Israel breaks pledge to allow imprisoned Gaza engineer family visits

Dirar Abu Sisi’s continued imprisonment has exacted a heavy toll on his family in Gaza.

Rami Almeghari

One year after Israel promised to allow Palestinian prisoners to receive visits from their families, it is still denying Dirar Abu Sisi the right to see his loved ones.

Abu Sisi, the deputy engineer of Gaza’s only power plant, was abducted in Ukraine, the country of his wife’s birth, in early 2011. He has been held in an Israeli prison since then. Throughout that time, his wife Veronika has only been able to have three telephone chats with him.

“The last call, which took ten minutes, was in January 2012,” she said. “When my mother died back in Ukraine, they refused to let us have a phone conversation.”


Tal Linoy, an Israeli attorney who is representing Abu Sisi, accused Israel of reneging on commitments that it made to Palestinian prisoners last year following a mass hunger strike. As well as agreeing to allow family visits, Israel pledged to end solitary confinement.

Yet Abu Sisi is still held in isolation. Although Abu Sisi has not yet been tried for any offense, the Israeli legal system has approved the extension of his solitary confinement on four separate occasions. The latest extension — for a six-month period — was authorized in April this year.

According to Linoy, Israel can obtain court orders for solitary confinement on the grounds that a prisoner may endanger national security. “It is not difficult for the prosecution to convince the court to extend solitary confinement,” he said. “Every time, it shows to the court some secret ‘expert’ opinions, which we are not permitted to see and, as a result, can’t contradict what they say.”

It has been reported that Abu Sisi is accused of belonging to a “terrorist organization” and upgrading rockets used by Palestinians resisting Israel’s occupation of Gaza (“Shin Bet files indictment against ‘rocket godfather’,” The Jerusalem Post, 4 April 2011).

Health concerns

Linoy has submitted an appeal against the latest extension of Abu Sisi’s solitary confinement to the Israeli high court. The lawyer expressed serious worries about the state of Abu Sisi’s health.

Abu Sisi had a heart attack one year before his abduction. He also suffers from anemia and has encountered a sharp drop in his weight. He complains of frequent headaches and a loss of vision.

Linoy has fought a long battle with the prison authorities to ensure that tests are carried out on Abu Sisi’s colon. The lawyer is also seeking that a thorough check be performed on Abu Sisi’s liver as some concerns were raised by a scan on that organ.

“Dirar’s mental state also continues to deteriorate,” said Linoy. Doctors working for the prison authority have confirmed that he is suffering from depression and prescribed medication for him.


Linoy has recently succeeded in obtaining a court order to have Abu Sisi assessed by an independent psychiatrist, without a doctor working for the Israeli prison service in attendance. But the assessment has not yet been done.

Linoy argued that international pressure could help to at least end Abu Sisi’s solitary confinement.

Dirar’s father Mousa Abu Sisi has been stonewalled when seeking an explanation from Ukraine about the circumstance’s of his son’s kidnapping. Dirar was on his way to Kiev when the abduction occurred. He intended to request Ukrainian citizenship following Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s attacks on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.

While he was on a train from Kharkiv to Kiev, three men boarded his compartment. Two of them were wearing Ukrainian military uniforms.

He was then handcuffed, hooded and brought to an apartment, where he encountered a group of men who claimed to be from Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. Following an interrogation, Abu Sisi was flown to Israel in a coffin.

Mousa Abu Sisi has lived in Jordan for many years. He has requested meetings with the Ukrainian embassy in Amman to discuss his son’s treatment but the requests have been turned down. “The people of Ukraine should be ashamed of their government’s deeds,” he said.

Veronika Abu Sisi added: “If the Ukrainian authorities did not help Israel kidnap Dirar, who has got a Ukrainian passport, he wouldn’t be in jail now.”

Her husband’s imprisonment has exacted a heavy toll on the family. One of the couple’s children, Osama, was two years old when his father was abducted. Now four, Osama often clutches a photograph of his father and becomes upset when anyone tries to take it away from him.

“We live in darkness without any sign of sun,” said Veronika. “Dirar has been the sun for all of us. I only see him in my dreams.”

Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.