Israel tells Palestinian prisoners: We bombed your homes and killed your families

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Palestinian prisoners walk at the yard of Megiddo Prison. (Photo: AFP-Menahem Kahana)

By: Ibtisam Mahdi

Published Tuesday, August 26, 2014

“We killed your brother and destroyed your family home.” The words hit the prisoner, Said Abu Shaluf, like a slap to the face. A few hours after bombing his home, Said was summoned by the Israeli prison administrators. They informed him that they killed his 31-year-old brother Abdel Rahman and destroyed their family home. This is Israel’s latest attempt to break the spirit of Palestinian prisoners, who dared to challenge the Israeli authorities through hunger strikes in more than one struggle, in a long line of struggles, for dignity. But who can hear the prisoners’ added pain now in light of the ongoing war on Gaza?

Gaza – Abu Shaluf’s family tried to avoid informing their imprisoned son about the death of his brother Abdel Rahman or the destruction of their home by Israeli bombs, especially out of concern for his psychological state inside prison. But the Israelis beat the family and the media, where news is usually muddled yet moves quickly, delivering the devastating news in an insensitive manner. Since that day, the family learned that Said is in a very difficult psychological state, and he is refusing to eat even though his prison mates are trying to comfort and console him. This has naturally compounded his mother’s pain.

Abu Shaluf’s story is not unique. Before him, a 31-year-old prisoner called Basel Arif, who was serving two life sentences, was informed that Israeli forces killed four of his cousins in the massacre in al-Shujayeh neighborhood, east of Gaza City.

Other [Israeli] prison administrations have used a similar tactic. And so the story was repeated with a 24-year-old prisoner called Ahmed al-Soufi, who lost his brother Abdel Hadi and the homes of his family and relatives suffered major damage after an Israeli strike. The families of the two prisoners, Alaa Sheikh al-Eid (detained since December 2002) and Raafat Abu Snaimeh (detained since April 2009) said the Israelis also told their sons that their homes were destroyed. The same thing happened with prisoner Saleh Abu Shusheh (sentenced for 14 years) and all of them are residents of Rafah in southern Gaza.

The Fatah representative of the prisoners' committee in Gaza, Nashaat al-Wahidi, stressed that the prisoners’ living and health conditions are deteriorating in light of Israel’s vengeful policies that are escalating as the assault on Gaza rages on.

“The prisons’ administrations exploited the fact that people are preoccupied with the war and distracted from the plight of the prisoners to impose on them extra punishment, such as reducing the time they can be outside from four to two hours daily and allowing only 15 prisoners out at one time,” he added.

Some of the other penalties, according to Wahidi, include reducing each prisoner’s stipend from 1,200 shekel to 400 ($300 to $110), reducing family visits to half an hour every month, and disconnecting seven satellite channels out of 10. Two channels of the three that are left are in Hebrew.

Despite these penalties, Wahidi told Al-Akhbar that what weighs down on the prisoners the most is the psychological state that accompanies the war.

“Those whose homes are not destroyed or whose families are not hurt spend their time consoling their colleagues, worrying for their families and following the news,” he said.

Wahidi pointed out that prisoners have been deprived of the ability to follow the news of what their families are subjected to in Gaza after the prison administration decided to cancel Palestine TV and “prevented them from communicating with their families to check on them, not to mention the provocative searches and messing with their personal belongings as they look for cell phones.”

According to sources close to the prisoners, the Israeli Prison Service imposed strict penalties at the Megiddo Prison in north of occupied Palestine after the administration heard cries of “God is Great” emanating from prison cells when prisoners heard that the Resistance captured an Israeli soldier. The administration closed certain prison sections, prevented the prisoners from going out and buying stuff from the prison shop and suspended the broadcast of TV stations.

But the war did not only affect prisoners inside Israeli jails, it also affected those who have been liberated, especially those who were released during the 2011 Loyalty to the Free prisoner exchange deal. They are living through the second war since their release, compounded by the fact some of them had their homes bombed by the Israeli forces. One of the liberated prisoners exiled to Gaza is Hilal Jaradat, his apartment in one of the towers in al-Zahraa City in central Gaza which was recently bombed and badly damaged.

The house of another liberated prisoner, 54-year-old Mohammed Nashbat, in al-Nusairat refugee camp in central Gaza was hit and Nashbat is being treated overseas, especially since he came out of prison suffering from a heart disease. Another prisoner, liberated with the first group of prisoners prior to Oslo, 41-year-old Ayman Abu Sitta, lives in the al-Zawayda area in central Gaza. His home was completely destroyed.

According to an unofficial count, the Israeli occupation targeted seven other homes belonging to liberated prisoners during the course of this recent war. The Ministry of Prisoner Affairs said there are extensive and comprehensive punitive measures exercised against the prisoners linked to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad since before the war began, specifically after the Israeli authorities announced the disappearance of three settlers in Hebron. These measures intensified during the current war.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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