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No dignity in death for Palestinian prisoners

Israeli authorities can detain bodies as a bargaining chip in negotiations. The doors to the Baroud’s family home has closed forever. Its occupants, Raya Baroud and her only son Fares died under the weight of Israeli occupation.

The family has endured enormous pain and suffering directly because of the policies and actions of Israeli authorities.

Baroud waited at her house in the Al-Shate’a refugee camp since 1991 for the release of her son from Israeli dentition on charges of being an activist during the First Intifada, or Uprising, in 1987, only to die in 2017 after waiting for nearly 28 years.

Fayza Baroud said her mother built a home for her brother in hopes of seeing him free. “We dreamed all the time to see him again. My mother hoped always to see her children but her dreams went unheeded,” she told Anadolu Agency.

His elder sister said Israeli authorities deprived the family of visits in 2001 without explanation.

“My mother cried from missing her son until she became blind. Many times I saw her sniffing his clothes,” Baroud said, detailing her mother’s suffering.

Fares spent more than 16 years in solitary confinement and suffered from several diseases, including visual impairment, liver ailments and psychiatric disorders because he was cut off from contact with others.

Along with other inmates, he was subjected to severe medical neglect which led to a worsening of his conditions and was rushed to the hospital several times.

His mother resorted to calling radio stations to sing to her son. It was the only way the pair could have some semblance of contact after visits were stopped and she went blind.

“After he knew about our mother’s death, he was shocked and his health became worse. In his last days he lost his vision,” Fayza said.

In February 2019, the Israeli jails service announced that the only male member of the family also died after severe internal bleeding damaged his liver.

“The home closed. I lost my mother. Less than a year later, I lost my only brother. The pain is unforgettable. He left to Allah as a hero martyr,” said Baroud with a tinge of triumph. She is the only remaining member of the family, losing her father at an early age.

But the policies Israel used to deprive Baroud of seeing her brother while he was in prison was similarly constructed after his death to prevent her from paying her last respects.

Israeli authorities kept his body and did not disclose details about circumstances surrounding his death to his family nor human rights groups.

Salwa Baker Hammad, Coordinator of The National Campaign to Retrieve War Victims and Unravel the Fate of Those Missing told Anadolu Agency that authorities have refused to provide information about Palestinians detained from the Gaza Strip.

Israel is holding the bodies of two inmates from Gaza who died in custody, including Baroud, 51, and Saad Gharably, 75, who died in July.

Many Palestinians believe Gaza is being targeted because the enclave voted for the Hamas resistance group in the 2006 legislative elections.

Eight Palestinians, including two Gazans, have died inside Israel jails and their bodies are in Israeli custody.

Among them is Anees Doleh, who died of a heart attack in the Ashkelon jail during a hunger strike in 1980.

“The occupation authorities alleged that there’s no information about him. They say that Anees left the jail on the same day of his death, but in reality, he died in front of his fellow inmates,” Salwa said.

Kamal Abu Waer was diagnosed in 2019 with a cancerous tumor in his throat and was a victim of medical negligence by Israeli officials. He died Nov. 10.

Abu Waer, 46, from the village of Qabatiah near Jenin in the northern West Bank, was arrested and put behind bars in 2003. He is serving six life sentences plus 50 years for taking part in the Second Intifada.

Israel’s Supreme Court decided in 2015 to return to the policy of detaining the bodies of the Palestinians killed by the army while fighting the illegal occupation or those who died in jails.

Since 2015, authorities have detained 69 bodies, seven are prisoners who died between 2018 and 2020.

“We don’t have any information if Israel will hand over,” said Salwa. “Daoud Khatieb from Bethelem died three months before his release but his body is still in detention.”

On the day of his supposed freedom, Dec. 4, a campaign will argue before the Supreme Court for the release of his body.

“We will see if they hand him over on the date of his release or not,” said Salwa.

The top court in 2017 gave the Israeli army six months to hand over bodies or enact legislation to allow officials to detain them. The court said the army could not hold the bodies indefinitely.

But the army appealed and a few months later the court issued a ruling that allows authorities to keep bodies held since the occupation began in 1967 as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Hamas in an effort to get back Israeli soldiers captured by the resistance group.

“We don’t know if this issue is really discussed with any negotiation sessions,” said Salwa. “The Israeli criteria for the detention of the bodies of the inmates isn’t clear until now.”

“They treat with these cold bodies as a security issue,” she added.

There are 226 Palestinian detainees who have died in Israeli jails, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Society, a group that advocates for prisoners and their families.

Israel is holding 5,400 Palestinian political detainees, including 42 women, 200 children and 450 under Israeli administrative detention policy without charge or trial, based on statistics by the group.​​​​​​​

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