip focused on the exchange of Palestinian women and children held in Israeli prisons. The group has grown rapidly in size during the six weeks of war and unrest since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, according to the Palestinian prisoners' rights group.

The Addameer human rights organization says that about 200 boys, most of them teenagers, were detained in Israel, as of this week, along with about 75 women and 5 teenage girls. Before October 7, there were about 150 boys and 30 women and girls in Israeli prisons, and since then, there have been a number of other arrests, as well as many releases.

Addameer said it compiled the figures using data from the Israel Prison Service, which runs the country's prisons, and information from families of people in detention.

Early last Wednesday, the Israeli government and Hamas announced that they would maintain a 4-day ceasefire in Gaza, to allow the release of 50 hostages taken during last month’s Hamas attack on Israel, as well as 150 Palestinian prisoners detained in Israel.

A number of the latest arrests came during raids across the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where protests and violence, including attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians, have escalated. Israel said the arrests were part of a counter-terrorism operation against Hamas in the West Bank.

There are also about 700 people missing from Gaza who are believed to be in Israeli prisons, but information about their whereabouts is vague, according to statements by Tala Nasser, spokeswoman for the Addameer Foundation. It is not clear how many, if any, of these people are women or minors. The Israeli army announced that it had arrested 300 people in Gaza during the ground invasion, claiming that they were linked to armed Palestinian groups, and that they were “transferred to Israeli territory for further investigation.”

Of the approximately 240 Israeli hostages led by Hamas and other armed groups to Gaza, 33 are minors, according to the Israeli government. There are at least 62 women, according to an organization formed by the families of the hostages, and 4 of the women held hostage are Israeli soldiers, according to interviews with their family members and information collected by a forum for the families of the hostages.

As of this week, the total number of Palestinian political prisoners in Israel, including people from Gaza, the West Bank and Israel, has reached 7,000 detainees, compared to about 5,000 detainees before October 7, according to the Addameer Foundation. This includes more than 2,000 people held in “administrative detention,” meaning they are detained indefinitely, without charges being brought against them, according to the report.

Tala Nasser said that her group defines this group as Palestinians who were arrested for activities related to political activism and freedom of expression, rather than criminal offenses such as drugs or violence. She added that the Addameer Foundation had received a number of reports, in recent weeks, about Palestinians being arrested on charges of incitement to publish articles on social media sites in Israel and the West Bank. Earlier this month, the Israeli Knesset approved an amendment to the Anti-Terrorism Law criminalizing “the consumption of terrorist materials.”

The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Adalah, said it is monitoring 121 cases of arrest and detention linked to social media posts, some of which “contain only expressions of solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza, or even verses from the Qur’an.”

Human rights groups have long warned that Palestinian detainees are being held without due process and face ill-treatment and even torture. Military Courts Watch, a non-profit legal organization, said last year that of the 100 Palestinian children arrested by Israeli forces it interviewed, 74 percent reported physical abuse, and 42 percent said they had been placed in solitary confinement.

The Palestinian Wafa News Agency reported that 6 Palestinian detainees who were being held without charges had died in Israeli prisons in recent weeks. One of them, Omar Daraghmeh, was a senior member of Hamas, according to what Hamas said when it announced his death.


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The prisoners deal and the Palestinian prisoners