The number of Palestinians presently being held in Israeli prisons has increased by 26 percent in the last four years, according to data provided by the Israeli government during a meeting in the Israeli Knesset this week, Ha’aretz reported. More Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons than at any time during the Palestinian uprising, which lasted 2000 to 2005, according to statistics provided by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.
The Israeli Prison Service’s legal advisor, Ehud Halevy, cited the current number of Palestinians being held at 5,686 during a Knesset session. Meanwhile, lawmakers during the meeting voted to disallow detainees from using telephones to call their relatives.
The number of Palestinians being held has not been higher since more than 1,000 prisoners were released in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas and held in the Gaza strip, in 2006. Detainees, as opposed to prisoners, include only those Palestinians who have not yet been charged with a crime, which Halevy cited at 1,432 of the total number. Palestinian prisoners who have been charged have the legal right to call relatives.
“There is great importance to stop terror in any way, and certainly not to provide an option for prisoners to be involved in terror from inside the prison walls,” Knesset member Nissan Slomiansky said, expressing fear that detainees were communicating about attacks from within prisons.
Israel’s detention policies have long drawn criticism from human rights organizations, which have challenged the length detainees are held before trial and the tactics used to derive information during the investigation period. Israel’s detention of minors has also drawn criticism. UNICEF, the UN children's rights organization, published a report in February 2013 criticising the detention of minors and their treatment under Israeli custody, which they said often included physical violence. Ha’aretz set the current number of minors being held at 97.
In addition to the 5,686 prisoners and detainees, another 379 people were being held under administrative detention, which allows Israel to hold Palestinians in detention for up to six months without trial for security reasons. Human rights organizations have long criticized the practice, which has been used to hold a number of Palestinians for years through repeat-arrests.
Khader Adnan, a Palestinian prisoner who has been held for 10 consecutive six month terms for allegedly being affiliated with the militant group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement, is set to be released on July 12, in a deal cut out after he staged a 55 day hunger strike. In 2012, Adnan was part of a mass hunger strike of 2,000 Palestinian prisoners demanding improved conditions, access to education and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention.
The highest years for Palestinian arrests were between 2006 and 2010, according to the B'tselem statistics.