Gaza ceasefire shines light on thousands of Palestinians captive in Israel

Hamas and Israel reached a Qatar-mediated ceasefire deal on 22 November, which will see Palestinians held captive in Israeli prisons exchanged for Israelis held captive in Gaza by Hamas. 

In a statement, Hamas announced that there is to be a “release of 50 women and children of the occupation detainees under the age of 19, in exchange for the release of 150 women and children of our people from the occupation prisons under the age of 19.”

The women held by Israel include Ahed Tamimi, 22, who was rearrested two weeks ago. She was first imprisoned for eight months in 2018 at the age of 17 for slapping an Israeli soldier who had invaded her village in the occupied West Bank. Earlier that day, Israeli soldiers had shot her cousin with rubber bullets. 

Following the 7 October Hamas attack, Israeli officials accused her of posting a threat referencing Adolf Hitler on social media, but her family said the post was not hers and was fabricated.

Currently, 7,000 Palestinians are being held captive in Israeli prisons, up from about 5,000 before 7 October, according to the Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer. That includes more than 2,000 people held in “administrative detention,” meaning they are being held indefinitely without charges. Some Palestinians have been held in administrative detention for years, and even decades.

Wafa news agency reported that six Palestinians in administrative detention have died in Israeli prisons in recent weeks, including Omar Daraghmeh, a senior member of Hamas.

One reason for the Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October, in which the resistance group took 240 Israeli soldiers and civilians captive, was to win the release of the thousands of Palestinians held captive in Israel.  

Addameer says that about 200 boys, most of them teenagers, were in Israeli captivity as of this week, along with about 75 women and five teenage girls. Before 7 October, about 150 boys and 30 women and girls were in Israeli prisons, it said, and since then, many other detentions have occurred, as well as many releases.

There are also about 700 people missing from Gaza who are believed to be in Israeli prisons, said Tala Nasir, a spokeswoman for Addameer.

The Israeli military has said that it has abducted 300 people in Gaza during the ground invasion, claiming they are connected to Hamas or other Palestinian resistance groups, and that they “were brought into Israeli territory for further interrogations.”

Israel has been abducting Palestinian males as they travel, typically by foot, to southern Gaza with their families to the so-called safe zones amid continued Israeli bombing.

This included the well-known poet, Mosab Abu Toha, who was taken to a detention center in the Negev desert in southern Israel. He was freed two days later, likely because of public pressure, as he has written for prominent publications like The New Yorker magazine.

“He was interrogated and he was actually beaten,” a friend of Abut Toha told the New York Times. “They hit him in the stomach. They hit him in the face several times.”

Through the abductions and interrogations, the Israeli military is seeking to gain information about the locations of underground tunnels, warehouses and weapons in Gaza, it claims.

Conditions for the Palestinians in Israeli prisons have worsened following 7 October.

One prisoner wrote in a letter published by Mondoweiss that, “The policies of slow death by Zionist colonialists are no longer a metaphor for the constant targeting of prisoners, whether in cells, interrogation centers, or in prisons. Rather, these have become part of a tangible reality, practiced daily and in various ways against all prisoners, including systematic torture and severe beatings.”

“These practices include shooting rubber bullets and forcing new prisoners taken to Shin Bet and police interrogations to bend their backs and heads in an extreme manner. Whoever does not comply with these instructions is subjected to severe beatings!” he added.

Source: The cradle

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