Before the strike on October 7, when the Palestinian armed resistance group Hamas began an attack on Israel, which almost immediately replied with a merciless bombing campaign, there were approximately 5,200 Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons.
More than 10,000 individuals are currently detained, according to information released by Palestinian officials on Thursday afternoon.
Authorities and human rights organizations report that in the last two weeks, Israel has detained and imprisoned some 4,000 laborers from Gaza who were employed there at military outposts. Separately, it has also arrested 1,070 other Palestinians in overnight army raids in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
“Arrests are taking place 24 hours a day,” Sahar Francis, head of the Ramallah-based Addameer prisoners’ rights group, told news reporters.
Most of the people from Gaza are being held at a military base called Sde Teyman, near Beer al-Sabe (Be’er Sheva) in the southern Naqab desert, she said.
Hundreds of others are being held in Ofer prison near Ramallah, and in the Anatot military camp near the village of Anata in occupied East Jerusalem.
Palestinian lawyers and officials have highlighted the severe mistreatment and dire conditions under which detainees are being arrested and held.
Qadura Fares, the head of the Palestinian Authority’s Commission for Detainees’ Affairs, described recent developments involving inmates as “unprecedented” and “dangerous” during a press conference on Thursday afternoon in Ramallah.
For fear of inciting tension and anxiety among the families of prisoners and our Palestinian people in general, we hesitated a great deal before holding this press conference discussing yet another chapter of Israeli crimes, on what our male and female prisoners are being exposed to in the occupation’s prisons,” Fares said.
He said that conditions worsened “when the prison administration cut off water and electricity.” “Prisoners are subjected to starvation and thirst; they are prevented from accessing their medicine, specifically for those suffering from chronic illnesses that require regular medication,” he stated.
Addameer also reported the prevention of access to medical care. “They also shut down the prison clinics, and also prevented prisoners from going to hospitals and external clinics, despite the presence of some cancer patients among the prisoners who require continuous treatment,” said the rights group.
“The most dangerous thing” over the past few days, continued Fares, was “physical attacks” and degrading treatment. “Everyone who is arrested is assaulted.
“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 said.
About 6,000 Palestinians are detained in Israeli jails and detention facilities, in addition to the 4,000 people who live in the Gaza Strip, the majority of whom are housed at the Sde Teyman military camp.
Most of the 5,200 people imprisoned prior to October 7 are from East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.
However, during military raids in those locations conducted overnight, the Israeli army has arrested an additional 1,070 Palestinians in the last two weeks.
15 to 20 persons are detained every day throughout the 56-year military occupation of Israel’s “calm” times. However, Palestinian officials claim that since October 7, the number of Palestinians arrested each day in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem has increased to 120.
The arrests take place through surprise military raids on Palestinian homes at dawn, humiliating searches of family members and their homes, destruction of property and belongings, as well as verbal and physical abuse.
Francis said that Palestinians being held inside Israeli prisons and detention centres are “cut off from the world”.
She clarified, “There’s no regular lawyer visits, no yard time, no contact with their families.”
In addition, Israeli authorities have restricted the number of meals to two a day instead of three and closed canteens, which are essential for purchasing necessities like toothpaste.
The minimum living area assigned to each prisoner, which was previously set at 3.5 square meters, can now be reduced for a period of three months, according to a plan passed by the Israeli parliament, known as the Knesset, on Wednesday. This is to accommodate the growing number of inmates.
In a press conference by Palestinian civil rights groups on Tuesday in Ramallah, Addameer called on the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to “abide by its responsibilities” as the sole authorised international organisation monitoring the situation of Palestinian detainees, and called on the group to visit them, particularly those from Gaza in military camps.
“We are not seeing any real pressure from the ICRC,” Francis told news channels. “They say that they are trying but Israel is preventing them, but that’s not an excuse. Too much time has passed.”
Human rights organizations claim that Israel is relocating the detainees from various locations under various legal pretenses.
The “Unlawful Combatants Law,” which permits police to jail Palestinians indefinitely without meaningful judicial scrutiny, is being used to hold Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who were caught within Israel.
“Anyone who has participated either directly or indirectly in hostile acts against the State of Israel, or is a member of a force perpetrating hostile acts against the State of Israel,” according to the law, is considered a “unlawful combatant.”
Israel changed the law on October 13th, making it simpler to detain Palestinians on the basis of mere suspicion. Some of the provisions include “expanding the scope of those entitled to issue arrest warrants to include generals and those of lower rank”.
In the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Unlawful Combatants Law is the equivalent of administrative detention and permits Israel to detain Palestinians from those regions for an indeterminate period of time based on “secret evidence.”
Francis stated that the majority of the 1,070 persons who have been detained in those locations since October 7 are being moved to administrative detention.
Francis claimed, “They are approving dozens of administrative detention orders every day.”
On October 7, Israel initiated its most recent bombardment on Gaza in response to a surprise strike by Hamas on Israeli territory, just outside the confined enclave. Israeli officials claim that at least 1,400 people have died in Israel so far.
Since then, Israel’s retaliatory bombardment has killed at least 4,137 Palestinians in Gaza, including 1,524 children, while 81 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank.