Israeli forces assault Palestinian prisoners

Palestinian women shout slogans at a demonstration for their relatives who were assaulted by prison guards in Ofer prison, 21 December 2008. (Rami Swidan/MaanImages)

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns attacks launched by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) against Palestinian detainees at Ofer detention facility in Beitunia town southwest of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 11:00am on Saturday, 20 December 2008, dozens of IOF prison guards, accompanied by representatives of Ofer the detention facility administration arrived at Department B to conduct a search without prior coordination with the representatives of detainees. They provocatively searched the department and violently beat a number of detainees. As a consequence, tension spread throughout the detention facility and the detainees declared high alert. Soon after, the administration of the detention facility sprayed hot water, and used sound bombs and tear gas canisters against the detainees. IOF prison guards also fired at the detainees who attempted to confront the guards by throwing soap bars and shoes. Nevertheless, the attack against detainees continued. Fire broke out in nine tents and eight detainees were injured and were treated on the spot. IOF prison guards confiscated some belongings of the detainees including groceries and television sets as a measure of punishment against them. According to information available to PCHR, the detainees declared a hunger strike and refused to have lunch and dinner on Saturday.

IOF have used Ofer detention facility since 1 April 2002 following their wide-scale military campaign against the West Bank, known as “Operation Defensive Shield,” at the end of which IOF completely reoccupied the West Bank. At least 1,200 Palestinians are currently detained in the detention facility under severe living conditions. A number of these detainees suffer from chronic diseases, which require special treatment.

It is noted that raids in detention facilities by “Matsada” and “Nahshon” military units of the Israeli prison authority have escalated in the past year and since Benny Kaniak became director of the authority. Under trivial pretexts, IOF raid detention departments in the early morning using force and gases, whose use is prohibited in closed areas, causing suffocation and diseases to the respiratory apparatus of many detainees.

In light of the campaign of incitement by some extremist Israeli political officials against Palestinian prisoners and their deteriorating conditions of detention, PCHR is concerned that conditions may further deteriorate and more raids against detainees may be conducted by the Israeli prison authority, which could lead to an explosive situation in Israeli prisons.

This press release has been edited for clarity.

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