Since October 7, Palestinian prisoners have been subjected to an intense campaign of retaliatory violence by Israeli prison officials.
By: Peoples Dispatch
Family members and friends of prisoners rally in the West Bank to call for their release. Photo: Palestinian Prisoner Society
During the seven-day pause in the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, 240 Palestinian prisoners, all children and women, were released. With their release, the complete communications blackout imposed on the prisons, with the suspension of almost all lawyer and family visits, was broken.
After defying repression and celebrating their release with their loved ones, the released prisoners shared harrowing stories of brutal physical and psychological torture by the Israeli prison authorities. 17-year-old Mohamaad Nazzal, who had been held at the Naqab desert prison, told local media, “The prison became a graveyard following October 7.” Nazzal himself sustained serious injuries at the hands of Israeli forces who fractured both his hands during a beating.
The horror stories confirmed the rumors that had been circulating: since October 7, Palestinian prisoners had been subjected to an extreme level of retaliatory violence by Israeli forces.
In the midst of this brutal repression of prisoners, six Palestinian prisoners have been martyred in jails, the following of whom are known:
- Omar Daraghmeh, 58 years old – administrative detainee in Megiddo prison,
- Arafat Hamdan, 25 years old – detainee in Ofer prison,
- Abdul Rahman Merie, 33 years old – martyred in Megiddo prison,
- Majed Zaqoul, 32 years old – from the Gaza Strip,
- Thaer Abu Asab – detained since 2005, martyred as a result of being beaten in Naqab prison,
- Another prisoner from Gaza whose identity is still unknown.
Read more: “The prison became a graveyard following October 7”: Palestinian women and children share horrors of imprisonment
This campaign of violence was given crucial cover with the complete halt of all visits by family members and representatives of the International Committee for the Red Cross and with severely limited lawyer visits.
Over 8,000 Palestinians remain locked up in Israeli prisons and continue to suffer this inhumane treatment, while calls for their release continue to grow.
The following are notes, testimonies, and reflections shared by prisoners and their family members over the past several weeks, communicated through their lawyers. Their names and locations have been withheld for their security.
The occupation uses a deliberate policy of intimidation with the aim of deterring any idea or attempt to put up even the smallest amount of resistance. The occupation keenly publishes videos that demonstrate the violence and crimes being committed against Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. It also forces prisoners to look at or listen to fellow prisoners being abused.
“12 November, on our way back to the ward, we saw the warden dragging a number of new prisoners on the floor in a horrifying way. I tried to scream but he quickly stopped me. The scene was terrifying and reminds me of what we saw in footage from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prison.”
Yes, they kill us while we are alive, they try to rid us of all human and nationalist beliefs and qualities. Every day, we wake up to more complicated measures. During such times, a day feels longer than a year. Everyone is desperate for a piece of news about family and loved ones, about status, and conditions.
But still, we will raise the flag of consistency and steadfastness. We will not abandon this banner, this is what we have left. We will go out free and liberated. Every piece of news we hear about the resistance reinvigorates our steadfastness and energy. With every failure in the Israeli ground offensive, our pride rises and we get closer to relief, freedom, and victory. All these scenes will eventually turn into novels and stories, and be published for the whole world. How many stories in this war were woven inside the prisons, and how many scenes were watched with sadness, death, and humiliation.
Be well. We will meet soon, free, with our heads held high.
According to the testimony of a prisoner, who has spent more than half his life in prison cells, and who is known for his asceticism, rigor, silence, decisiveness, shyness, humility, and living in poverty, he reported: “the situation now is below the starvation line. Two small, foul-smelling meals. But we eat it, we have no other choice. At night, the smell of burning garbage spreads, filling the room. It is annoying and unpleasant.”
The picture of family and loved ones in these difficult times is a boat to freedom, which we ride all the time, filled with love and hope.
November 11: Insults, provocation, and more stringent measures. While we were waiting for the visit, we saw the scene of the Nahshon units unleashing dogs to the prisoners and the sound of screaming and beatings, how often this scene is repeated, and with many brutal and humiliating methods. The prisons have become real underground cells, with all the details and procedures, and despite all this anger directed at us, there will be a bright tomorrow named liberation. This is what controls the entire prisoners movement.
November 12: After we finished our visit with the lawyer, we were crammed into a cell, and when we were returning, they told us to go back and put our heads down, and bow down completely. I refused, and I rose my voice and called the officer, and she pulled me aside in despair. They all gathered together, and I remained in my position, and I did not reply. While we were walking, I saw a female prison guard holding my card and talking about it. I said, “May God protect us. The important thing is that we return with our heads held high to the section.”
The day is very long, and really boring, these days are terrifying, real prison, but I set a program, to relieve the stress, and the only thing that saves me every time is our pictures, which I was able to hide with difficulty, and some of our letters that I hide well, so they are now my strength and force.
Despite the severity of the pain, the prisoners continue to review their daily lives and think about the details outside the prison. “Nothing in prison is satisfactory except one thing, which is having time to contemplate and think.” – Nelson Mandela
One of the prisoners inspects the exam of his son, a medical student in Egypt, another thinks about his wife’s foot, which was in pain before his arrest, and another remembers the date of the birth of one of his sheep, so he says to his lawyer, “My father was informed that between the 20 and 25 of December, the sheep will give birth, so keep track of the date carefully, and be prepared…Given the right conditions, the sheep will give birth to its first calf.”
Contrary to the occupation’s attempts to divert us to individual concerns, the resistance restored the concept of the collective to the Palestinian people. The wife of one of the prisoners contacts the lawyer to request a visit to one of her village’s detainees, who suffers from diabetes, instead of visiting her husband. She says: “My husband is young and can tolerate it, but Muhammad is an elderly man and will need [me] to visit and check on his health.”
One prisoner says to his love, who has been waiting for him for years: “My memories with you outside of the prison are the only thing that makes me happy and yearning for freedom.”
The heartbreaking news and shock of isolated prisoners upon receiving news of the loss of their loved ones while they are in prison.
“We swallowed bitterness and sadness with doses of pain, and painful heart pricks that did not want the loved ones to leave, did not want these tears to fall. What to say? All words cannot express the horror of the situation, the deep sadness, and the overwhelming, renewed tears like a spring. Glory to you, my friend.”
Tell my wife:
“November 11, a new morning, brings us to the most beautiful meeting, the meeting of freedom, the greatest joy, and the intense, crazy excitement.”
In a letter from one of the prisoners to his mother:
“November 7, we received news of the martyrdom of another prisoner. The situation is tense, and there is a state of alert in the administration, continued closure, deprivation of the most basic rights, deprivation of everything. Everyone is showing signs of fatigue, exhaustion, and boredom to the extent that the situation was unbearable. But I am fine. My health is fine, the important thing is that you are healthy and all of you are healthy.”
Testimonies from Palestinian prisoners from the month of October can be found here: How Palestinians in Israeli prisons experience the war.