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Israel imposing severe restrictions on prison visits by Gaza families

January 24, 2018 at 1:31 pm

Israeli security forces take positions outside the Israeli-run Ofer prison, in the West Bank city, 5 December 2017 [Shadi Hatem/Apaimages]

Israeli authorities are imposing “severe restrictions” on visits by Palestinian families in the Gaza Strip to relatives held in Israeli prisons, NGO B’Tselem has reported.

Citing official Israeli figures, B’Tselem says there are 358 Palestinian prisoners and detainees from the Gaza Strip being held in Israeli prisons located within the Green Line.

“Keeping residents of the Occupied Territories incarcerated within Israel forces their relatives to obtain permits in order to visit them”, the NGO noted.

It is a violation of international law to transport prisoners outside of occupied territory.

As described by B’Tselem, “over the years, Israel has imposed overwhelming obstacles on the families of inmates from Gaza”, such as banning all visits in 2007, and only reinstating them in 2012.

At first, only visits by parents and spouses were reinstated, and, according to the Red Cross, Israel now allows visits by children up to the age of 16. There is, however, “a blanket ban on visits from other relatives, including grandparents and siblings”.

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Visits are short, lasting 45-60 minutes, and “a glass partition separates the inmate from his visitors, and they communicate by phone”. Children under the age of ten are allowed to hug their father.

As so-called ‘security prisoners’, Palestinians are unable to communicate with their families by phone. When coupled with “the stringent restrictions on visits, this makes life very difficult for their children, who grow up without their fathers; on their wives, who are left to raise the children alone”.

B’Tselem stated that “maintaining family ties is a fundamental human right, and prison inmates are no exception”.

“Family visits are a right of detainees and prisoners, and visiting their relatives is a family’s right. As Israel chose to incarcerate residents of Gaza in its sovereign territory, in breach of international law, it must allow their relatives to visit them without imposing arbitrary restrictions”.