Palestinians mark Prisoners’ Day amid tensions in Jerusalem | News from the occupied West Bank
Gaza City – Dozens of people gathered outside the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the besieged Gaza Strip to demand that Israel immediately release the Palestinian prisoners.
Sunday’s protest was one of many held in the occupied Palestinian territories to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, an occasion when Palestinians traditionally show solidarity with those held in Israeli jails.
More than 4,400 Palestinians are currently held in Israeli jails. More than 500 detainees, including women and minors, are held in “administrative detention”, under which suspects are held without charge or trial for an indefinite period.
Samira al-Haj Ahmad, 56, who goes by the name Umm Raed, has joined annual protests and participated in weekly solidarity sit-ins for the past 17 years.
His son Raed al-Hajj Ahmad is being held in Nafha, a prison in Israel‘s Naqab (Negev) region. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2004 after attempting an attack at the Beit Hanoun (Erez) checkpoint in northern Gaza.
“The suffering of our sons in Israeli prisons continues, the harsh conditions and the mistreatment inflicted by the jailers,” she told Al Jazeera, holding the photo of Raed.
“My son’s flower of youth went to prison. He was only 20 when he was detained, he is now 38,” she said. “Every month of Ramadan we miss him at the iftar table, our lives have no taste without him.”
Other events to mark the day took place in the districts of Ramallah, Nablus and Hebron in the occupied West Bank, where participants demonstrated and held up banners to show their solidarity with the prisoners.
This year’s Prisoners’ Day comes after more than 300 Palestinians were arrested and at least 160 injured when Israeli forces raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday.
“Every day dozens of young men are arrested, as we saw two days ago in Jerusalem and the West Bank,” Um Raed said.
“No one cares how many prisoners Israel holds. Everyone must work for the release of all our young people detained by Israel. »
According to the rights group Addameer, 12 of the 32 Palestinian women detained in Israeli prisons are mothers, and around 160 Palestinian children between the ages of 12 and 17 are in Israeli detention.
Former prisoner Fatima al-Ziq, 52, told Al Jazeera that the prisoner issue should be a top priority for Palestinian leaders and political factions.
“Based on my past experience, I lived my most difficult days in Israeli prisons. The prison service used all measures of psychological and physical torture against us,” she said.
“Policies of denial of family visits, solitary confinement, administrative detention are still used against prisoners.”
Al-Ziq was arrested in May 2007 when she was two months pregnant at the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing, accused of attempting to carry out an attack in Israel. She then gave birth to her son Yousef in an Israeli prison.
She and her son were released along with 19 other Palestinian women under a 2009 deal between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian faction that rules Gaza. As part of the deal, Hamas produced a so-called “proof of life” video of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been held captive for more than three years and Israel released the female prisoners.
Um Ibrahim Baroud, 82, is the mother of Ibrahim Baroud, who was released in April 2013 after spending 27 years in Israeli prisons.
“My suffering while waiting for my son to be released made me feel like the mother of every prisoner,” she told Al Jazeera.
“All the prisoners are my sons and I pray every day for their release. No one feels the pain of the prisoner and his family except the one who tasted this cup,” she said.
In 1995, Umm Ibrahim co-founded a weekly sit-in for the families of Palestinian prisoners opposite ICRC headquarters with the aim of raising awareness about the plight of Palestinian prisoners. Until today, people continue to gather at the site every Monday morning.
“I had this idea with the mother of another prisoner. We wanted to make sure our sons were not forgotten,” she said.
“There were only two of us in front of the ICRC the first time – but we knew that next week we would be three or four, then, little by little, other mothers joined us,” she said.
Umm Ibrahim called for the release of Palestinian prisoners and an end to Israel’s punitive measures against them.
“The international community should act to end the brutal policies of administrative detention, detention of children and release those sentenced to heavy sentences.”