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Rami Almeghari

Palestinian prisoners to fight new Israeli jail restrictions

Palestinians in the occupied territories have been engaged in various forms of resistance [AFP]

Date of publication: 18 January, 2019

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Showers are to be limited, and political rivals housed together, writes Rami Almeghari.
Um Ahmad Alzahar, the mother of Palestinian prisoner from Gaza, has been unable to visit her son, Ahmad Alzahar, for the past three years.

In 2003, Ahmad was sentenced to 20 years in prison for actions against the Israeli army.
 He was suspected of preparing to attack an Israeli settlement that was later evacuated in 2005, when Israel officially withdrew from Gaza.

The 65-year-old mother is getting more and more worried for her son after Israeli Public Security Minister Gil'ad Erdan announced a package of restrictions for more than 6,000 Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails.

At her home in Gaza City's Tal-Alhawa neighbourhood, Um Ahmad's tears roll down her face, a portrait of her imprisoned son by her side. She speaks with bitterness about the latest plan.

"Even the Arab states have not [spoken out] about such suffering of our imprisoned sons," the mother of four sons told The New Arab.

"What are the Arabs waiting for? Are they waiting for the moment that the prisoners return back to their homes in coffins? I desperately need my son back; I need to talk to him about my life, our bad conditions. I swear by God, I need him so badly."

In early January, Erdan said "the party" was over for Palestinian prisoners. Showers were to be be limited and prisoners from the Fatah movement would be housed with bitter rivals from the Islamist Hamas movement.

Among other planned measures is restricting access to funds provided to prisoners by the Palestinian Authority.

The Israeli internal security apparatus known as Shin Bet, expressed reservations over about the announcement, fearing violence.
We are confident that the prisoners themselves will be able to defy any measures that might harm their dignity and humanity
The Hamas-led Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs says the planned restrictions are unlikely to go into effect.

"We are quite certain that the real battle will be inside the prisons themselves and therefore, we are confident that the prisoners themselves will be able to defy any measures that might harm their dignity and humanity," Islam Abdo, the ministry's spokesperson, told The New Arab.

Abdo downplayed the new restrictions, citing previous prisoner actions including hunger strikes and protests which helped improve conditions inside Israel's jails.

Commenting to The New Arab about the Israeli plan, Waleed Alagha, who spent 13 years inside Israeli prisons, including the infamous Ramon prison, said that before he was released in late 2015, he experienced similar Israeli measures. He also said that relations between Hamas and Fatah prisoners is based on mutual respect and care.

"In 2014, they imposed one hour out of the cells per day. By then, we, the prisoners, practiced a great deal of pressure on the prison's service, until they allowed us to take one hour out, three times per day. So, we had three times out; one in the morning, a second in the middle of the day and a third in the evening," said Alagha, formerly linked ot the Hamas movement.

The prisons' service is always keen to avoid confrontation with Palestinian prisoners, he added.

In the Gaza Strip, the Almizan Center for Human Rights said such Israeli restrictions on prisoners had been in place for a long time. Among those restrictions is the denial of family visits for 160 Hamas and Islamic Jihad-linked prisoners, for the fourth year in row.

The centre denounced the newly announced restrictions, and called on international human rights organisations to move against them.

"Legally, we are rejecting such new Israeli violations against prisoners. We consider them grave violations of international humanitarian law," said Almizan lawyer Samir Mana'ma. "We demand an immediate halt to such violations in a way that would protect the Palestinian prisoners and respect the rules of international law."
Imagine your child has been away from you for many years and you have been unable to even see him?
Israel's policy of detention of Palestinians has been implemented since the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem were occupied in 1967.

Since then, Palestinians in the occupied territories have been engaged in various forms of resistance against the Israeli military occupation. Their resistance has involved both violent and non-violent actions.

The Palestinian people honour Palestinian prisoners for the resistance role they have taken against the Israeli occupation. When Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation signed the Oslo declaration of principles in Washington, back in 1993, the plight of prisoners was one of the main contentious issues in negotiations between the two sides.

Israel holds approximately 6,500 Palestinians, including 230 children and 54 women.
 Among them are 360 prisoners from Gaza.

"I would rather address all other women, including Israeli ones," said Um Ahmad Alzahar. "Imagine your child has been away from you for many years and you have been unable to even see him?"

Rami Almeghari is a Palestinian freelance journalist living and working in Gaza. 

Follow him on Twitter: @writeralmeghari

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