Men playing the role of prisoners are seen in a mock jail during a rally marking Palestinian Prisoners' Day and calling for the release of jailed Palestinians held by Israel, in Gaza City April 17, 2019.
(photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS)
Palestinians on Wednesday marked Palestinian Prisoners’ Day with calls for the release of all prisoners held by Israel.
The rallies in several parts of the West Bank came days after an agreement was reached between Palestinian prisoners and Israeli authorities to end a hunger strike by scores of inmates in some prisons. Palestinians see the agreement as a “victory” and say they will continue to protest harsh Israeli measures imposed on the prisoners.
The measures were imposed by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) after Hamas prisoners stabbed and wounded two guards in Ketziot Prison in the Negev. The attack came in the context of the prisoners’ protest against the installation of signal-jamming devices to stop them from using smuggled cellular phones.
The latest agreement calls for the installation of public phones for the use of the security prisoners without the removal of the jamming devices.
“[PA] President Mahmoud Abbas has always stood with the prisoners,” said Kadri Abu Baker, head of the Palestinian Commission for Prisoners and Ex-Detainees. “The freedom of the prisoners is part of the freedom of our people, who support them and stand behind them.”
Abu Baker and other Palestinian officials were speaking during a rally in Ramallah marking Palestinian Prisoner’s Day.
The Palestinian Authority Education Ministry also celebrated the event by holding a rally in a girls’ school in Al-Bireh, the twin city of Ramallah. A senior ministry official said in a speech at the rally that the prisoners are the ones who “raised high the voice so that Palestine will be free.” The names of the prisoners, he said, should be mentioned in every classroom and school.
At a similar rally in Bethlehem, PA governor of the city, Kamel Hmeid, said that the Palestinian leadership and people fully supported the prisoners’ “struggle to defend their dignity and freedom.”
The PA Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement that some 5,700 Palestinians, including 250 children, “are held captive in Israeli prisons and detention centers, enduring deplorable conditions and subjected to systematic and grave human rights violations.”
The ministry accused Israel of “violating international law norms and standards, including its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention,” by continuing to incarcerate the prisoners.
It further condemned Israel for its opposition to payments made by the PA to families of prisoners and Palestinians killed during attacks against Israel. “This includes violations of Articles 81 and 98 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which oblige Israel to provide allowances to detainees and prohibit it from deducting any amount from their income or salary. Instead of honoring this obligation, Israel is punishing the Palestinian government for providing allowances to the families of Palestinian prisoners by pirating Palestinian tax revenues,” the ministry charged.
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