Saraya prison replica 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinians opened a replica of a former Israeli prison in Gaza on Tuesday to help illuminate the plight of 4,800 kin jailed in Israel after weeks of protests that have triggered clashes in the West Bank.
Murals of famous leaders of Palestinian militant groups who were once held in the Saraya prison decorated walls at the site, along with a leather banner listing the names of 12 detainees who died in what locals dubbed "the slaughterhouse."
"Prisoner Day," an annual Palestinian national rite that commemorates the detainees, is set for Wednesday and more street violence with Israeli troops is anticipated.
Palestinians view compatriots held in Israel as heroes of their struggle for statehood, whereas the Jewish state says that many are guilty of killing or hurting innocents and the detentions guarantee its security.
A hunger strike by a handful of prisoners and the deaths of two inmates in custody this year have touched off deadly clashes with Israeli security forces that some analysts say could snowball into a third Palestinian uprising.
Saraya was refurbished and opened to visitors by Waed, a prisoners' association loyal to Hamas.
The ex-prison spans the fraught history of Palestine. It was built by British colonial authorities in 1936 only to be used in turn by Israel during its post-1967 occupation, the Palestinian Authority under a self-rule deal from 1994 and finally Hamas for a brief period after it seized control of Gaza in 2007.
Many of Saraya's original concrete cellblocks and interrogation rooms were destroyed over the years by Israeli air strikes during conflict with Palestinian militants. In their place, Waed built rows of tents it says resemble detention camps still in use in Israel's nearby Negev desert.