Fri 01 Mar 2024 8:53 pm - Jerusalem Time

Israeli prisons are overflowing with Palestinian prisoners and impeding new arrests

The Israeli General Security Service (Shin Bet) attributed the release of a number of administratively detained Palestinian prisoners, in a surprise move on Thursday night to Friday, to the overcrowding of the Israeli prisons with prisoners and the lack of space for new detainees.

The Shin Bet and the Israeli army released dozens of Palestinian detainees from Ofer Prison suddenly, and without prior notification, “following an assessment of the situation by various security agencies,” according to a joint statement issued by them.

The statement explained this step by “the lack of space inside the prisons,” and that the released detainees were to end their detention period next month, and thus this step allows “to provide space for detainees who pose a greater threat.”

The extremist Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben Gvir, denied the story of the Shin Bet and the army, and said in a statement issued by his office that “the administrative detainees who were released last night were not released, due to the lack of space in the prisons, but rather based on direct instructions from the head of the Shin Bet on the eve of the month of Ramadan. The prison authority has no considerations in the matter."

Ben Gvir added: “It is disturbing that on the day two Jews were killed (referring to the killing of Israeli settlers in the Eli settlement yesterday, Thursday), the head of the Shin Bet chose to honor the killers, and this is one day after the Shin Bet requested to extend the administrative detention of a Jewish settler for the second time.” .

Meanwhile, on Friday, Hebrew Channel 12 reported the response of unnamed Israeli security officials to Ben Gvir’s statements.

The officials stressed that the Shin Bet and the army "were forced in the last week to cancel the arrests (of Palestinians) they had planned on the eve of Ramadan, and then backed off, due to the lack of places to arrest and detain them in light of the war."

The channel's sources explained that "the prisoners who were liberated are administrative prisoners, and there was no intention to extend their detention again, but rather to release them within the next month."

The sources opposed what the Minister of National Security published, stressing that the release of detainees has nothing to do with the month of Ramadan. “This matter was clarified during the meeting of the Ministerial Council for Political and Security Affairs (cabinet).”

The sources stated, "The Shin Bet and the army warned some time ago about the lack of space in Israeli prisons and its impact on carrying out arrests and thwarting operations (against Israeli targets). The Israeli National Security Council also called on the Ministry of National Security to work to provide solutions."

Administrative detainees are held in Israeli prisons without indictments being filed against them, while the procedures against them are defined as preventive arrests to prevent them from committing a certain act, under the pretext of the existence of intelligence information, which is not disclosed to them or to the lawyers who represent them, and there are no procedures to provide evidence in their cases in Courts, and lawyers are not informed of the evidence except for a summary limited to a few sentences reviewing the suspicions that the occupation authorities attribute to the detainees.

Earlier last February, the Israeli Public Prosecution Office published a report on the conditions in Israeli prison cells after the war.

The report indicated that there is an unprecedented crisis in prisons, where detainees and prisoners, both criminal and security, are crammed with great density and living conditions and places that are not suitable for humans and violate the rights of detainees and prisoners.

The Israeli army launched a massive arrest campaign in the West Bank since the start of the war on Gaza on October 7, resulting in the arrest of thousands, raising the number of prisoners currently in the Israeli prisons to nearly 9,000.

The report is based on visits made by lawyers to prison facilities during December 2023.

It pointed to poor sanitary conditions, lack of hygiene, the presence of pests and lack of basic things.

The report stated: “We believe that it is not possible to accept the reality of detaining thousands of detainees and prisoners in inhumane living conditions for an ever-increasing period of time, especially since many of the prisoners and detainees are among the population affected by the war.”


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Israeli prisons are overflowing with Palestinian prisoners and impeding new arrests