As Palestinian prisoners in Israel's jails begin an indefinite hunger strike to protest against their conditions behind bars, Hamas has described Israeli policies such as solitary confinement and administrative detention as "retaliation for prisoners' steadfastness". The prisoners themselves say that an end to the imposition of solitary confinement is the most important demand of their latest hunger strike. It is important not least because the prison authorities use it as a punishment for even minor infringements of prison rules.
A report issued by the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) on Tuesday says that solitary confinement is one of the hardest types of sanctions imposed by the Israeli prison authorities against the prisoners, who are kept in a dark, narrow cell for lengthy periods. Psychologically, the greatest threat to a prisoner in solitary confinement is the lack of a time frame for the end of the punishment. No judicial authority is made available to prisoners for a ruling on the punishment in solitary; this is decided by the intelligence and security officers within the prison administration and the Ministry of Internal Security.
The report adds that a number of prisons have isolation cells, including Beersheba (Eichel and Ohli Kedar), Gilboa, Ashkelon, Al-Ramla, Shata and Kfar Yona. It lists the sort of conditions faced by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, including daily beatings and humiliation, and the lowest possible standards of living conditions. Some prisoners who have spent many years in solitary confinement are found to be suffering from serious psychological and physical problems on their release.
The report pointed out that there are still dozens of prisoners who are languishing in solitary confinement under special procedures based on the nature of their past activism as a punishment on top of the sentence imposed by the Israeli military courts. It is this which Hamas says is part of a retaliatory regime intended to break the prisoners and humiliate them. Some of these prisoners spread around several isolation sections are Ahmed Saadat, Thabet Mirdaawi, Hassan Salameh, Ahmed El-Maghraby, Abdullah Al-Barghouti, Mohammed Jamal Al-Natshe, Ibrahim Hamid, Moataz Hijazi, Jamal Abu Al-Hija, Mahmoud Issa, Saleh Dar Moussa, Hisham Al-Sharabati, Mahawish Ne`matt, Atwa Al-Amour, Iyad Abu Hasana, Mohannad Shraim and A`hed Ghalma.
Administrative detention as practiced by the Israeli occupation authorities against Palestinians is defined by the report as "detention without charge or trial; based on a confidential file and secret evidence that neither the detainee nor his lawyer are allowed to know. According to the Zionist military orders, the administrative detention order can be renewed for an unlimited number of times."
The report adds, "The administrative detention procedure is linked to the political situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, and the Palestinian protest movement against the continuation of the Zionist occupation of Palestinian lands occupied in 1967. It is a punishment and a political action that reflects the policy of Israel's official government as it uses the administrative detention as a collective punishment against the Palestinians. Moreover, the way this procedure is practiced by the Zionist forces is prohibited in international law."
According to Palestinian human rights reports, and statements by researchers at the Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs, Israel has arrested thousands of Palestinians through administrative detention for periods that range from a few months to several years.