Second Palestinian child held by Israel tests positive for coronavirus

Woman wearing flag as cape, raising finger during protest

Palestinians in Gaza City rally in solidarity with compatriots held in Israeli prisons, 24 August.

Mahmoud Ajjour APA images

A second Palestinian child imprisoned by Israel has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.

Israeli occupation forces detained the 14-year-old boy on 15 September in the Bab al-Zawiya neighborhood of the West Bank city of Hebron.

His name is being withheld by human rights group Defense for Children International Palestine for privacy reasons.

The boy was transferred to an Israeli police station in the Kiryat Arba settlement in southern Hebron, where occupation authorities interrogated him and accused him of throwing stones.

Israeli forces transferred the child to a detention facility in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc and then placed him with two other Palestinian child detainees at Megiddo prison in northern Israel on 17 September.

Israeli prison authorities tested the boy for COVID-19 on 17 September, and two days later informed him that he had tested positive.

It is unclear whether the boy was infected before or during his imprisonment, DCI Palestine said.

Israeli prison authorities placed him in a police station being used as a quarantine facility in the northern Israeli city of Acre.

On 24 September, an Israeli military court sentenced him to time served for alleged stone-throwing, and a $600 bond to be paid if occupation forces detain him again.

This is the second known case of a Palestinian child detainee contracting the virus.

A 15-year-old child held by Israel tested positive for the new coronavirus in August. He had been imprisoned for almost two weeks.

As of August, Israel was holding 140 Palestinian children as prisoners.

By continuing to detain Palestinian minors, “Israeli authorities are recklessly endangering children,” Ayed Abu Eqtaish, a program director with the rights group, stated, reiterating DCI Palestine’s call on Israel to release all Palestinian children.

Israel holds children and adults in overcrowded conditions and subjects them to medical neglect, systematic torture and lack of proper ventilation.

Israel’s highest court ruled in July that Palestinian prisoners have no right to physical distancing to protect against COVID-19.

In the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in March, Israeli prison authorities withdrew some 140 items from prison commissaries, including food and hygiene products.

To add insult to injury, Israeli prison authorities halted last month the delivery of products to prison commissaries funded by the Palestinian Authority.

Prisoners depend on commissaries for 60 percent of their food needs, due to unsanitary conditions in prison kitchens.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian has refused food for almost 70 days in protest of his administrative detention – without charge or trial.

Maher al-Akhras, 49, is from the occupied West Bank town of Silat al-Dahr, near Jenin.

Israeli prison authorities transferred al-Akhras to the Kaplan Medical Center in central Israel. He is in serious condition.

“My death would be a murder by the occupation,” al-Akhras said in a video from his hospital bed, where he was visited by Yousef Jabareen, a Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.

“It is not in my hands. Israel has the power to release or detain.”

Al-Akhras said he will continue to refuse food and negotiations.

“My only conditions are freedom or death.”

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Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.