Israel holds some 4,650 Palestinians, including 200 children, 40 women, and 520 administrative detainees, in prisons.
Six Palestinian prisoners broke out of Gilboa jail, a maximum-security prison about 4km (2.5 miles) from the boundary with the occupied West Bank, on September 6.
The men tunnelled their way through a hole beneath the sink in their cell that they had been digging for months. Israeli authorities discovered the prisoners’ escape at about 3:30am.
Police, soldiers, and agents from Israel’s Shin Bet agency joined the search, deployed sniffer dogs, and set up checkpoints in the surrounding areas.
As of Saturday, September 11, the Israeli police said they arrested four of the men who were captured near Nazareth and Umm al-Ghanam. Two remain at large.
Over the weekend, Palestinians across the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem took to the streets in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners and protested against their punishment.
According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, there are currently 4,650 Palestinians held in Israeli jails in Israel and the occupied territories.
Palestinians view them as political prisoners attempting to end Israel’s illegal occupation.
- 520 are being held without charge or trial
- 200 are children
- 40 are women
- 544 are serving life sentences
- 499 are serving a sentence of more than 20 years
Since the start of 2021, Israeli forces have rounded up more than 5,500 Palestinians, including women and children, according to Palestinian NGOs. The month of May saw the highest number of arrests, with 3,100 Palestinians taken into Israeli custody.
What it’s like for child prisoners
The Israeli army has imprisoned some 12,000 Palestinian children since 2000, according to Addameer. Most of these children were charged with throwing stones, a crime that is punishable under military law by up to 20 years in prison.
Israel is the only country in the world that tries children in military courts, often denying them their basic rights.
Currently, 200 Palestinian children remain in detention in Israeli prisons, the majority of whom are in pre-trial detention and have not been convicted of any offence.
In 2020, Save the Children [PDF] asked 470 Palestinians from across the West Bank who had been detained by the Israeli military over the past 10 years what conditions were like.
- 81 percent suffered physical beatings
- 86 percent were subjected to strip searches
- 88 percent did not receive adequate and timely healthcare
- 89 percent were blindfolded or hooded during detention
- 52 percent were threatened with harm to their families
- 47 percent were denied contact with a lawyer
Administrative detainees – held without charge or trial
There are currently 520 Palestinians in “administrative detention” – held without charge or trial. The detainees, including women and children, can be held by the military for renewable six-month periods without charge.
According to international law, an occupying state is prohibited from transferring and holding prisoners outside the occupied territory, as Israel does with a number of prisons within its borders.
Over the years, many detainees have gone on hunger strike as a non-violent protest against their detention.
Every year on April 17, Palestinians commemorate Palestinian Prisoner’s Day to highlight the plight of those held in Israeli jails and their struggle for freedom against Israeli occupation.