June 23, 2014
The Israel Defense Forces plans to issue about 200 new administrative detention orders to Palestinians detained during the operation to find and free the three teenagers kidnapped 10 days ago in Gush Etzion. About 100 of the detention orders have already been signed by IDF officers.
There are about 200 prisoners in Israeli prisons today under administrative detention, 80 of whom are conducting a hunger strike in protest over their detention. The additional 200 prisoners will make it the highest number since July 2009.
Alongside the efforts to find the abducted teens, the authorities are dealing with some 400 Palestinians detained as part of the operation against Hamas. In addition to 30 detainees who are being interrogated intensively because it is suspected they have information pertinent to the abduction, the rest of the detainees are sitting in their cells and not being questioned at all, said lawyers involved in the cases.
Last Thursday, the military prosecutors began bringing the detainees to a military court, in the Ofer base near Ramallah. The hearings revealed that the IDF wants to issue administrative detention orders against half of them. Because of the heavy workload, the military prosecutors asked the court to extend the remand of all the prisoners until the relevant proceedings can be completed.
The IDF is also preparing to return a significant number of Palestinian prisoners freed in the Gilad Shalit deal to prison. A military judicial committee can return any of the prisoners who violated their conditions of release, or committed another crime, based on confidential and administrative evidence.
Until now, the IDF has announced that it would ask the committee to return only one of the 51 from the Shalit deal arrested during Operation Brother’s Keeper. But military sources say the other 50 will be questioned and if it turns out that they are connected to terrorist activities, they will be sent to the committee for a decision on whether to re-imprison them.
In preparation, the military courts have prepared four panels of judges to hear these requests.
The security cabinet decided last week to make the prison conditions of Palestinian security prisoners stricter as part of the crackdown on Hamas. In the first stage, the Israel Prison Service intends on completing the separation of prisoners identified with Hamas from those who identify with Fatah (and who make up a majority of Palestinian prisoners).
But it seems the IPS is limited in how much harsher it can make conditions for Hamas prisoners. Three years ago, in the wake of public criticism over what seemed to be comfortable conditions for security prisoners – and while the concerns about abducted soldier Shalit were at their height – these conditions were made much stricter.
Permission for academic studies and completing matriculation exams was canceled for security prisoners, while the number of television channels they were allowed to view was cut from 20 to 10; these do not include Arabic news channels such as Al Jazeera.
The IPS objects to completely denying the prisoners television viewing rights, claiming it would increase the frustration among prisoners and could incite violence. In addition, there are also laws and international agreements that Israel is bound by, limiting the steps that can be taken against the security prisoners.
The administrative detainees’ hunger strike started on April 24 and continues, but with fewer participants than at the beginning. Out of the 90 detainees who started the strike, 80 are still continuing their protest, in 12 hospitals across Israel. The IPS needs 300 officers to guard them in the hospitals.
Some 550 Palestinian prisoners, the large majority of whom are security prisoners and not administrative detainees, took part in the hunger strike at various stages, but most of the prisoners stopped striking after two weeks.