On Wednesday, September 8, in a move defying all established human rights norms, Israeli security forces arrested five relatives of the six Palestinians who escaped from the Gilboa prison in the occupied West Bank on Monday.
According to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society, Israel launched a large scale inspection and detention campaign in villages and towns in the occupied West Bank. The occupation forces barged into several Palestinian villages and raided the houses of family members and relatives of the escapees late in the night on Wednesday.
Palestinian health minister Mai al-Kaila issued a statement condemning the arrests after one of the employees of her ministry, Nedal Arda. She appealed to the international community and human rights groups to intervene and secure the release of the prisoners, saying that “the Israeli occupation deliberately inflicts violence on the Palestinian people in violation of international norms, laws and conventions,” Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.
Palestinians at different places in the occupied West Bank carried out protests against the arrests and the increased repression against the remaining Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails.
Across the occupied West Bank, Palestinians rise up against Israeli escalation of violence against Palestinian political prisoners in Israel's colonial jails in the aftermath of the successful escape of 6 prisoners from Israel's colonial jail of Gilboa on Monday. pic.twitter.com/qstqFlhT83
— Stop The Wall (@stopthewall) September 9, 2021
Palestinian human rights group Samidoun started a campaign in support of the escapees and asked progressive sections across the world to take action against the Israeli occupation forces that are using the prisoners’ escape to increase repression against Palestinians.
Prisoner escape a major embarrassment for Israel
The escape of the prisoners on Monday was a major embarrassment to the Israeli occupation. The six Palestinians – Yaqoub Mahmoud Qadri, 49, Zakariye Zubeidi, 46, Mahmoud Abdullah Ardah, 46, Yaqoub Qassem, 39, Ayham Nayef Kamamji, 35, and Monadel Yacoub Nafe’at, 26 – imprisoned in Israel’s high security Gilboa prison escaped by digging a tunnel. Five of these prisoners were members of Islamic Jihad movement and the sixth was a member of Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyr’s brigade. Some of them were serving life sentences.
Israeli prison authorities have increased monitoring inside its prisons and have been carrying out various punitive measures against the other prisoners in Gilboa and other prisons across the occupied territories in what the Palestinians are calling as revenge. Israel forcibly transferred some of the remaining 350 Palestinian prisoners in Gilboa to its other prisons.
Human rights group Addameer, in a statement issued on Wednesday, called measures like preventing prisoners from meeting each other as a form of collective punishment, illegal according to article 33 of the fourth Geneva Convention. It also accused the Israeli prison authorities of collaborating with Israel’s notorious security agency Shin Bet in carrying out various forms of torture, including physical assault, beatings and other violations, against some Palestinian prisoners to extract information about the escapes.
Palestinian prisoners in different Israeli jails held demonstrations on Thursday against the brutal measures adopted by the Israeli prison authorities following the escape. The Palestinian Information Center reported that Palestinian prisoners strongly reacted to prison guards trying to stop their demonstrations at several places, leading to violent confrontations inside some prisons.