Why won’t Israel treat imprisoned woman with severe burns?

Israel is subjecting a victim of severe burns to medical neglect in one of its prisons.

Israa Jaabis, 32, was at Israel’s high court on 11 January to appeal her 11-year sentence, citing her dire health situation.

Sixty percent of her body is covered in burns and she has lost eight fingers.

Jaabis needs multiple surgeries, suffers intense pain in her hands and feet and cannot care for herself, she says in a message from HaSharon prison given to the solidarity group Samidoun by her sister.

“Since I was arrested, the administration here has always procrastinated,” Jaabis says. “They say that the operation will happen each month, but nothing happens and my situation worsens every day.”

“Every day I look in the mirror and I feel silent and my soul is shattered,” Jaabis states. “I need treatment to face this painful reality.”

The psychological impact of her severe physical health problems has caused her to almost stop eating and she says Israeli prison authorities are threatening to deny her visits from her 9-year-old son.

Samidoun states that Jaabis’ story “combines the terror of colonial imprisonment with the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem and [Israel’s] constant violence against Palestinian families, particularly women and children.”

Forced to move home

Jaabis, from occupied East Jerusalem, sustained severe burns and other injuries after a cooking gas canister she was transporting caused a fire in her car in October 2015.

She was then accused of attempting to detonate the car when she was hundreds of meters from an Israeli checkpoint.

“The situation was treated as a ‘terror attack’ rather than a medical emergency by the occupation forces on the scene,” according to Samidoun.

Her family vehemently denies the claim. They say Jaabis was moving to a new apartment in East Jerusalem and had been transferring furniture for days, including the gas canister when it exploded.

Jaabis has a Jerusalem residency card but had been living in another part of the occupied West Bank with family and with her son, who has a West Bank ID.

Jaabis had reportedly been told that she would lose her Jerusalem residency if she did not move back to the city.

Israel has revoked the Jerusalem residency of thousands of Palestinian Jerusalemites in recent years on the pretext that they moved away to study or live with family members who are not authorized by occupation authorities to live in the city.

This video shows Jaabis talking to reporters about her situation in the courtroom.

She says she is receiving no treatment at all. “This is taking too long,” she adds. “I’ve been here for two years.”

Twitter users have been using the hashtag #FreeIsraa to show support for Jaabis.

Between detention and exile

Palestinians continue to resist their detention by Israel.

Earlier this month, Israel transferred Palestinian-French human rights defender Salah Hamouri from Negev prison to Megiddo prison under the pretext that he has been engaged in incitement, according to prisoners rights group Addameer.

Hamouri had met with a French journalist and discussed “visits from his lawyer, the process of administrative detention and the techniques used by the IPS [Israel Prison Service] against administrative detainees,” the group states.

Israel arrested Hamouri in August, and he remains in prison without charge or trial despite protests from French citizens, lawmakers and the government.

Palestinian prisoner Rizk Rajoub, 61, began an open-ended hunger strike in late December when the Israeli military court made him choose between administrative detention and exile in Sudan, according to Samidoun.

Israeli authorities put Rajoub in solitary confinement when he began his strike.

Last week, Rajoub was transferred to the Ramle prison clinic when his health deteriorated after 20 days without food.

Rajoub has spent approximately 20 years in Israeli prisons, 10 of them in detention without charge or trial. His most recent arrest from his home village of Dura was in November.

Former hunger striker Bilal Diab was released on 13 January after spending six months in Israeli prisons, without charge or trial.

Diab had previously endured a seven-year sentence as well as a previous stint in administrative detention.

During his most recent hunger strike, Diab was also subjected to to solitary confinement.

Diab participated in a mass hunger strike in 2012 when he fasted for 78 days.

Number of child prisoners doubles

Child prisoner Amal Qabaha, 17, was also released on 11 January after spending a year and a half in Israeli jails.

Her family says that in August 2016, Amal was “seized and targeted because she verbally challenged a soldier at the checkpoint who was abusing and shouting at the Palestinian civilians,” according to Samidoun.

Israel claimed she had a knife and planned to stab a soldier.

After her release, Amal told media about the experience of the “flowers” – the girls held in Israeli jails.

According to Samidoun, Amal told Asra Voice Radio that the girls “put together a magazine to increase cultural awareness to distribute to their fellow prisoners, emphasizing the suffering of women prisoners and educating them through the exchange of scientific and literary information.”

The number of Palestinian children Israel holds in its prisons currently stands at 350, more than twice the number from three years ago.

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Israa Jaabis isn't a terrorist; she was simply transporting a gas cooking canister in her car when it caused a fire, in which she sustained severe burns. Instead of transporting her to the nearest hospital for treatment, Israeli soldiers took her to prison and locked her in a cell. This is the worst kind of neglect, and it violates the Geneva Conventions. Bibi Netanyahu, Israeli's Prime Minister, along with the soldiers who locked Israa up, must be held responsible for this atrocity. Perhaps, they did this, hoping she'd die, but she survived .. Now, it's time she was released from prison and taken to a hospital for treatment.

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Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.