Elderly Palestinian dies after 26 years in Israeli prison

A Palestinian prisoner died on Wednesday after 26 years in Israeli prison.

Palestinian human rights groups and political parties accused Israel of years of medical neglect in the death of Saadi al-Gharabli.

Israeli prison authorities transferred al-Gharabli from Eshel prison in the south to the Kaplan Medical Center in central Israel a few days before he died. He was reportedly unconscious.

Al-Gharabli, 75, had various medical conditions, including prostate cancer. Israeli prison authorities failed to provide him with adequate medical treatment.

The Palestinian Prisoners Club said al-Gharabli faced the “slow killing” of medical negligence over years of imprisonment.

It says al-Gharabli is one of 69 Palestinians who have died from medical negligence in Israeli custody since 1967.

He was arrested in 1994 for alleged involvement in the killing of an Israeli soldier in Tel Aviv and was given a life sentence.

He spent the first 12 years of his detention in solitary confinement.

Al-Gharabli was from the Shujaiya neighborhood of Gaza City and had ten children. He was one of the oldest and longest-serving Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

Political parties condemnation

The executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization said al-Gharabli’s death is “a new crime added to the record of crimes committed against the prisoners movement as a result of medical negligence.”

The Islamic Jihad resistance group assigned Israel “full responsibility for the policy of medical neglect that led to the martyrdom of many heroic prisoners in occupation prisons.”

Hamas also accused prison authorities of negligence in the death of al-Gharabli.

The former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, Rami Hamdallah, condemned the conditions of al-Gharabli’s death and accused Israeli prison authorities of neglecting his care.

However, the Palestinian Authority has a lengthy record of collusion with Israel’s military occupation. This includes detaining and interrogating Palestinians who are later arrested and tortured by Israel.

There are currently 4,700 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, including more than 500 serving life sentences.

Child detainees

Israeli is currently holding 160 Palestinian children in prison.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Israel accelerated its arrest of Palestinian children, despite international calls to reduce the world’s prison population in fear of outbreaks.

Israel arrested three Palestinian teens last month, disrupting their high school exams, known as the tawjihi.

Amin al-Sulaibi, Khalaf Shakarneh and Saifuddin Najajreh – all aged 17 – were detained in separate pre-dawn raids on their homes in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem on 9 June.

Passing the tawjihi is required to graduate from high school.

Palestinian children must often repeat a grade upon release from Israeli prisons, according to Defense for Children International Palestine.

“Israeli authorities understand the significance of the tawjihi exams,” Ayed Abu Eqtaish, a program director with the rights group, stated.

“The intention is to detain children knowing they will not be able to complete their education rather than to hold a child accountable for any specific wrongdoing.”

The children’s advocacy group documented 120 education-related violations by the Israeli military against children between last August and February of this year.

These include the detention of children from or near schools and attacks against schools.

“Palestinian children frequently experience physical violence and harassment on the way to and from school, military and settler raids, hate speech graffitied on school walls, and the total and partial demolition of schools,” Defense for Children International Palestine said.




My love and thoughts are with Saadi al-Gharabli.

Justice will happen.
Palestine will be free.


To keep a human being imprisoned for 26years - the first 12 in solitary - demonstrates the utterly barbaric laws inflicted by the Israeli government on Palestinians. Most of those incarcerated are for crimes arising from war-like situations or politically motivated. While killing anyone is not justified, the life sentence meted out to Saadi was much too harsh.

Had he been paroled a few years earlier on compassionate grounds, he might have spent the final years of his life with his family. I cannot imagine that such a gesture would jeopardise the security of anyone in Israel, but I guess that would be too much to expect of an administration hell bent on persecuting Palestinians as they have been doing for the past few decades.

Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.