Five days after searching for the six escaped Palestinian prisoners, the Israeli occupation arrested four of them on September 10th and 11th.
The re-arrested prisoners Mohammed Ardah (39), Mahmoud Ardah (46), Zakariya Zubaidi (46), and Yaqoub Qadri (49) have been subject to severe torture by Israeli interrogators, since the first moment of arrest.
Only today after midnight both Mohammed and Mahmoud Ardah were allowed to see their lawyers while Zakariya and Yaqoub are still denied access to their lawyers.
Khaled and Raslan Mahajnah, the lawyers of Mohammed and Mahmoud Ardah stated that the two inmates have been subject to horrific and painful torture.
Khaled Mahajnah stated that “Mohammed was stripped off his clothes while he was interrogated in the Nazareth Prison.” Mohammed, Mahajnah added, “has been interrogated by twenty Israeli interrogators in a small room for long hours while he was handcuffed. Israeli interrogators banged his head on the floor and still deny him treatment. Mohammed also suffers from wounds all over his body.”
According to Zakariya’s brother, during interrogation after he was re-arrested earlier this week, Zakariya was electrocuted, severely beaten, his leg broken and hung upright from his broken leg. Due to this, Zakariya was transferred to hospital as his health condition deteriorated.
The four captured prisoners have been denied food, sleep, food and water for days. Only yesterday, Mohammed and Mahmoud were offered some food.
Our hope of freedom terrifies Israel
For Israel, the prison break has rendered its surveillance and colonial apparatuses surmountable.
Over the course of nine months, the six inmates, led by Mahmoud who planned for the escape, could widen a 25-meter-long tunnel in cell number ‘5’ in the prison of Gilboa. On September 6, they escaped through that narrow tunnel leaving Israel in a state of perplexity, humiliation and shock over how they could find their way to freedom from its maximum-security prison.
The miraculous escape of six prisoners, who are now legendary heroes in the eyes of Palestinians, has only instilled hope in every Palestinian that we have the power to turn the table on our colonizers and rid ourselves of a decades-long apartheid regime that humiliates and dehumanizes us.
It is the sense of hope that freedom is within our reach is what Israel relentlessly seeks to curb through its violence.
Israeli retaliation measures to regain its omnipotent image in the mind of every Palestinian extended to escalate the subjugation of the 4650 other prisoners who are languishing in its colonial dungeons, as well as the Palestinian people who are caught in its larger prison of the West Bank Bantustans at large.
Inside its colonial jails, the Israeli occupation increased its violent raids of the prisoners’ cells. Some of the inmates who used to be imprisoned in Gilboa have been harshly beaten when they were transferred from Gilboa prison to Israel’s other jails.
Outside the walls of its jails, the Israeli occupation has put the West Bank under a ruthless military closure through the hundreds of military checkpoints punctuating the underdeveloped Bantustans of the West Bank; which only reminds of the fact that everywhere under Israeli apartheid rule, all Palestinians are imprisoned; the only difference is that some prisons are less dreadful than others depending on the level of resistance, with Israeli colonial jails as the worst of the prisons it constructed to force the Palestinian people to live in.
In spite of the escalated violence, Palestinians still take hope from the feat of the self-liberated prisoners for a number of reasons:
First, Ayham Kamamji and Mundael Infiaat, who were among the escaped prisoners are still free although Israel has spread its surveillance and military apparatuses across the West Bank and Palestinian towns that are part of present-day Israel. Every moment that passes while the two fugitives are not in Israel’s clutches represent a hammer blow to these apparatuses.
Second, the four captured prisoners have shown incredible sumoud [Arabic: steadfastness] during interrogation. According to their lawyers, the four inmates rejected all the accusations they are being accused of, mainly that they were planning to commit a ‘terrorist attack’ against the Israeli occupation.
Despite his pain, Mohammed keeps responding to the interrogators that during the five days of freedom, “I only walked through the roads of my occupied country for five days. I was hoping to meet my mother. This trip was enough to make up for all the years (22 years) of my detention.”
Mohammed and Mahmoud asserted to the lawyers that the torture they have been enduring for days has failed to deprive them of the sense of joy they feel since they have self-liberated themselves.
Third, the jailbreak has reinforced the sense of unity between Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip, the West Bank and 1948 Palestine (present-day Israel). We have all been rallying and chanting slogans that glorify the courageous act of the prisoners to free themselves and call for ending Israeli oppression.
Israel has tried to disrupt this sense of unity among Palestinians by spreading rumors through its media, another of its colonial institutions, that Zakariya, Mohammed, Mahmoud and Yaqoub were captured through the help of Palestinian citizens of Israel; which the prisoners asserted as yet another Israeli lie.
It is this unity that fuels the four inmates’ with the sense of sumoud during interrogation. Mahmoud told his lawyer that he and his fellow prisoners were moved when they saw Palestinian citizens of Israel rallying in front of an Israeli court before which they appeared on Sunday in the city of Nazareth. He added, “they lifted my spirits up.”
The ill-treatment of Palestinian political prisoners is in grave violation of the Third Geneva Convention as they are war prisoners. Article 13 of the convention states,
“Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention […] prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity. Measures of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited.”
It is the responsibility of the international community to ensure that International Law is respected as regards to Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails.
Moreover, Israeli subjugation of the entire Palestinian population, including prisoners is an integral part of its apartheid structure that has been in place since decades.
The 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly, which started yesterday coincides with Israel’s intensified efforts to solidify its apartheid regime to fulfill its settler colonial objectives on our land by subduing our resistance to its oppression and by punishing us collectively.
This only asserts the urgency for the UN to investigate Israeli apartheid and reactivate the apartheid mechanisms against Israel to hold it accountable for its long-standing crimes against us.