Placed at the Al-Saraya junction in Gaza, a billboard shows Oren Shaul, an Israeli solider, standing with jail bars around him, on December 29, 2017
The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas announced on Friday that media statements have been exchanged between its leader in Gaza, Yahya Al-Sinwar, and Israeli officials regarding “an opportunity” to release Palestinian prisoners in return for the remains of Israeli soldiers.
In a press release issued by Hamas Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, the Palestinian movement disclosed: “There is a possibility for an initiative to move forward with the [prisoner swap] file.”
Barhoum added: “The proposal includes humanitarian dimensions and reflects Hamas’ flexibility regarding the management of this issue.”
He continued: “The proposal aims to test the credibility of the Israeli leadership.”
On Thursday, Al-Sinwar proposed a partial concession regarding the issue of the Israeli soldiers captured in Gaza.
In an interview with Al-Aqsa TV, he stated: “The Israeli occupation would do a humanitarian deed greater than just an exchange process, by releasing Palestinian prisoners who are sick, as well as women, and it is possible that we partially offer something back.”
Shortly after his release from the al-Maskobiyya interrogation facility in occupied Jerusalem, the Palestinian Government Minister of Jerusalem, Fadi al-Hadmi, said that the soldiers violently searched his home, and used dogs to inflict maximum damage, in addition to forcing him to wear a dirty mask that had signs of dried blood on it.
The Minister said that Israeli soldiers, police officers and internal security officers, stormed his home at dawn, after detonating the main doors, and rampaged through every room of the property, causing excessive damage, in addition to causing anxiety attacks among his children.
“I was taken to the al-Maskobiyya interrogation facility where many soldiers repeatedly beat me up,” he added, “I was then forced to wear a mask that seems to have been used and had signs of dried blood on it.”
“No matter what they do, we will continue to serve and support our people in occupied Jerusalem, especially amidst the grave dangers we are facing due to the serious violations of this illegal Israeli occupation,” he added, “However, we will continue to help and support our people, particularly in these trying times – we will do whatever we want to protect the Palestinians from this occupation and the deadly coronavirus.”
The Hamas Movement has renewed its appeal to the Saudi authorities to release Mohamed al-Khudari, his son and other Palestinian detainees in their jails.
In a statement on Saturday, Hamas stressed the need for releasing all Palestinian detainees in light of the spread of coronavirus and the real risks it poses to their lives.
“It has been a year since the arrest of Dr. Khudari and his son Hani in addition to dozens of our citizens and their Saudi sponsors — not for a crime they committed, but because they did not forget the Palestinian question and worked on supporting it with legal and legitimate means and in compliance with their national duty and the Saudi policy that always dealt with the Palestinian issue as the nation’s central cause,” Hamas said.
“It is unfortunate that Saudi Arabia has moved from its position as a supporter for this blessed and holy cause to a position where it is besieging it, its people and supporters,” the Movement added.
The economic losses of the besieged Gaza Strip are estimated at $200 million due to the Israeli siege and the coronavirus, head of the Popular Committee Against Gaza Siege, MP Jamal Al-Khodari, revealed on Friday.
Al-Khodari announced in a statement: “These are the direct and indirect losses of the industrial, commercial, construction and tourism sectors.”
He noted that almost all economic sectors are in recess now because of the coronavirus, adding to this the Israeli occupation siege and the shortage of cash.
“This situation increased the poverty rate,” noting that the Palestinians in Gaza had no savings prior to the outbreak of the pandemic due to the 14-year-long strict Israeli siege.
Al-Khodari highlighted that even the stable world economies are suffering due to the coronavirus pandemic:
What about the Gaza Strip, which had already collapsed before the outbreak of the virus due to the Israeli siege?
In order to help solve the problems in Gaza, he asserted that the international community must put pressure on Israel to lift its siege on Gaza, and that there must be joint international, Islamic and Arabic relief efforts to meet Gaza’s medical, food and humanitarian needs.
Meanwhile, he called for the UN Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) to increase its food and medical aid.
As a precautionary measure, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced on 6 March a state of emergency, which included the closure of official institutions.
Most private sector institutions, and industrial and commercial facilities followed suit, putting the economy on hold.
The international humanitarian campaign to lift the siege on Gaza was launched, with the participation and cooperation of 60 international and media institutions, titled # The Siege – Epidemic, stressing that it will continue to follow its humanitarian solidarity program with the Gaza Strip in the coming days.
The campaign said, in a press release: The siege imposed by the Israeli occupation on the Gaza Strip was and still is an act of aggression with the rank of a crime against humanity, and a look at the statistics and data indicating the decline in the indicators of life in Gaza suffices, so we know that the occupation has turned this small spot of Palestine land to a closed prison, in which the most basic elements of a safe life are lacking, financially and morally.
She added: “Today, the threat of the spread of the new Corona virus is an additional factor, adding to the brutality of the blockade, which prey on the 2 million people who live in the Gaza Strip. The siege and Corona are epidemics that are participating today in killing the residents of the Gaza Strip, and this holds the institutions of the international community responsible for serious work to raise The unjust Israeli siege on Gaza.
The institutions participating in the international humanitarian campaign to lift the siege on Gaza (blockade B) called on all institutions of the international community, the free, honorable, social media activists and individuals carrying the banner of truth and justice, to mobilize efforts and participate in the widest possible range in the international humanitarian campaign to lift the siege on Gaza # Siege_ epidemic.
Palestinians take part in a protest in solidarity with prisoners in Saudi jails, in front of the Red cross office, in Gaza city on on 16 October 2019
Palestinian expert on international law, Dr Anis Kassim, advocates that the Saudi authorities should immediately release all Palestinian and Jordanian detainees, principally because the arrest process does not rest on any legal grounds, and demands the extradition of prisoners to Jordan.
In an exclusive interview with Quds Press, Kassim, who is also the chairman of the Palestinians Abroad Conference, expressed his surprise that the arrest process had occurred in the first place, noting that for decades, the detainees have always had a good reputation in Saudi Arabia. He explained that the way they were arrested, and the nature of the charges, constitute a clear violation of international law.
A year ago, Saudi Arabia arbitrarily arrested dozens of Palestinian students, academics and residents on its soil, including Mohammad Al-Khudari, who was responsible for coordinating relations between Hamas and the Saudi Kingdom, without formal charges being brought against them. Some of the detainees have already been tried, however, their fate still remains unknown, human rights organisations reported.
Quds Press learned that on 8 March, the Saudi authorities proceeded with trying around 62 Palestinians (some of whom were Jordanian passport holders), residing on Saudi territory.
The interview transcript with Dr Kassim is as follows:
How did you perceive the proceedings of the arrests and trials executed by the Saudi authorities against Jordanian and Palestinian detainees?
The arrest process did not rest on any legal grounds. The detainees were devoting their efforts to public service and support of the Palestinian people, and most importantly, the Saudi authorities have been aware of all their activities for decades.
How do you explain the method of arrest, the nature of the charges and denying detainees access to lawyers, in accordance with international law?
The international law rejects all those procedures that have been, and are still taking place, because no crime has been proven on the detainees’ behalf, and still to this day, with a whole year having passed, we do not know the nature of the charges that they are being tried for. If the charges are related to terrorism, then there is no anti-terrorism law in Saudi Arabia.
Do you think that the arrests came within political or legal frameworks?
I think that the arrests are political. That is why the detainees should not be tried at all on charges they did not commit.
There are serious concerns that the detainees might contract the coronavirus in Saudi prisons. What is your comment on that?
According to the international protocol, the Saudi authorities are obliged to release the detainees immediately, and extradite them to their country, where they will either be tried or released, based on the judgment of competent authorities. This is exactly what happened in several other countries, where authorities have concerns of having the prisons contaminated with COVID-19. As such, the prisoners must be released without delay.
With regard to the Palestinian and Jordanian prisoners in the occupation prisons, who can also become infected with coronavirus, how do you view the occupation’s intransigence on this serious issue?
Jordanian or Palestinian prisoners in the occupation prisons are in a different situation, because according to international law, they are considered prisoners of war, and thus, must be treated in accordance with the regulations of the Third Geneva Convention. The abuse inflicted on the Palestinian captives by the Israeli occupation, and the authorities’ intentional reluctance to apply the necessary preventive measures to protect them from the virus, is considered a war crime.
What is required from the Jordanian government regarding the issue of the Jordanian prisoners held in the occupation prisons?
RAMALLAH, Thursday, April 2, 2020 (WAFA) – Ten Palestinian political prisoners at Ofer detention camp, southwest of Ramallah, embarked today on an open-ended hunger strike in protest against the ongoing solitary confinement of two fellow prisoners, as well as against Israel’s failure to provide the conditions to prevent a high risk of coronavirus infection among them, today said the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS).
PPS quoted the ten prisoners as saying that unless the Israel Prison Service (IPS) fulfills their legitimate demands, more prisoners will join the hunger strike to pressure IPS to do so.
Earlier today, other prisoners in Ofer refused to accept their meals in a protest measure against IPS’s failure to examine prisoners who were in contact with an infected inmate released two days ago.
Nour Sarsour, 19, from the town of Beitunia, near Ramallah, was tested positive with coronavirus after his release from prison and arrival at home.
He seems to have contracted the disease while in prison and was released and sent to Ramallah without the IPS conducting any corona tests on him leaving the possibility that he could have passed the disease to other inmates.
PPS said the IPS only checked the prisoners who were in contact with Sarsour but did not take any samples from them to test them for coronavirus, claiming that it was waiting for an official medical report from the Palestinian Authority proving that the released prisoner has the disease.
Food baskets are delivered directly to beneficiaries’ homes as a precautionary measure by UNRWA
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has resumed the distribution of food aid in the Gaza Strip on 31 March. UNRWA has changed the method of distributing its food aid by making deliveries directly to the homes of refugees, in order to ensure their health and safety, which is the top priority for UNRWA. Beneficiary families do not pay any fees for the food aid, with UNRWA covering all costs.
Food baskets are delivered directly to beneficiaries’ homes as a precautionary measure by UNRWA, to prevent gatherings as part of its steps to reduce and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. By using this method, families do not need to leave their homes to receive their food baskets.
As a means to ensure the safety of beneficiaries, and in keeping with health measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, no direct contact is made between those delivering the food baskets and those receiving it. Moreover, a distance of two metres is kept between individuals, no papers are signed and there is no contact with the delivery vehicle.
The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS), on Tuesday, released a statement regarding fears for the fate of 5,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli occupation jails, after the declaration of jailers and investigators being infected with the coronavirus, COVID-19.
The Prisoners’s Society added that they have experienced great difficulty in obtaining prisoner health information, due to the isolation measures imposed by the prison authorities, including suspending family and lawyer visits.
The Prisoner’s Society renewed its request to international organizations including the Red Cross, to play a more effective role through increasing the number of people in Palestine to fulfill the current needs of the population. The statement asked for a neutral international medical committee to participate in testing the prisoners.
The prisoners relayed, through several messages, that the prison authorities never provided any of the precautionary measures in the crowded, closed sections of the prisons. Instead of making an effort to prevent the spread of the virus, authorities persecuted the prisoners, accordingly, the prisoners returned their meals and closed the sections as a protest.
It is indicated that there are 700 sick prisoners, 200 who suffer chronic medical issues, in addition to 180 children and 41 females. According to Palestinian WAFA News Agency, the PPS and several other institutions co-launched a petition requesting the release of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including ill, elderly, female and minor prisoners, over fears of coronavirus spread in the absence of Israeli Prison Service (IPS) health measures to protect them from the coronavirus pandemic.
A group of volunteer youth carry out disinfection work during the coronavirus pandemic in Gaza on 29 March 2020
A spokesman for the UN Secretary-General has said that the “fragile” economy in the besieged Gaza Strip was in António Guterres’s mind when he launched an appeal to raise $2 billion to help countries at high risk from the coronavirus pandemic, Al-Quds Al-Arabi has reported.
Stéphane Dujarric made his comment when asked by a journalist about the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, especially the Gaza Strip. He pointed out that Guterres was speaking at UN headquarters in New York at the launch of a report on the potential socioeconomic impact of the outbreak.
In a brief for the UN Security Council meeting in a video conference on 30 March, the Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process said, “Despite critical interventions to bolster Gaza’s economy and water, energy and health sectors, humanitarian and socioeconomic conditions remain dire.”
The UN, added Nickolay Mladenov, is supporting measures to tackle the spread of COVID-19. “However, Gaza is at particularly high risk for an outbreak given its already failing healthcare system in one of the most densely populated areas of the world.”