Palestinians in Israeli prisons

Palestine Update 325

Palestinians in Israeli prisons

“The Israeli security wants to leave a mark on the psyche of those it detains: resistance has a price, and it is hefty,” Qadura Faris, head of the Prisoner Society. 95 percent of Palestinian prisoners in Israel experience ill-treatment or torture during their detention and interrogation.

Palestinians in Israeli prisons Palestinians who are routinely accused by Israel of offenses against Israel and their treatment contravenes international law. The situation of these Palestinians in Israeli prisons — including many who die in custody has led to tense, large-scale protests and a number of hunger strikes. Palestinian prisoners in Israel are subject to prolonged solitary confinement, torture, detention without charge and other violations of their rights. Palestinians in Israeli prisons are continually subjected to ill-treatment and denied the most basic prisoners’ rights stipulated in the Fourth Geneva Convention1. While Israel argues that these prisoners were involved in or suspected of offences against the State of Israel, a majority are being held without charges or trial. The Palestinians held in Israel have been detained or arrested for reasons linked to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The Palestinians held in Israeli prisons constitute a special category, and many international observers define all of these detainees as ‘political prisoners’. However they are defined, their treatment should spur the international community to action.

The issue of Israel’s Palestinians prisoners is not only a legal and human rights matter, but is a central issue for any serious peace transaction. Given the ongoing ill-treatment and unlawful detention, compounded by the precarious health of hunger-striking prisoners, decisive action must be taken to ensure Israel complies with its international legal obligations.

Under Israel’s ‘Unlawful Combatants Law’, military authorities may detain Palestinians indefinitely without charge once they are designated an ‘unlawful combatant’. Military authorities may also ban all visits (including lawyers’) for Palestinian prisoners, impose indefinite isolation and solitary confinement, refuse parole, deny rights, impose restrictions for security reasons, and continue to detain the prisoners after they have their sentence is complete. According to the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), ‘Israel does not recognize Palestinian prisoners as having the status of prisoners of war’. Israel classifies Palestinians imprisoned in Israel as ‘Security Prisoners’ – meaning they have been apprehended on security grounds.

Ranjan Solomon

Israel breaches law, transfers Palestiniian children from prisons
Israel is currently detaining 200 Palestinian minors in Ofer, Damoun, and Megiddo.
The transfer, common for adults but unusual for children, was slammed by Palestinian activists and rights groups as illegal and dangerous.

Israeli Prison Service (IPS) transferred Monday 34 Palestinian children from Ofer prison in Ramallah to Damoun in Haifa without any stated reason and without the presence of adults to represent them. The transfer, common for adults but unusual for child detainees, was slammed by Palestinian activists and rights organizations as illegal and dangerous.

“This move puts the minors at risk of abusive measures by the IPS in the absence of their adult overseers,” the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) said. It also breaches the law that states prisoners under the age of 18 cannot be moved from one prison to another without at least an adult representing them, a researcher at the Palestinian Prisoners’ Center for Studies Amina al-Tawil said. “In addition to the risk of being physically abused by Israeli forces, this transfer puts the lives of these Palestinian children in danger.”

Israel vows to ‘worsen’ conditions for Palestinian prisoners
People gather in front of International Committee of the Red Cross office in Gaza City to show their support to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails [File: Anadolu Agency]

Planned moves unveiled by Israeli security minister include limiting water supplies and cutting number of family visits.

Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has announced plans to “worsen” conditions for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, including rationing water supplies and reducing the number of family visits. The planned moves, which are expected to come into force in the coming weeks after being approved by the Israeli cabinet, were sharply criticised by Palestinian leaders and activists who described as them as another escalation of human rights violations by Israel. Erdan said the plan will also see jails removing cooking rights and limiting prisoners’ access to television as well as blocking funds to the Palestinian Authority. The minister said that family visits had already been halted for prisoners affiliated with the Palestinian movement Hamas.

“The plan also includes preventing members of the Knesset [Israel’s parliament] from visiting Palestinian detainees,” added Erdan, who last year set up a committee to make prison conditions harsher for those who “committed acts of terrorism”. The policy of separating Hamas prisoners from those affiliated with rival Palestinian faction Fatah will also come to an end, as Erdan said that holding inmates in cells based on organizational affiliation resulted in “strengthening their organization identity”.

Statistics on Palestinians in the custody of the Israeli security forces
At the end of November 2019, there were at least 4,638 Palestinian security detainees and prisoners being held in Israel Prison Service (IPS) facilities, including 303 from the Gaza Strip.* Another 488 Palestinians, 10 of them from the Gaza Strip, were in IPS prisons for being in Israel illegally. The IPS classifies these Palestinians – both detainees and prisoners – criminal offenders.

The following figures were provided by the military and the IPS, so responsibility for their accuracy lies with them.

Click to see full chart

* The diagram represents the number of inmates on a given day in December of each year, according to figures we received for that day, as detailed in the tables below. We do not have figures available for the overall number of Palestinians in custody in a given month.

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For further information please contact Eyal Sagiv by e-mail at:

Addameer collects hard evidence on torture and ill-treatment committed against Palestinian detainees duringIsraeli interrogation

Since its creation, the occupying state developed and enforced laws and practices that led to both the systematic use of torture and to absolute impunity for the perpetrator of this crime. There has never been any individual or agency held accountable for the well-documented crimes of torture and ill-treatment at Israeli prisons and interrogation centers. The occupation authorities, in particular, the Israeli intelligence agency “Shabak” resorts to torture and ill-treatment as standard operating procedure in a systematic and wide-scale approach against Palestinian detainees. Over the past three months, the intelligence agency subjected a number of detainees at Israeli interrogation centers to severe physical and psychological torture without any form of monitoring and protection.

Addameer has hard evidence on the crimes of torture and ill-treatment committed against a number of detainees held at interrogation centers since late August 2019. Addameer was banned from publishing any of the details of torture prior to this date, due to a gag order issued by the Israeli Court of First Instance in Jerusalem.

On 10 September 2019, a gag order was issued on a number of cases under interrogation at al-Mascobiyya interrogation center. Hence, preventing the public, including Addameer the legal representative, from publishing any information regarding these cases. The gag order was issued based on a request from the Israeli intelligence agency and Israeli police and was renewed multiple times. Despite the gag order, Israeli media outlets and the Israeli intelligence agency published information to the public about some of those cases. This inconsistent enforcement of the gag order, where the Israeli sources exercised the freedom to publish, can only be understood as a means to influence public opinion. Most importantly, the issuance of this gag order is an attempt to hide crimes committed against the detainees and prevent the public and the legal representatives from exposing the details of the crimes of torture and ill-treatment that were committed against the detainees in question throughout the past months.

Torture at Israeli interrogation centers 

According to Israeli military laws, a detainee can be held in interrogation for a total period of 75 days without receiving any official charges. According to these same laws, a detainee can be banned from meeting his/her lawyer for a total period of 60 days. Those detainees, in particular, were held for extremely long periods of interrogation, and were also banned from lawyers’ visits and legal consultation. The periods of the ban on meeting the lawyers ranged from 30 to 45 days in some cases. During the interrogations, the detainees suffered from different forms of both physical and psychological torture. The methods used against them included, but were not limited to harsh beating, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, stress positions, the denial of basic hygiene needs, sexual harassment, threatening and intensive psychological torture including the use of family members and/or other detainees. The used threats included threats of rape, torture, and revocation of residency. The severe torture and humiliation these detainees suffered from, led to injuries, broken bones, fainting, vomiting, and bleedings from different parts of the body (nose, mouth, hands, legs and genital area). In addition, the detainees also suffered from the false assessment made by doctors at the interrogation centers, whom almost in all cases stated that the detainees are qualified for interrogations denying the clear signs of torture.
For further description of some of the torture techniques see more: