Middle East Monitor / March 24, 2020
The Arab League today has called on the international community to urge Israeli authorities to release Palestinian detainees held in Israeli jails amid fears of the spread of coronavirus.
Fears of a coronavirus outbreak in prisons holding Palestinian detainees were compounded following confirmation from the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) that at least four Palestinian prisoners in Megiddo Prison have tested positive for COVID-19.
Saeed Abu Ali, the Arab League’s assistant secretary-general for Palestine affairs and occupied Arab territories, said in a press statement that the rules of international humanitarian law in light of the pandemic have become more urgent to pressure the Israeli authorities to save the lives of more than 5,000 prisoners.
Israel’s prison authorities have imposed restrictions on Palestinian detainees, cancelling previously agreed rights after the prison’s canteens stopped supplying prisoners with 140 products, including cleaning products which are a grave necessity in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak – particularly amid the crowded cells that already lack basic health standards.
In addition, Palestinian prisoners are being denied visits by their families and lawyers under the pretext of coronavirus measures.
Abu Ali also held Israeli authorities responsible for the lives of Palestinian prisoners, stressing that the international community must assume its responsibilities to ensure their release, and obligate authorities to the rules of international law, especially the release of the most vulnerable prisoners, including the sick and the elderly.
As an act of protest against the negligence of the Israeli prison administration, Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails rejected their meals today and closed their sections, reported Wafa News Agency.
The PPS added that the escalation will take place in the three prisons of Ofer, Negev, and Nafha, where hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are “languishing.”
According to official statistics, the number of Palestinian prisoners behind bars has reached 5,000, including 180 children and 43 women. Some 430 are administrative detainees, a procedure which allows Israel to imprison them without charge or trial for an indefinite period.
Rights groups say dozens are in need of medical care, with many suffering from serious or chronic illnesses.