Mondoweiss / February 10, 2023
Two martyrs were killed by the Israeli colonial system — Ahmad Abu Ali, a political prisoner who died of systematic medical negligence, and Sharif Rabaa, shot to death under the pretext of a stabbing.
On Friday, February 10, Palestinians woke up to news about the death of Ahmad Bader Abu Ali, 48, and a Palestinian prisoner held in the notorious Negev Prison who died from medical negligence.
According to the Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS), Abu Ali had been suffering from various chronic illnesses, which the Israeli Prison Services (IPS) was aware of yet denied Abu Ali the necessary medical treatment, making his death a “slow killing via medical negligence.”
The announcement of Abu Ali’s death came one day after Israeli forces killed another Palestinian, 22-year-old Hassan Rabaa, near the Fawwar refugee camp in the southern West Bank Hebron/Al-Khalil district.
Since the start of the year, 44 Palestinians have been killed. Nine of them were children and minors, and most were non-combatant who were killed during premeditated Israeli assassination operations. Half of them were killed in the span of three days.
The killing of Palestinians inside prisons
A father of nine, Ahmad Bader Abu Ali was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to twelve years in prison. Amjad al-Najjar, the spokesperson for the PPS, also noted that Abu Ali had suffered from diabetes, and had undergone open heart surgery last year while in detention.
According to PPS, there were only two years left of Abu Ali’s prison sentence before his release date.
Abu Ali, from Yatta in the district of Hebron, was moved from the Negev prison where he was being held to Soroka Medical Center at dawn on Friday. He was declared dead later that morning.
With the death of Abu Ali, the number of Palestinians killed inside Israeli prisons since 1967 rose to 235, according to PPS.
Last year, four Palestinians were killed in cases that PPS said displayed evidence of medical negligence by the IPS. The detainees were Nasser Abu Humeid, 50, Ihab al-Kilani, 40, Saadia Farajallah, 68, and Mousa Abu Mahamid, 40.
There are currently more than 600 Palestinian political detainees who suffer from chronic illnesses which require medical treatment and constant medical supervision.
This provision of care is a bare minimum required by occupying authorities and prison services, not only under international law but even within the framework purported by the 1998 Israeli Manual on the Laws of War.
However, rights groups have routinely documented a policy of “deliberate medical negligence” on the part of the IPS inside the prisons, in addition to unsanitary living conditions, poor infrastructure in prisons, and overcrowding in cells.
Surviving the ‘torture chambers‘
On Friday morning, as Abu Ali was transferred to the Soroka Medical Center, all sections of the Negev prison were closed down, and detainees were forced to remain inside their cells.
In the past several months, Palestinian detainees have reported facing collective punishment practices which include isolation, beatings, denial of yard time, and nutritional deprivation. According to PPS, following the election of Israel’s new right-wing government, the IPS escalated its assault on prisoners.
In the Negev, detainees had their personal possessions confiscated and are being denied blankets and warm clothes. The Negev/Naqab dessert, where the prison is located, can, on some nights, drop well below 0 degrees Celsius.
The stories from prisoners in the 80s and 90s of the practices of torture and ill-treatment against Palestinians still ring loudly today.
Between 1967 and 2019, almost 73 Palestinians were killed due to Israeli torture during interrogations, and over the years, Israeli prisons and detention centers have been described by Palestinians as “torture chambers.”
Yossi Peled, the Commander of the Israeli Military in the West Bank in 1993, responded to the accusations by emphasizing that “there is no torture in Israel. I served for 30 years in the IDF and I know what I am talking about.” And more recently, Israeli Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has been working to end what he has called “hotel conditions” for Palestinian prisoners. The Minister has even called for the death penalty.
In addition to these measures, Israel has criminalized any financial support to prisoners or their families, further pushing communities deeper into poverty and financial precarity.
Yet since 2018, conditions for Palestinian prisoners have steadily worsened, as prisoners have gone on several hunger strikes to protest their deteriorating conditions. Gilad Erdan, then Israeli Minister of Public Security, called for actively limiting Palestinian rights “to determine ways in which conditions can be reduced to a bare minimum.”
There are more than 4,700 Palestinian political detainees, including 130 children and minors, and 835 who are being held arbitrarily, with no charge or trial. Almost 1,300 of Palestinian detainees are imprisoned in the Negev.
On Thursday, February 9, Israeli forces opened fire on a Palestinian driver near the Fawwar refugee camp. The young man was identified as 22-year-old Sharif Hassan Rabaa, who succumbed to his wounds later in the day.
Quoting Palestinian security sources, WAFA News Agency reported that Israeli forces “stopped a Palestinian vehicle and opened fire at its driver,” critically injuring him before arresting him.
The Israeli army claimed that Rabaa “tried to stab one of the soldiers” positioned at a checkpoint in the area, and that “the force fired and neutralized him.”
In a separate incident on Thursday, Israeli soldiers in a military vehicle rammed and injured a Palestinian near the Jalameh military checkpoint near Jenin, in the northern West Bank. The young man was on his motorcycle when Israeli forces chased him and “deliberately” rammed and injured the young man, according to WAFA.
On Friday morning, an Israeli settler ran over a Palestinian youth near Qalqas, south of Hebronl. The man was hospitalized and is in stable condition. As of the time of writing, no reports have surfaced regarding the identity or whereabouts of the settler that attacked him.
Mariam Barghouti is the Senior Palestine Correspondent for Mondoweiss