Israel detains over 5,000 Palestinians in two weeks amidst ongoing conflicttext_fields
Ramallah: Since the onset of its latest military campaign against Gaza, Israel has substantially increased its detainee population, with the number of Palestinians in custody more than doubling in just two weeks.
Prior to October 7, there were approximately 5,200 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons; however, that number has now surged to exceed 10,000, according to Palestinian officials.
The Israeli parliament on Wednesday reduced the minimum living space allotted to each prisoner. It was previously 3.5 square metres.
In the past fortnight, Israel arrested around 4,000 labourers from Gaza who had been working within Israel and detained them in military facilities. In parallel, over 1,000 other Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have been arrested during nighttime military operations, reported Al Jazeera.
These arrests have been accompanied by widespread reports of severe mistreatment and dismal detention conditions. Detainees have reported starvation, dehydration, lack of access to essential medical care, and even forced cutbacks to water and electricity services in detention facilities.
"We hesitated a lot about holding this press conference addressing yet another chapter of Israeli crimes, on what our male and female prisoners are being exposed to in the occupation’s prisons, for fear of creating tension and anxiety among the families of prisoners, and our Palestinian people in general," said Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Authority’s Commission for Detainees’ Affairs. He also called the recent developments "unprecedented" and "dangerous".
Physical assaults, degrading treatment, restraints causing severe pain, and humiliating group searches are among the abuses suffered by those in Israeli custody. Detainees are isolated from the outside world, with limited contact with family members, restricted access to legal counsel, and decreased meal rations from three to two per day.
"Many of the prisoners have had their limbs, hands, and legs broken … degrading and insulting expressions, insults, cursing, tying them with handcuffs to the back and tightening them at the end to the point of causing severe pain … naked, humiliating and group search of the prisoners," he added.
The increase in arrests in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem has been dramatic, soaring from an average of 15-20 daily arrests during periods of relative calm to a staggering 120 daily arrests since October 7. These arrests are typically executed through surprise military raids on Palestinian homes during the early morning hours, accompanied by property destruction, degrading searches, and verbal and physical abuse.
The current conditions of detained Palestinians, coupled with the rapid expansion of the prisoner population, have raised serious concerns among Palestinian civil rights groups. They have urged the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to play a more active role in monitoring the situation of Palestinian detainees, especially those held in military camps.
Despite claims by the ICRC of ongoing efforts, obstacles imposed by Israel have hindered effective intervention. The recent amendment of Israel's "Unlawful Combatants Law," broadening the scope of arrests and permitting indefinite detention without judicial review, further complicates the situation.