The death of a Palestinian prisoner in Israeli detention last week has raised tension in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, leading to renewed rocket fire from Gaza into Israel for the first time since a ceasefire ended eight days of heavy conflict in November 2012, and a series of clashes between Palestinian demonstrators and the Israeli Army.
Jeffrey Feltman, UN under-secretary-general for political affairs, told the Security Council that the rocket fire on 26 February was “a most troubling development” and called for an “independent and transparent” investigation into the death of Arafat Jaradat on 24 February. According to media reports, Jaradat was arrested one week earlier in relation to a 2012 incident in which an Israeli was injured by Palestinian protesters throwing rocks. He was never formally charged. Palestinian officials allege Jaradat was tortured to death (a Palestinian pathologist was involved in the autopsy) but the Israeli Health Ministry said the fractured ribs and hemorrhages resulted from attempts to resuscitate him. Further tests to definitively determine the cause of death are ongoing.
Four other prisoners are on a hunger strike (the longest has lasted more than 210 days), protesting against the conditions of their detention, including limited visitation rights and so-called “administrative detention” without charge, which the UN deems a violation of international human rights law.
The UN has called for the full implementation of an agreement signed in May 2012 to ease detention conditions in exchange for security guarantees.
"Until now, nothing really happened - nothing we could feel on the ground. There is no change,” said Osama Mustafa, whose father, Wasfe Mustafa, a senior Hamas official, was imprisoned in 2006, released in 2009, and put under “administrative detention” several times since then.
“My father is still in prison without any official charge or trial,” Mustafa told IRIN. “The conditions of visits got even worse for my family. I am still not allowed to visit my father. Only my mother and the younger sisters can. Before the agreement, they could go and talk with my father inside the prison. Today, they are often forced to meet in a facility outside, under the heat of the sun."
Nearly 4,600 “security detainees” - Palestinians arrested in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict - are currently being held in Israeli prisons, according to Israeli NGO B’Tselem, including 159 administrative detainees.
Read IRIN’s detailed briefing on the detention of Palestinians in Israel here.
*This article was amended on 4 March to clarify details surrounding Arafat Jaradat’s death, and the detention of “security detainees”