Palestinians in Gaza celebrate Prisoners’ Day amid Jerusalem tensions | Occupied West Bank News

Gaza City – Dozens of people have gathered outside the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the besieged Gaza Strip to demand that Israel immediately release Palestinian prisoners.

Sunday’s demonstration was one of several held in the occupied Palestinian territories to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, an occasion when Palestinians traditionally show solidarity with those detained in Israeli jails.

More than 4,400 Palestinians are currently held in Israeli jails. More than 500 detainees, including women and minors, are held in “administrative detention”, under which suspects are held without charge or trial for an indefinite period of time.

Samira al-Haj Ahmad, 56, who goes by the name Umm Raed, has joined the annual protests and has participated in weekly solidarity sit-ins for the past 17 years.

His son Raed al-Hajj Ahmad is being held in Nafha, a prison in the Naqab (Negev) region of Israel. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2004 after attempting an attack on the Beit Hanoun (Erez) checkpoint in northern Gaza.

“The suffering of our children in Israeli prisons continues, the difficult conditions and harsh treatment by the jailers,” he told Al Jazeera, holding up Raed’s photo.

“The flower of my son’s youth went to jail. He was only 20 years old when he was arrested, now he is 38”, he said. “Every month of Ramadan we miss him at the iftar table, our lives are tasteless without him.”

Samira al-Haj Ahmad, 56, mother of a prisoner sentenced to 20 years in Israeli jails [Mohammed Salem/ Al Jazeera]

Other events to mark the day took place in the occupied West Bank districts of Ramallah, Nablus and Hebron, where participants walked in demonstrations and carried banners to show solidarity with the prisoners.

This year’s Prisoners’ Day comes after more than 300 Palestinians were arrested and at least 160 wounded when Israeli forces raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday.

“Every day there are dozens of young people who are arrested, as we saw two days ago in Jerusalem and the West Bank,” said Um Raed.

“No one cares how many prisoners Israel has. Everyone must work for the release of all our young people detained by Israel.”

According to the rights group Addameer, 12 of the 32 Palestinian women detained in Israeli prisons are mothers, and around 160 Palestinian children between the ages of 12 and 17 are detained in Israel.

Fatima al-Ziq, a former prisoner, joined the Palestinian Prisoners' Day protests in Gaza.
Fatima al-Ziq, a former prisoner, joined the protests [Mohammed Salem/ Al Jazeera]

Former prisoner Fatima al-Ziq, 52, told Al Jazeera that the prisoners’ issue should be a priority for Palestinian leaders and political factions.

“From my past experience, I lived my most difficult days in Israeli prisons. The prison service used all measures of psychological and physical torture against us,” he said.

“The policies of deprivation of family visits, solitary confinement, administrative detention are still used against prisoners.”

Al-Ziq was arrested in May 2007 when she was two months pregnant at the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing, accused of trying to carry out an attack in Israel. She later gave birth to her son Yousef in an Israeli prison.

She and her son were freed along with 19 other Palestinian women as part of a 2009 deal between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian faction that rules Gaza. Under the deal, Hamas produced a so-called “proof of life” video of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been held captive for more than three years, and Israel released the female prisoners.

Um Ibrahim Baroud, 82, mother of released prisoner Ibrahim Baroud, who was released in April 2013 after spending 27 years in Israeli prisons.
Um Ibrahim Baroud has continued to participate in Prisoners’ Day events after her son was released from prison. [Mohammed Salem/ Al Jazeera]

Um Ibrahim Baroud, 82, is the mother of Ibrahim Baroud, who was released in April 2013 after spending 27 years in Israeli prisons.

“My suffering while waiting for my son’s release made me feel like the mother of all prisoners,” she told Al Jazeera.

“All prisoners are my children, and I pray for their release every day. No one feels the suffering of the prisoner and his family except the one who tasted this cup,” he said.

In 1995, Umm Ibrahim co-founded a weekly sit-in for families of Palestinian prisoners outside ICRC headquarters in an attempt to raise awareness of the plight of Palestinian prisoners. To this day, people continue to gather at the site every Monday morning.

“I had this idea with the mother of another prisoner. We wanted to make sure that our children were not forgotten,” she said.

“It was just the two of us standing outside the ICRC the first time, but we knew next week there would be three or four of us and then slowly more mothers would join us,” she said.

Umm Ibrahim called for the release of Palestinian prisoners and an end to Israel’s punitive measures against them.

“The international community must act to end the brutal policies of administrative detention and detention of children and release those sentenced to high sentences.”

Infographic showing how many Palestinians are being held in Israeli prisons in 2022 for Palestinian Prisoner's Day

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