By Sophie Squire
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Israeli prisons deny food, water and medicine

Palestinians released in hostage swap expose horrid conditions of Israeli prisons
Issue 2883
Damon Prison, located on Mount Caramel in Haifa
December 2010

Some prisoners have been released from Damon Prison (Picture: Hanay)

Palestinians returning from Israel talk of horror in the prisons. Laith Othman, a 17 year old from Ramallah was released last week. Soldiers detained him earlier this year on suspicion of throwing an incendiary device.

From the shoulders of supporters that carried him, Othman said, “The feeling of being freed is indescribable. But my happiness is incomplete because many prisoners are left behind.

“The situation inside the jails is really bad. They banned us from leaving the cells. The food was really bad. They kept us hungry.

“They threaten us that if we celebrate upon our release, they will put us back in jail.”

The state has subjected prisoners to even harsher repression since the 7 October attacks, handing over control of prisons to the military. That led to a worsening of already intolerable conditions.

The head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Authority, Qaddoura Fares, said prisoners were being subjected to “starvation and thirst”.

“They are prevented from accessing and obtaining medicine, specific medicines for male and female prisoners suffering from chronic diseases that require and need regular medication,” he said.

He added that physical attacks by prison guards on prisoners had increased, with many inmates reporting broken hands and limbs.

Women in the prison, in Haifa, hit back earlier this month. Guards denied them water and electricity and stopped visitors. Prisoners then threatened hunger strikes if prison guards didn’t restore these.

Shot on way to school then jailed for 8 years

Marah Bakir spent eight years of hell in Israeli jails after being arrested as a teenager.

She spoke out to reporters after her release last week. “It is very difficult to experience freedom and to be released in exchange for the blood of the martyrs of Gaza, and in exchange obtained by the great sacrifices of our people in Gaza,” she said.

Bakir was jailed at just 15 years old in 2015. She was shot by Israeli police on her way home from school, causing permanent damage to her arm and hands.

In a video that went viral at the time, Bakir is seen on the floor in a pool of her blood, surrounded by police officers. The cops then watched her bleed and shouted vile abuse at her as she wept on the floor.

To try and justify their attack on her, officers said Bakir had tried to stab them. Courts then sentenced her to over eight years in prison.

Bakir said authorities denied her surgery, leaving her in constant pain. She was also denied family visits.

While she was still held hostage by the Israelis, Bakir became the elected representative for the women prisoners of Damon prison.

But after the 7 October attacks, prison guards locked her in solitary confinement and stopped her from contacting her family or lawyers.

Sentenced without evidence

Israa Jaabis spent over eight years in prison for a crime the Israeli state had no proof she committed.

In 2015, Jabbis lost control of her car beside the al-Zayyim checkpoint in Jerusalem, leading to an explosion.

The Palestinian prisoner rights group Addameer said a fault in the car had caused a gas cylinder to blow up. But the Israelis never investigated what had happened to Jabbis’ car.

Instead they said that Jabbis had tried to blow herself and the car up by the checkpoint. For over 15 minutes, Jabbis was forced by Israeli soldiers to lie on the pavement beside her car as her body burnt.

In 2018 Jabbis appeared in court to appeal against her sentence. She told the reporters after, “Is there a pain greater than this?

“I don’t receive treatment. I have no fingers. I have been here for two years. I don’t see any justification for why I am here in prison.”

Jaabis was one of those released last week.

Oldest resistance prisoner returns

Hanan Barghouti is the oldest Palestinian prisoner released by Israel. Her family is well known to the resistance.

Her brother Nael is the longest serving Palestinian political prisoner. After her release, she told crowds, “We are the owners of this land, Israel are the terrorists, they are the ones who took our land.

“They’re persecuting us, and that’s how they create resistance inside us.

“Resistance, keep going—despite the bloodshed, despite the destruction, despite the homes that have been destroyed—you’ve given us dignity.” She wore a Hamas headband as she spoke to crowds.

Barghouti was arrested in September of this year. The Israeli Ministry of Justice would only say that she constituted a risk to “state security”.

She was placed in prison without charge or a trial and subject to indefinite extensions to her imprisonment.

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