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Palestinian prisoner sets fire to cell in protest at lack of health measures

March 25, 2020 at 2:59 pm

Palestinians gather for a demonstration to demand coronavirus (COVID-19) protection for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, in Gaza City, Gaza on 19 March 2020 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]

A Palestinian political prisoner has set fire to his cell in Nafha Prison in protest against the Israeli authorities’ failure to protect prisoners’ health during the coronavirus crisis, Wafa news agency has reported. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society had warned earlier that matters will escalate in Ofer, Negev and Nafha Prisons where hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are “languishing” due to alleged medical negligence.

The head of the Palestinian Authority’s Prisoners Affairs Commission, Qadri Abu Bakr, said that Ayman Sharabati, who is serving a life sentence, set the room on fire when the prisoners were taking their daily walk. It was his response to the way that the Israel Prison Service (IPS) has been dealing with the health situation in prisons and not introducing enough measures to prevent the spread of the virus among the prisoners. Sharabati was immediately placed in solitary confinement.

Protest action started last week, with prisoners refusing some meals following restrictions imposed by the prison authorities in Israel which have made conditions even worse for Palestinian detainees. Cleaning products, for example, have been withheld, even though they are essential due to the virus outbreak, particularly in crowded cells that already fail to meet basic health standards.

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Rights groups say that dozens of Palestinian prisoners are in need of urgent medical care, with many suffering from serious or chronic illnesses. Furthermore, many Palestinians claim that they have been subject to torture and violence while in Israeli custody. There have been many protests against poor conditions in recent years, including several hunger strikes. According to Al-Jazeera, prisoners must pay for their own medical treatment, and are not provided with adequate healthcare.

Abu Bakr added that the IPS removed doctors and nurses from the prisons, leaving only one nurse in every establishment. He warned that if such policies continue, it could result in more serious responses from the prisoners.

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