Israeli occupation forces have arrested 357 Palestinians, including 48 children and four women, last month amid coronavirus fears, human rights groups found.
In a joint report, the organisations pointed out that the number of Palestinians held in Israeli jails has reached about 5,000, including 41 women, nearly 180 children, and up to 430 administrative detainees, by the end of March 2020.
Last month, 92 administrative orders, either to hold Palestinians indefinitely without a charge or trial for the first time or to renew the arrest of Palestinians held in administrative detention, were issued, the groups continued.
The advocacy groups sounded the alarm over the wellbeing of the Palestinians held in the overcrowded Israeli prisons amid COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with Israeli prison service’s failure to take precautionary measures against the deadly virus, raising the spectre of the infection of large numbers of Palestinian prisoners, especially after the Israeli prison administration announced that two prison guards tested positive for coronavirus and others were put in quarantine.
Israeli prison service has enforced suppressive measures against the Palestinian detainees, including denying them of several kinds of products, especially cleaning supplies.
In March, four Palestinian prisoners were quarantined in the so-called “Ramla prison clinic”, as it was thought that they had contracted the novel virus after a COVID-19 case was detected in the “Petah Tikva” interrogation centre.
The human and prisoner rights groups confirmed that no samples had been taken from the four detainees for coronavirus testing but their temperatures were recorded only twice a day.
In spite of the dangers of COVID-19 outbreaks, Israeli occupation forces carry out arrest campaigns against Palestinian civilians on a daily basis, added the groups.
Since the first week of March, the Israeli prison service has cancelled family and lawyer visits, claiming that it was a precautionary measure against the coronavirus pandemic, and delayed all court hearings, just as it did for many Palestinians held for interrogation or those who have not faced charges yet, and barred the detainees from meeting their lawyers face to face but via phone calls.
As the world is battling the coronavirus pandemic, approximately 5,000 Palestinian detainees, 700 of them are sick, are held in inhumane, unhealthy detention conditions amid fears of a potential COVID-19 outbreak among them.
In light of the harsh medical conditions from which the Palestinian detainees are suffering, fears that many prisoners may contract the novel virus, especially the sick detainees, deepens, as the Israeli prison administration refuses to take any preventative measures and provide the detainees with cleaning and medical supplies.
Since 1967, 222 Palestinian detainees have died in Israeli jails, 67 of them due to a deliberate policy of medical negligence, which is one of the suppressive policies the Israeli prison service has adopted against the Palestinian prisoners.
Some of the sick detainees have died because of this policy short time after being released from Israeli prisons, such as Naim al- Shawamreh and Zuhair Lebada, which raises questions about how the sick prisoners face their harsh detention conditions compounded by the COVID-19 virus.
The human rights organisations have renewed their calls for an immediate intervention to release Palestinian detainees, especially the sick and elderly prisoners alongside children and administrative detainees, and a neutral international commission to be formed to check on the detainees’ health and safety.
The groups called on the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to play a more effective role in contacting the Palestinian detainees and their families and placing pressure on the Israeli prison service to take preventative measures against the COVID-19 pandemic and establish a channel of communication between the detainees and their families.