Saturday, November 26, 2011

Release of 3 prisoners delayed by Israeli authorities

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Israeli prison authorities are delaying the release of three prisoners from Gaza who have completed their sentences.

The director of a prisoner's assembly, Muhammad Badr, on Friday named Abdullah Tawfiq al-Kurd, Wael Mousa Sharbaji and Wade Khamis Tamman as the prisoners who have had their release postponed.

Both al-Kurd and Sharbaji have finished their sentences of 9 and 7 years, respectively, and should have been released a month ago, Badr said.

Tamman, 30, has spent 10 years in jail and suffers from epilepsy.

Badr called on human rights organizations to help work for the release of all sick prisoners and put an end to violations by Israel.

It is not known why the release of the prisoners has been delayed.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Israeli forces raid home of freed female prisoner

A Palestinian woman, with her hands chained, flashes victory signs as
she takes part in a protest calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners
from Israeli jails, near the International Committee of Red Cross offices in
Beirut, October 14, 2011. (REUTERS/Sharif Karim)

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces raided the house of a female former prisoner near Ramallah on Sunday, less than a month after she was released under Hamas' prisoner exchange deal with Israel.

Forces issued summons for Sumud Karaja, 23, to report to Israeli intelligence in the Ofer military base near her village of Saffa, locals told Ma'an.

Her identity card was also confiscated, they added.

An Israeli military spokesman said it was not an Israeli army-related incident.

Karaja among 27 female and 250 male prisoners released from Israeli jail on Oct. 18 in exchange for Hamas' return of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

She had served three years of a 20-year sentence on charges of stabbing an Israeli soldier at the military checkpoint in Qalandiya, near Ramallah.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Free at Last: Profiles of Courage


On 18 October 2011, the first 477 of an eventual 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails were released in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured five years previously. Of the Palestinians who have or will be freed, 280 were serving life sentences and 27 were women. Most had been deprived of family visits for years, and had suffered repeated torture, sentences to solitary confinement and refused access to education. The release came as more than 6,000 Palestinian prisoners staged a hunger strike to protest the harsh conditions.

While the release is good news welcomed throughout the occupied territories, some families will still be separated. Of the first 477 prisoners released, 110 were returned to their homes in the West Bank and 203 were deported to Jordan, Turkey, Qatar and Syria, which agreed to take prisoners who Israel insisted, must not be allowed to return home. The rest (131) were freed in Gaza -- even if they were not originally from there.
The agreement is the highest “price” Israel has ever paid for a single soldier. Israel places a high value on Israeli life and freedom, and assigns little worth to Palestinians. Thus, captures and exchanges are the only way to win their release. Approximately 5,300 Palestinian prisoners remain in Israeli jails, waiting to be freed.

Here are the stories of just two of the released Palestinians:

Ayman Kafishah; jailed since April 1997:

On April 5, 1997, Ayman was arrested by Israeli security forces and immediately transported to Ha Shikmah Prison in Israel. According to testimony he later delivered to the UN Commission on Human Rights and publicized by B’tselem, an Israeli human rights agency, Ayman was then interrogated nonstop for 36 hours. Tactics used to coerce him to talk included:

  • Violent shaking.
  • Forced squatting and sitting in painful, contorted positions for prolonged periods.
  • Wrist cuffs tightened until blood flow was cut off.
  • Sleep deprivation.
  • Refusal of permission to use the toilet.
  • Threats to arrest and torture his family members.

Ayman was denied the right to consult with his lawyer for a full month, and was not allowed any family visits for the entire 14 years he was jailed. His daughter, Sarah, knew of her father only through photographs.

Although Ayman was freed in the prisoner exchange for Shalit, his forced separation from his wife and daughter continues. He was immediately exiled to the Gaza Strip, and his family was denied permission to travel there to see him from the West Bank. They have seen him only on TV, waving to the crowds in Gaza.

“I was awakened (on Oct. 18, 2011) to the sound of my mother calling me,” recalls Sarah Kafishah. “I got up and rushed towards my mother, who was sitting in front of the TV. My mother knelt on the ground and thanked God.”

Sarah and her mother said in a statement that they thank the Palestinian negotiators and the Egyptian mediators for making the exchange happen. They also called on the international community to put pressure on Israel to allow Ayman’s family to leave the West Bank to visit him in Gaza. A 14-year separation is long enough.

Obada Saeed Bilal; jailed since April 2002:

A native of Nablus in the West Bank, Obada is the son of Saeed Bilal. Obada was studying journalism at Najah University when he was seized, during the Israeli military campaign on the West Bank codenamed "Defensive Shield." He was charged with being a supporter military activities, It was just two weeks after his marriage to Nelly AlSafadi.

Obada was sentenced to 11 years in jail and subjected to intensive torture, along with a number of stays in solitary confinement -- one time longer than six months. Says Obada: “I endured many rounds of continuous interrogation, during which the physical and psychological torture was so harsh my body became exhausted and I lost consciousness many times.”
Obada had always struggled with poor eyesight, but he went totally blind by the time he was released from prison.

His family has paid a heavy price to the Israeli occupying force. Obada’s wife, Nelly and three brothers also served time in Israeli prisons. Nelly, who was released several months before Obada, was arrested at a roadblock while trying to enter Ramallah. Although Obada was later moved to the same prison in which she was being held, they were never allowed to be together. 

Although Obada was freed in the prisoner exchange for Shalit, he was immediately exiled to the Gaza Strip and his wife Nelly was denied permission to travel there to see him.

Both families are urging the international community and all human rights groups to put pressure on Israel to strop its daily integration to Palestinians on check points and crossing borders and it must immediately allow those families access through crossing borders. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

18 Palestinian MPs out of 21 in Israeli jails are administratively detained

[ 10/11/2011 - 12:34 PM ] 

The Palestinian centre for the defence of captives said that the Israeli occupation still holds 21 Palestinian lawmakers, 18 of them under administrative detention, without charge or trial.
Thamer Sabaena, a researcher in captives affairs, said that the number of detained lawmakers rose to 21 after the detention of MP Hasan Yousuf, 18 of them are affiliated with the Change and Reform Party.

Motion in UK Parliament calls for release of 164 Palestinian child detainees

Posted on: 10 Nov 2011 | Filed under:

On 18 October 2011, an Early Day Motion was tabled in the UK House of Commons in support of UNICEF's appeal to the Israeli government to release all 164 Palestinian child detainees from Israeli military detention. The motion was signed by 25 members of the House of Commons. The full statement of the motion is presented below:
“That this House welcomes the prisoner exchange which has led to the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and 477 Palestinian prisoners with a further 550 to be released in the next two months; notes, however, that the list of prisoners released in the first stage on 18 October 2011 does not include any children; further notes that according to figures released by the Israeli Prison Service and Defence of Children International-Palestine, at the end of September 2011 there were 164 Palestinian children (12 to 17 years) detained by Israel, including 35 between the ages of 12and 15 years; and that Israel's treatment of Palestinian child prisoners has raised serious concerns under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; and therefore calls on the Government and the international community to support the appeal by UNICEF for the Israeli government to release all Palestinian child detainees so that they can be reunited with their families.”

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gaza official: Israel prison hospital ward closure 'punishment'

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The spokesman for the Gaza government's health ministry slammed Israel's closure of a hospital section in its Ramle jail on Saturday, stressing Israeli authorities' responsibility for the lives of Palestinians in Israeli jail.

Ashraf al-Qedra said the authorities were strangling detainees by closing the medical facility, and called on human rights organizations to protect ill prisoners from neglect.

On Thursday the Fatah information department said the prison administration closed the section and moved 22 sick prisoners who were being treated to four small rooms with no kitchens or other facilities. Israel's prison administration placed two detainees in isolation cells for demonstrating, they said.

A spokesman for Israel's prisons authority said he was not aware of the closure.

Al-Qedra urged the press to continue to cover the situation of Palestinian prisoners in Israel after a deal between the government in Gaza and Israel to free 1,000 detainees over 2 months in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israel is punishing those detainees still in jail for the deal, he said.

Prison administration 'closes medical section'

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) – The Israeli prison administration closed Thursday a section for sick detainees in Ramle prison hospital and isolated two representatives of the prisoners for demonstrating against the decision.

The Fatah information department said the prison administration closed the section and moved 22 sick prisoners who were being treated to four small rooms with no kitchens or other facilities.

The prison administration placed two detainees in isolation cells for demonstrating.

Researcher: 23 lawmakers in Israeli custody

AZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israel holds 23 Palestinian lawmakers in its prisoners, a researcher in prisoners affairs said Wednesday.

Riyad al-Ashqar said the arrest of Hassan Yousef on Tuesday brought the total up to 23, in addition to two former ministers. Yousef spent six years in Israeli prison, and was released months ago before soldiers seized him again for belonging to Hamas.

Israeli authorities have also sentenced lawmaker Jamal Tirawi to 30 years in prison. All but three of the MPs have been placed in administrative detention, al-Ashqar says.

Freed prisoner hospitalized after release

NABLUS (Ma'an) -- Freed prisoner Amal Jumaah, 41, has been transferred to hospital days after her release from Israeli prison, says her brother Jameel Jumaah.

Amal was hospitalized in Nablus for complications due to bleeding in her stomach. She suffers cancer of the uterus and other serious health issues complicated by her time in jail, he says.

Jameel says his sister's case was taken on by the office of the president. Her family is also asking officials to intervene and if possible send her to a hospital abroad.

The head of the prisoners society in Nablus, Imad Ishtawi, told Ma'an that he too was urging officials to examine options for helping all prisoners who require medical attention.

Amal belonged to Fatah's armed wing, and was sentenced to 11 years in prison. She served nine.

Occupation transfers Sheikh Hasan Yousef and his son to administrative detention

[ 08/11/2011 - 09:55 PM ] 

RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation authorities on Tuesday morning transferred Sheikh Hasan Yousef and his son Owais to administrative detention for six months at Ofer prison near Ramallah.
The family of Sheikh Yousef said that the occupation authorities informed him and his son, who arrested eight days ago, that the Israeli occupation intelligence decided to transfer them to administrative detention for six months based on “secret evidence".
The family further said that Sheikh Youssef underwent a few rounds of interrogation on the pretext that he organised a number of activities for Hamas in Ramallah, threatening to kidnap occupation soldiers to exchange with Palestinian captives, supporting the resistance on the Shalit exchange deal and organising functions in support of the freed captives.

They further said that when they could not charge him and try him, they decided to transfer him to administrative detention, based on secret evidence, that neither Sheikh Yousef, nor his lawyer are allowed to see.

His son Owais, who only got married ten days before his arrest, was also transferred to administrative detention after dropping an indictment list prepared by the occupation police in which he was accused of participating in the legislative elections, only to discover that he was in detention at Negev desert prison at the time of elections.

Monday, November 7, 2011

UNICEF appeals for release of Palestinian child detainees


Posted on: 7 Nov 2011 | Filed under:

On 17 October 2011, UNICEF appealed to the Israeli Government to release all Palestinian children currently in Israeli military detention, following the announcement that they will release Palestinian prisoners as part of a prisoner swap deal.
As of 1 October, 164 Palestinians under 18 year of age were detained by Israeli authorities, most of them under charges of stone throwing. It is not clear whether the list of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners who are to be released in two stages includes children.
“UNICEF calls on the Israeli Government to release Palestinian child detainees so that they can be reunited with their families”, said Jean Gough, UNICEF Special Representative in the occupied Palestinian territory. “As stated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the detention of children should be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time”, she added.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

MEP De Rossa calls for release of Palestinian child detainees

Posted on: 6 Nov 2011 | Filed under:

17/10/2011 - Irish Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa, President of the European Parliament's Palestine Delegation (DPLC), has reiterated his call for the release of all 164 Palestinian child detainees held in Israeli jails. According to Israeli prison statistics, there are currently 164 children being held ranging in age from 12 to 17; Thirty-five of whom are younger than 15. Seventy-six of these children are serving sentences and the balance of 88 are being held in pre-trial detention. The children are mainly charged with stone throwing.

The positive potential of the prisoner swap currently underway could be greatly enhanced if these children were unconditionally released. For Israel this would not only bring her into compliance with International Law but would be a generous humanitarian gesture which would enhance her reputation globally and in the region.

Each year approximately 700 Palestinian children from the West Bank are prosecuted in Israeli military courts following arrest by the Israeli army. It is estimated that since the year 2000 over 7,500 Palestinian children have been detained and prosecuted. In addition there are credible reports of mistreat treatment during arrest and pre-trial detention.*

The detention and trial of children by military courts and their mistreatment is directly contrary to the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of children by an occupying power.

I am calling on the Member States of the EU and the EU High Representative Ms Cathy Ashton to raise this matter with the Israeli authorities in the context of the current contacts seeking to restart final status negotiations and I am copying this call to Prime Minister Netanyahu through the Israeli Ambassador to the EU in Brussels.

Proinsias De Rossa MEP
European Parliament
Brussels + 32.2. 284.7681
Dublin     +353.1.874.6109
Mobile +353 87 2544 644


Friday, November 4, 2011

Witnesses: Israeli forces detain teens in Hebron

HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces detained three people in Hebron at dawn on Friday, including two teenagers, locals said.

Eyewitnesses told Ma'an that soldiers raided a house in southern Hebron and detained Amjad Salhab, 13, and Izz al-Din Salhab 14.

In Yatta village, south of Hebron, forces also detained Ala al-Shamisti, 21, from his father's house early Friday, locals said. They told Ma'an the raid damaged furniture in the family home.

An Israeli army spokesman said forces conducted the raid with Israeli police, and confiscated weapons before detaining one man. There were no other detentions in Hebron overnight, he said.

Occupation authorities detain Ya’qub Abu Asab in Jerusalem

[ 04/11/2011 - 10:30 AM ]

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authorities on Friday at dawn detained Ya'qub Abu Asab, an academic and a member of the national committee against exile.
Abu Asab, who is pursuing postgraduate research in the management of institutions, was detained by Israeli occupation on several previous occasions, spending a total of nine years on aggregate in Israeli occupation jails for being a leading Islamic activist.
The Israeli occupation authorities have detained a number of Islamic leaders over the past couple of weeks, after the first phase of the prisoner-exchange which involved the release of 477 Palestinian captives.

Occupation bars freed captives from travelling to perform pilgrimage

[ 04/11/2011 - 08:22 PM ]

AL-KHALIL, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authorities blocked recently freed captives from the West Bank from crossing to Jordan on their way to Makkah to perform pilgrimage.
According to those freed captives, they were travelling on coaches towards the King Hussain bridge border crossing, when their coaches were stopped at a military roadblock before reaching Jericho. They were told they would not be allowed to travel except for the two women Sana' Shehada and Alya' al-Ja'bari, the others were turned back.
They further said that the soldiers manning the roadblock had a list of their names and called their names out and told them they were banned from travelling.
The freed captives were told on Wednesday morning by the Awqaf Ministry that they should go to Ramallah to get their passports and join the pilgrims in the last minute. The main event of the pilgrimage takes place on Saturday.

Humilation Against The Detainees Continues

Saturday October 29, 2011 13:33 by Mais Azza - IMEMC & Agencies
Palestinian detainees held by Israel at the Majiddo detention center, managed to leak a memo revealing that the violations against them have never stopped, adding that the Israeli Prisons Administration (IPA) is not abiding by vows it made to the detainees in order to end their hunger strike, the Palestinian News & Info Agency (WAFA) reported Saturday.
Image By Palestine-Info
Image By Palestine-Info
The detainees stated that the (IPA) is trying to degrade and humiliate them, and is still forcing several detainees into solitary confinement in addition to depriving them from their internationally guaranteed visitation rights.

Former political prisoner, Shaher Zayed, 23, resident of Al-Yamoun village, near the northern West Bank city of Jenin, stated that although the detainees have stopped their hunger strike, that lasted for three weeks, after negotiating with the (IPA) and reaching an understanding, no actual implementation ever took place.

Zayed spent thirteen months in administrative detention in Israeli jails without any charges.

The detainees at Majiddo voiced an appeal to human rights organizations calling on them to act on obliging Israel to stop its violations.

Lopsided Prisoner Exchange

Wednesday October 26, 2011 19:18 by Doris Norrito - 1 of International Middle East Media Center Editorial Group

The number detained and imprisoned [Palestinians] fluctuates as more are added daily. The number of Palestinians jailed by Israel once topped 12,000 and currently stands at over 5,000.
While over a thousand Palestinian prisoners are exchanged for the return of one captured Israeli soldier, it is “business as usual” as Israeli forces captured more than a dozen Palestinians throughout the West Bank during that same week.

On Friday, October 21, in occupied Bil’in, six Palestinians were arrested; each day, more are added. The number detained and imprisoned fluctuates daily. The number of Palestinians jailed by Israel once topped 12,000 and currently stands at over 5,000.

Following six years in captivity, Gilad Shalit, was thin and pale, but nonetheless appeared in good health. Unlike the treatment Shalit received, Palestinians report different prison experiences.

Iyad Burnat was first arrested at the age of seventeen, during the first intifada. Twenty years have passed. Now, at 37, he is married and has four children. Today he is the head of the Bil’in Popular Committee and the Bil’in Friends of Freedom and Justice movement.

He recalls his first experience in prison. Soldiers, some dressed in civilian clothes, came to his house and grabbed him in the middle of the night, telling his father they only wanted to speak with him for five minutes. At the detention center, he was stripped of his clothes and left outside in the snow attached to a metal post with his hands cuffed above his head. He spent the next 20 days in solitary confinement in a small cell, hands fastened to the ceiling so he was forced to stand. At night, he was taken to a small cell crowded with 36 other prisoners. He remembers a hole in the roof where the cold winter rain and snow fell in. Every ten minutes soldiers banged on the door to keep prisoners awake. During the day, he was questioned, beaten, punched and kicked in attempts to persuade him to sign a confession of throwing stones at soldiers. They kept asking for the names of resistance members and, though he insisted he knew nothing about political affiliations, after 21 days of torture, he said he “cracked” and signed the paper. Two years later, he was released and served an additional year under house arrest.

The same week the prisoner exchange was taking place there were 47 separate Israeli invasions. Israeli militia forces abducted 12 Palestinians including two children. In addition, three Palestinian civilians, including a child, were abducted at checkpoints in the West Bank. And in Bil'in, Citizen Ashraf Abu Rahma was kidnapped while standing peacefully with his flag.” Common charges are for stone throwing (at tanks and soldiers in body shields), organizing demonstrations and for incitement. Many people are held without charges.

In 2005, villagers began non-violent demonstrations protesting the Wall and settlements built on their land. Kidnappings (aka arrests) and detentions of Bil’in residents began in earnest. Protesting, villagers say that the wall is not for security, but is for stealing their land to expand illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli military forces retaliate with violence, house raids and kidnappings.

Abed Khaled, Iyad’s second son, is ten. His childhood memories are those of armed Israeli soldiers who roam his village streets and raid his home at night, smashing things and keeping him and his brothers and sister from sleeping. The children live in constant fear of soldiers breaking in. Sleepless, the boy listens to the nightmare cries of his brothers and sister. Abed Khaled fears for his father’s safety when he is away from home and busy with Committee activities opposing occupation and confiscation of their farmland. Iyad says he seeks peace and a future of justice and freedom for his children.

The non-violent demonstrators persevere. And so do the arrests. Joined by internationals and Israeli sympathizers, increasingly more supporters risk being taken or forced to leave. Some people are detained for a short time; others remain in custody indefinitely, often without charge.

Shalit will return to his family, his home and community; his crime, that of being a soldier. Many returning Palestinian prisoners will not go home but, as part of the agreement, will be exiled to other countries or to Gaza where they have never lived and know no one. Their crimes vary, but underlying all is the “crime” of defending their homeland and resistance to colonial occupation.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Freed Palestinian prisoner recounts torture and mistreatment in Israeli jails

Mukhlis Burghal, a Palestinian prisoner who was freed in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, recalls, "[The] torture keeps changing: beatings, isolation, tear gas, suspension of family visits." And after spending over 24 years in Israeli prisons, Burghal looks towards the future.

After more than two decades in Israeli prisons, Burghal is getting used to things like cellular technology. "I want to be with my family, stay in my city, get to know it and get to know the people once again," Burghal says. (Photo: German Krimer)

Mukhlis Burghal grins like a child each time his mobile rings. He has become addicted to cellular technology since he discovered it just ten days ago.

“I´m in love with it; I have it on me everywhere I go”, Burghal, 49, confesses with a boyish smile that clashes with his white hair. His face is kind; his manners remarkably relaxed for a man who spent over 24 years in Israeli prisons. He discusses both his time in jail and his new-found freedom under the shade of lemon and tangerine trees behind his family home in Lod, not far from Tel Aviv.

On October 18, Burghal was released along with 476 Palestinians in exchange for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who as captured by Hamas more than five years ago. Burghal seems neither sad nor angry. He is far too interested in “absorbing,” as he puts it, everything: the new unfamiliar objects, like cell phones; the old things he has forgotten; and the memories that helped him survive beatings and mistreatment--people and places that are becoming alive once again.

“This is like being born again. It´s what I feel; I´m being reborn”, he says, as he glances at his five-year-old niece playing nearby.

During Burghal’s first free night, his house was full of people. Relatives, friends and neighbours had gathered to celebrate the day they had been waiting for since September 11th, 1987, when Israeli policemen arrested Burghal for throwing a grenade at a bus full of Israeli soldiers. Although the grenade did not go off and nobody died, a military court sentenced him to life imprisonment. 17 years later, his sentence was reduced to 40 years in prison.

But no one was thinking of those difficult times on the night Burghal was released.

“The most impressive and rejoicing part was seeing and feeling people. My family, all the citizens in my city, the Arab citizens, and many people from around here and from all over the country. I felt and saw happiness in the eyes of those people; this was what impressed me most and made me really happy,” he recalls, his eyes clouded by emotion.

Close to midnight, the house was still crowded, but Burghal and two of his brothers snuck away and went to their father´s grave. He died in 1991 and Burghal had never had the chance to say goodbye to him, to lay flowers on his tomb, or to or hug his mother. Burghal had not been allowed any calls, letters, or visits other than the regular 30-minute visit every fortnight (oin recent years, visits have been extended to 45 minutes).

Mukhlis had another “small dream” to achieve. In less than half an hour, the three men were barefoot, enjoying the sand of Jaffa beach. Above them, the stars and the moon projected a show of light and shadow, a show Mukhlis could only dream of for the last 24 years.

As he looks back, the grey-haired man who plays with his mobile with a shy smile does not speak with regret; nor does he make a stern statement in favor of the armed struggle or the “Palestinian revolution.”

“What will become of my life?” he wonders aloud. “The first thing I want is to spend a long time with my mother, I want to make her happy. I want to be with my family, stay in my city, get to know it and get to know the people once again. I want to reach a point where I can  feel normal in this new life. I want to visit my brothers who live abroad, too. And then, maybe in a year or two, I´ll plan something out. For the time being, I can´t make any plans. All in all, I don´t see myself too distant from the activities for the community”.

The only time Burghal’s youthful smile fades is when he remembers his friends who are still behind bars.

“The hardest thing is to know there´s not much I can do for them. After so many years of sharing hardships they become your family. Their families are my family and mine is theirs”, he says, as he looks at his brother, who visited him every month during the quarter of a century he spent in prison.

Over the last few days, his family has learned about Burghal’s suffering--the mistreatment and deprivation he had to endure inside the prison.

“The initial questioning is one of the most difficult moments, the hardest”, Burghal says, touching his head. “My head ended up with 14 stitches.”

Halfway through his jail time, he received another severe beating that resulted in 16 stitches in his head, a punctured lung, a broken rib, and a dislocated jaw.

“[The] torture keeps changing: beatings, isolation, tear gas, suspension of family visits," he recalls, with an emotional detachment that makes his story even harder to hear.

Transfers from one jail to another were another method of torture. Prisoners sometimes travel for up to ten hours, inside a metal box, with metal seats, with hands and feet cuffed together. They stop for two or three hours at each prison where, if they are lucky, guards may allow them to go to a bathroom.

“The food is thrown inside the truck in plastic bags,” he says. “I myself always avoided eating during those trips because all cuffed up and very uncomfortable, I ended up vomiting.”

But one of the most difficult mistreatment that Palestinian prisoners endure is shoddy--or no-- medical attention, given on the whim of the Israeli authorities. Burghal remembered three of his mates who died from asthma attacks and another one who caught AIDS after the prison dentist used an old needle.

“That shows how much they care for us,” Burghal says.

Burghal had to face three medical issues during his long stay in prison; one in the knee, another one in his back, and the third in his teeth. For the first two, after having all the pre-surgery check-ups, doctors decided that the operations were “not necessary.” Now, Burghal is planning to undergo surgery abroad.

His teeth, on the other hand, turned into a legal battle which left a bitter taste in his mouth: “I managed to get a doctor from outside but once the treatment started, they called it off. So now it´s not finished. I was told I had to make a new request for the treatment since they wanted to study my case once again.”

Burghal has a thousand stories to tell from his life in prison; in these 24 years the world has changed and so has he. He went in as a 25-year-old and, now, he is 49. He went in a young man with his whole life ahead of him and came out a veteran whose prison mates called “Uncle.”
But he would rather not give too much thought to the years that passed and all he missed. He wants to travel, enjoy his family, and feel normal again. At midlife, Mukhlis wants to be reborn.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Zionist court refuses to release Muna Qaadan

[ 28/10/2011 - 09:55 PM ]

JENIN, (PIC)-- The Zionist military court in Salem refused to release Muna Qaadan (39), from Arraba in Jenin district, on bail despite the fact that she was brought before court previously on the same charges.
Local sources said that the occupation authorities refused to release despite the fact that she denied the charge that she works for a charity, which is allegedly associated with the Islamic Jihad, in reference to Bara'a Society for Muslim Young Women. This is the same charge she was arrested on previously and then released.
Qaadan has been arbitrarily arrested since the end of last May, only days after the arrest of her brother Sheikh Tareq Qaadan from their home in Arraba.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Group: Israel resumes isolation of PFLP leader

Israeli prison guards stand at the entrance to Ketziot prison in southern Israel,
ahead of a prisoner swap on Oct. 18. (Reuters/Yehuda Lachiani/Maariv)

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- The Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association said Thursday that an Israeli court in Beersheva decided to extend the isolation of Popular Front secretary-general Ahmad Saadat for a year.

The association added that the court ruled on secret documents that were presented by the Shin Beit which were released on August 8. Thus, the decision to extend his detention was made before the prisoners strike.

The association also said that Saadat was present in the court without his lawyers.

The court decision is the opposite of what the prison administration had reportedly promised the prisoners. They were to end isolation and other policies following the hunger strike, according to the association.

Saadat was recently taken to hospital in Ramle prison as his health deteriorated after the hunger strike. Saadat’s family has not been allowed to visit him since March 2009, according to the prisoners rights group.

The Israeli prison administration has not fulfilled its commitment to stop holding Palestinian prisoners in solitary confinement, the ministry of prisoner affairs in Ramallah said Wednesday.

Around 20 detainees are still in isolation despite Israel's pledge to end the practice following a 3-week mass hunger strike in jails across Israel to protest the policy, the ministry said in a statement.

Prisoners suspended the strike on Oct. 17 after they said Israel had announced it would meet the strikers' key demand.

Israel promised that detainees would be released from isolation immediately after 477 prisoners were released in a swap deal to free captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on Oct. 18, minister of detainees affairs Issa Qaraqe said, announcing the agreement.

Some prisoners who remain in solitary confinement have been in isolation cells for many years, including Hassan Salama, Ahmad al-Mughrabi, Abdullah al-Barghouthi and Saadat, the ministry noted.

The UN special rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez told a UN General Assembly panel last week that all governments should ban solitary confinement except in extreme circumstances.

"Segregation, isolation, separation, cellular, lockdown, Supermax, the hole ... whatever the name, solitary confinement should be banned by states as a punishment or extortion technique," he said.

He also said indefinite and prolonged solitary confinement in excess of 15 days should be ended, citing studies that have established that lasting mental damage is caused after a few days of isolation.

"Considering the severe mental pain or suffering solitary confinement may cause, it can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment when used as a punishment, during pre-trial detention, indefinitely or for a prolonged period, for persons with mental disabilities or juveniles," he said.


Israeli Court Renews Solitary Confinement Of Saadat For Additional Year

Friday October 28, 2011 04:07 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies
The Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Ad-Dameer, stated that the Israeli District Court in Be’er Shiva ordered a one year extension of the solitary confinement of the detained Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Ahmad Saadat.
Ahmad Saadat - Image Al Manar
Ahmad Saadat - Image Al Manar
The court stated that “it based its ruling on secret files provided by the Israeli Shabak on August, 8, 2011”.

The imprisoned PFLP secretary-general was sent to court without his lawyer, who never received a notice regarding this court session.

The Ad-Dameer stated that by sentencing Saadat to solitary confinement for an additional year, the court violated vows by the Israeli Prison Administration to end its solitary confinement policies, and to implement the demands of the detainees to receive treatment that abides by the International law. The vows came after that detainees conducted hunger-strike for 22 days.

The Ad-Dameer added that this ruling violates the International Law and all Human Rights treaties, especially international agreements concerning prisoners of war, and added that after 22 days of hunger-strike, Saadat was moved to the Al Ramla Prison hospital, after a sharp deterioration in his health condition.

The PFLP Secretary-General has been in solitary confinement also since March 16, 2009, not allowed any visitations and denied of his right to even write or receive letters from his family. Every isolation order issued against him since then was based on “secret information” to which not even his lawyer was allowed to have access to.

On December 28, 2008, an Israeli court sentenced Saadat, who is also an elected Palestinian Legislator, to thirty years, despite the fact that it dropped charges alleging that he planned the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi, who was killed in Al Hayat Hotel on 17 October 2001.

Saadat became the PFLP secretary-general in October 2001 after the Israeli army assassinated the former secretary-general, Abu Ali Mustafa, when two Israeli Army Apache helicopters fired missiles at his office in Ramallah, in the central West Bank, on August 27, 2001.

MADA: Israel extends journalist's detention without trial

Journalists light candles to commemorate their colleagues killed in Israel's last
war on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, in Gaza City on Jan. 6 2010.
(MaanImages/Wissam Nassar, File)

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israel on Wednesday extended the imprisonment of a journalist who has not been charged or tried for any offense, a press freedom watchdog said.

Israeli forces detained Nawaf al-Amer, a program coordinator for Quds satellite TV station, in June from his home near Nablus in the northern West Bank.

On Wednesday, Israel extended al-Amer's detention for four months, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) said in a statement.

Al-Amer has not been tried or given any reason for his arrest or imprisonment. His wife told MADA that Israel has prevented their sons from visiting their father since his arrest.

The center strongly condemned the extension of al-Amer's detention, noting that it stood "in flagrant violation of legal due process under international law."

Al-Amer is being held in administrative detention, a practice widely used by Israel against Palestinians under which detainees are held without charge or trial.

The Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem says administrative detention "is carried out under the thick cover of privilege, which denies detainees the possibility of mounting a proper defense."

MADA urged international organizations to protect Palestinian journalists and to lobby on behalf of those in detention.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Eshel's captives await a reply

[ 25/10/2011 - 01:27 PM ]

RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS) on Tuesday said that most of the captives in Eshel who suspended their hunger strike, especially those affiliated with the PFLP, were returned to the prison wards. The PPS's lawyer who visited the prison said that a number of PFLP captives who were on hunger strike were moved to solitary at HaliKidar prison.
Following the suspension of the hunger strike the captives, especially those in ward 10, sent letters to Israeli prison officials explaining that the suspension was in order to give the Israeli prison service time to improve the detention conditions. The captives have so far not received any replies.

Egypt releases 6 Palestinians

File photo of the Rafah crossing on the border of Egypt and Gaza.
(MaanImages/Hatem Omar)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egyptian authorities on Tuesday released six Palestinians who had been detained for illegally entering Egypt without permits.

Palestinian sources told Ma'an that six men from Rafah and Khan Younis in southern Gaza were returned to the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing.

They were identified as Ahmad al-Banna, Shadi al-Qirm, Iyad Mishal, Adnan Muhsin, Samir Arraj, and Ahmad Bardaweil.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Aruri: Israel's exile of prisoners strategic mistake

[ 25/10/2011 - 12:58 PM ]

DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Senior Hamas official in charge of the prisoners' file Saleh Al-Aruri said Israel makes a strategic mistake when it exiles Palestinian prisoners from their occupied homeland.

"The occupation's decision to banish prisoners cannot break their determination in terms of their insistence on struggling and fighting against the occupation, but on the contrary, this strengthens them and make them stronger and more motivated to resist and fight," Aruri said in a press release.
He pointed out that the second batch of the swap deal, due to be completed within two months, would include the release of longtime prisoners jailed for alleged security reasons and they would return to their homes without any exile.
In a related incident, Maariv newspaper said on Monday the majority of Palestinian prisoners released as part of the swap deal with Hamas Movement refused to sign a pledge not to return to resistance activities against Israel.
A few hours before implementing the swap deal, Shabak officers visited the jails from which those prisoners were released and failed misrably to force them to sign a written plegde to give up their activities against Israel, according to Maariv.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Israeli police detain 14 at prison protest

Demonstrators at Israel's Ofer prison express support of detainees' hunger
strike on Oct. 5, 2011 (MaanImages)

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli police detained 14 Palestinian citizens of Israel on Thursday during a demonstration at Israel's Hasharon prison calling for the release of all Palestinian detainees, a human rights organization said.

Around 40 Palestinian-Israelis gathered to wave Palestinian flags and demand the release of prisoners that were not part of an exchange deal between Israel and Hamas, the head of Israel-based human rights group Huriyat Muhammad Kananeh told Ma'an.

Israel released 477 prisoners, including 27 women, in return for Hamas handing over captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on Tuesday, and 550 additional prisoners will be released in two months under the swap deal.

Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said he could only confirm 12 were detained at the scene.

He told Ma'an the protest was illegal as it lacked coordination with authorities, and that protesters called for the kidnap of more soldiers and attacked a police officer.

Kananeh said police dispersed the protest by force, adding that three women were among those detained.

Demonstrators were calling for the release of the nine women still in Israeli jails, he said.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said on Thursday that Egypt has assured the movement that the remaining female prisoners will be released "in the coming days," as part of the swap deal.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Egypt arrests Israeli national at border crossing

EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma'an) -- Egyptian authorities arrested a Palestinian citizen of Israel at the Egypt border Thursday, saying they discovered a weapon and large quantity of ammunition in his possession.

The Palestinian-Israeli, who was not otherwise identified, told Egyptian security forces he worked for an Israeli tourism company and was traveling with his wife to the northern Sinai city of Taba, officials said.

Forces discovered an American-made weapon when searching the man's car as he entered Egypt via the Taba border crossing near the southern town of Eilat, Egyptian security officials told Ma'an.

The suspect was detained when he failed to provide an adequate explanation for the weapon and ammunition, and has been transferred for investigation to facilities in southern Sinai, they said.

The arrest comes amid a breakdown in Israel-Egypt relations, although they have improved in recent days following Cairo's successful mediation of a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas.

Egypt is also considering swapping a US-Israeli joint national, suspected of spying for Israel, for 81 Egyptians detained in Israel, the state-owned daily Al-Ahram said Sunday.

Israel enjoyed close ties with deposed President Hosni Mubarak, brought down in February in a popular uprising. Relations have remained tense as Egypt struggles to maintain security in the Sinai.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

All Freed Detainees Are Now In Gaza, Ramallah

Tuesday October 18, 2011 13:50 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies

All Palestinian detainees released under the first phase of the prisoners-swap deal between Israel and the Hamas movement, except those sent to Egypt, are now in Gaza and Ramallah. This article includes the speeches of President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, and Hamas leader, Hasan Yousef, standing next to him.
Gaza Strip - Detainees Welcome Cermony - Still from Al Jazeera
Gaza Strip - Detainees Welcome Cermony - Still from Al Jazeera
The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, held a conference welcoming the detainees, and said “you are freedom fighters, for God and the country”.

Abbas said that he hopes that all detainees in Israeli prisons will be freed, and will be able to return home.

The President further stated that the suffering and steadfastness of the detainees will never be wasted.

“You sacrificed, you struggled, and you will see the outcome of this struggle; a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital”, Abbas said, “Your case was always our main focus around the world, we will continue to act for the release of all detainees”.

“God willing, we will soon see, brother Marwan Barghouthi, brother Ahmad Saadat, Ibrahim Hamed, Abbas Al Sayyid, and every detainee, coming back home”, Abbas stated, and also wished speedy recovery for Ahmad Saadat after his health condition deteriorated as he and the rest of the detainees continue their hunger-strike. Saadat is the secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

He also thanked Egypt for its role in the deal and in the reconciliation agreement between Fateh and Hamas, adding that this deal was initiated by the detainees in Israeli jails “who acted for the unity of their people”.

“Brothers and sisters, we are acting to achieve an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital. The future state will be in the 1967 borders, and Israel must stop all of its settlement activities and violations”, Abbas said, “I won't be telling a secret when I say that there is an agreement between us and and Israel for the release of more detainees after this deal is concluded, therefore, we are asking them (Israel) to abide by their vows. if they give weight to their own promises”.

“We are building the institutions of our future state, we have strong institutions, not found in other countries”, the president added, “brothers and sister, your families and friends wherever they are, are happy for you, for your release, but, let me say, that we owe all of this, after God, to all of the martyrs who sacrificed for our country”.

Abbas also thanked Egypt for its important role in reaching the deal.

Standing next to Abbas, Hamas leader, Hasan Yousef, stated in his speech the followed Abbas' speech that, “as much as we are happy for the release of the detainees, we are also in pain, because we still have brothers and sisters in Israeli jails”, and added that the Palestinian people will always act for the release of all detainees.

Yousef further stated that the Palestinian people have the capabilities to act for the release of all detainees, and that this prisoner-swap deal is a proof that resistance is an effective measure, to be conducted side-by-side with other venues of resistance and politics.

“Mr president, we all came here, to your home, representing all factions and segments of the society, to affirm our unity, we have no choice but to unite”, he added, “Mr. President, we all stand together, united, to counter the illegal Israeli policies that deny our legitimate rights. We want to thank Egypt, for its important local and regional role, and we want to thank every side that helped in achieving this deal, we want to thank the president, and all Arab countries, we are all brothers, and we must send a special thank you for our people in the Gaza Strip”.

Thousands then started chanting “With our soul and blood we sacrifice for Palestine”, and Yousef chanted with them.

In Gaza, Ismail Haniyya of Hamas and several political and military leaders of the movement and other factions, welcomed the detainees who were sent to Gaza and affirmed that resistance fights for the liberation of its people, and managed to achieve victories.

Meanwhile, Cairo declared a state of emergency at the Cairo International Airport as 40 of the released detainees will be flown out to Turkey, Qatar and Syria, as Israel conditioned their release with their exile.

It is worth mentioning that clashes were reported at the Betunia terminal leading to Ramallah, after the Israeli army closed the terminal as thousands of residents gathered there to welcome the detainees.

Thousands of residents, and families of the released detainees gathered near the terminal awaiting to greet and welcome the freed detainees.

The army used waste-water cannons, and fired gas bombs, to force the residents away, and said that the released detainees will be sent to the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah through another terminal.

The army then said that nobody will be allowed to greet the detainees at the terminal and forced the Red Cross out of the area before attacking the residents.

There are approximately 5000 detainees who are still imprisoned by Israel, dozens of them have been imprisoned since 20, 25 years or more.

First prisoners freed in West Bank, Gaza Strip


RAFAH (AFP) -- The first Palestinian prisoners freed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of a landmark deal for the return of a captured Israeli soldier arrived home on Tuesday, an AFP reporter said.

Israel freed 477 Palestinian prisoners, most of them to the Gaza Strip, where Hamas leaders greeted former prisoners piling off buses bearing Red Cross insignia.

"We are going home with dignity, thank God," one prisoner told Egyptian television from the bus.

"Thank God for this great achievement. The Palestinian people deserve to live in freedom like everyone else," said another freed prisoner, thanking Egypt for mediating the deal.

"This (exchange deal) is the first step towards the full liberation of the Palestinian people," he said.

Three cars belonging to the ruling Hamas movement followed by a Red Cross vehicle accompanied a convoy of eight buses carrying the prisoners to their waiting relatives in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah.

"More than 200,000 people have gathered now at the Katiba (in Gaza City) to participate in the main festival welcoming the prisoners," one of the Hamas officials involved in organizing the welcome rally said.

Buses carrying the first Palestinian prisoners to be freed in the West Bank headed towards the city of Ramallah on Tuesday, an AFP reporter said.

A convoy of several buses was heading to the seat of the Palestinian presidency, the Muqataa, in Ramallah, where the detainees were expected to be greeted by President Mahmoud Abbas.

Gaza's Hamas government had earlier released captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who in an interview shortly after said he hoped the prisoner exchange could lead to peace between both sides.

Crowds gathered in both Gaza and the West Bank awaiting the return of their prisoners.

"This is the greatest joy for the Palestinian people," said Azzia al-Qawasmeh, awaiting at a West Bank checkpoint for her son Amer, who she said had been in prison for 24 years.

The landmark deal between Israel and Hamas will see Israel freeing a total of 1,027 prisoners in exchange for the release of Shalit, a soldier who has been held by Gaza militants for more than five years.

Reuters contributed to this report

Barghouti: Prisoners were not consulted over swap deal

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Detained Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti said Sunday that Hamas did not consult detainees over its prisoner swap deal with Israel.

Hamas has agreed to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for the release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

Several prominent political leaders, including Barghouti, were left out of the deal.

In a statement relayed by his lawyer Elias Sabagh, Barghouti said he had learned of the deal from media reports. Prison leaders -- including Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine secretary-general Ahmad Saadat -- were not involved in negotiations, Barghouti said.

Further, prisoners who will be exiled under the agreement were not informed of the decision. Over 200 prisoners will not be released to their homes, but will be deported to Gaza or abroad.

Barghouti is a charismatic and popular figure widely viewed as a contender to succeed Mahmoud Abbas as president.

Minister: Detainees suspend strike after deal on isolation

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Palestinians jailed in Israel suspended a three-week hunger strike on Monday, the minister of detainee affairs in Ramallah said.

Issa Qaraqe told the official Wafa news agency that prisoners ended the strike after Israeli prison authorities agreed to end the practice of solitary confinement.

Israel will stop holding detainees in isolation on Tuesday, immediately after releasing 477 prisoners in a swap deal to free captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Qaraqe said.

Prisoners went on hunger strike on Sept. 27 to protest harsher conditions since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to toughen measures in June to pressure Hamas to free Shalit.

An end to solitary confinement was a key demand of the strikers.

The protest was started by detainees affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, whose leader Ahmad Saadat has been held in isolation for three years. Saadat, who joined the hunger strike, was one of several prominent prisoners left out of the swap deal.

PFLP central committee member Jamil Mizhir warned on Monday that the movement would take action against Israel after receiving reports that Saadat had been transferred to hospital.

Mizhir said in a statement that the group blamed Israel for his health condition,

"If Saadat's condition is at risk, the PFLP response will be very harsh," Mizhir warned.

According to recent estimates from the Palestinian Authority, there are currently 6,000 Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails.

Swap Deal Officially Kicked-Off

Tuesday October 18, 2011 09:49 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies

The prisoner-swap deal signed between Hamas and Israel has effectively entered the implementation process after the Israeli High Court of Justice rejected all appeals filed by Israelis against it. Shalit is now in Egypt; Egyptian sources reported. Hundreds of detainees loaded onto buses in preparation for their release.
Gilad Shalit
Gilad Shalit

The deal will set 1027 Palestinian detainees free on two phases in exchange for the release of corporal Gilad Shalit. Media sources reported that Shalit was moved to Egypt in preparation to be handed to Israel after it releases the first 477 detainees.

Egyptian media sources reported that Shalit was moved to Egypt and is now in the hands of the Egyptian security services awaiting to be moved back to Israel.

Shalit reportedly crossed into Egypt when an SUV loaded with Palestinian fighters crossing the border towards Egypt, and quickly drove back to the Palestinian side of the border after handing Shalit to Egypt.

The second phase will ensure the release of 550 detainees two months after the first phase is concluded.

The implementation of the first phase of the deal started at 2 on Tuesday at dawn when 96 detainees were moved from the Negev Detention Camp to the Ofer Prison in preparation to be released into the West Bank.

334 detainees were loaded onto buses that will drive them to the Kerem Shalom (Karem Abu Salem) Crossing between Israel and Gaza.

On Tuesday around 4 at dawn, a bus loaded with 27 female detainees, 16 detainees from Jerusalem, and three from the 1948 territories drove off on its way to release them. Four female detainees were sent to Karem Abu Salem Crossing, while one detainee from the Golan Heights was moved to a local police station. Three detainees from the 1948 territories were moved to Majiddo Prison in preparation for their release.

On Monday evening, the Israeli High Court rejected four appeals filed by Israelis against the deal, stated that the swap-deal is totally legal, and granted the deal a green-light.

Palestinian Minister of Detainees in the West Bank, Issa Qaraqe', stated that Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, will personally welcome the West Bank released detainees at his headquarters in Ramallah. Leaders of different factions and institutions will be attending the ceremony.

The Hamas movement in Gaza also concluded its preparations for welcome the detainees who will be sent to Gaza. 163 detainees will be sent to the Rafah Border Terminal before heading to Gaza.

40 detainees will be forced into exile, while Hamas' Political Bureau head, Khaled Mashal, will be holding an official ceremony in Cairo to welcome them.

Israeli military and security sources reported that the army is preparing to counter any scenario that could jeopardize the deal, especially after Shalit is handed to Egyptian mediators.

Before being sent back home, Israel wants to conduct a comprehensive medical checkup on Shalit before he is airlifted to a military base in Israel, where his parents will be waiting for him. He will likely undergo another checkup at the second base before he is sent back home with his family.

Israel imposed media restrictions at the base in order to ensure privacy for Shalit and his family.

Shalit will be meeting Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, and Israeli Army Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz.

Zahhar: “Swap-deal Includes Lifting The Siege On Gaza”

Tuesday October 18, 2011 09:08 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies

Hamas political leader, Mahmoud Zahhar, told Israeli daily, Haaretz, that the prisoner-swap deal reached indirectly reached between Hamas and Israel includes lifting the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.
Mahmoud Zahhar - File Image - Islam Times
Mahmoud Zahhar - File Image - Islam Times

Zahhar added that this issue was agreed upon when the German mediator started his role in the swap talks. “This is still valid under the current agreement”, he said.

The Hamas leader further stated that the deal to release prisoner-of-war Gilad Shalit, in return for releasing more than a thousand Palestinian detainees, also includes a section obliging Israel to improve the living conditions of the Palestinian detainees, adding that Gaza Strip families of the detainees will be allow to visit their beloved one.

After Shalit was captured on June 26, 2006, Israel canceled all visitation rights to Gaza Strip families of political prisoners.

Zahhar also said that Israel will also have to ease the restrictions on border terminals leading to Gaza, including travel from Gaza to the West Bank via Israel.

He stated that the deal also includes increasing the exports of the Gaza Strip to Israel and abroad.

Meanwhile, officials at the Israeli Defense Ministry stated that the Shalit deal represents a shift in the relations between Hamas and Israel, adding that, in recent months, Israel started easing the siege on Gaza as part of an unofficial ceasefire between Hamas and Tel Aviv.