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Israeli forces revoke permits for relatives of former Palestinian hunger strikers

July 4, 2017 6:32 P.M. (Updated: July 4, 2017 10:27 P.M.)
Israeli soldiers stand guard at a checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Bethlehem on June 29, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities revoked the Israeli entry permits for 37 family members of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel on Monday morning, which a family member told Ma’an was a punitive measure against imprisoned Palestinians who joined a mass 40-day hunger strike earlier this year.

Shahinaz Dadou, 47, whose husband Muhammad is serving a four-year, seven-month sentence in Israeli prison, told Ma’an that two International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) buses left Bethlehem in southern occupied West Bank to Israel’s Nafha prison at around 4 a.m. on Monday.

While ICRC officials warned the passengers that anyone whose imprisoned relatives had joined the mass hunger strike might be denied entry at the checkpoint to enter Israel, Dadou and the other relatives decided to try their luck anyway, Dadou said.

However, when the buses arrived at the Israeli checkpoint near the city of al-Dhahiriyya in the southern part of Hebron, Israeli forces revoked the entry permits for 37 people whose relatives had joined the mass hunger strike, forcing them to return to Bethlehem.

Dadou told Ma’an that she had a one-year permit, enabling her to enter Israel twice a month for prison visitations.

Spokespersons for ICRC and the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, were not immediately available for comment.

There have been conflicting reports on the success of the mass hunger strike, with Palestinian officials claiming that 80 percent of Palestinian demands were met and Israeli prison officials denying such claims and instead maintaining that Israeli officials had not negotiated with the prisoners.

The reinstatement of the second monthly family visit, which had been suspended by the ICRC last year, was the only demand that was confirmed to have been met, under the agreement that the visit would be funded by the Palestinian Authority (PA).

According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, since the Second Intifada in 2000, families of Palestinian prisoners -- excluding those with Jerusalem residency IDs or Israeli passports -- must apply for special Israeli entry permits in order to visit family members in Israeli custody.

The application process, which is managed by the ICRC, can last between one and three months, and is only valid for one year.

Family visitations are also restricted to immediate family members, while Palestinian men between the ages of 16 and 35 are commonly barred from visiting Israeli prisons.

“In practice hundreds of families fail to receive permits at all, based on undisclosed ‘security grounds,’” Addameer noted.

However, even after receiving permits to visit relatives in Israeli prison, many Palestinians are turned away at Israeli checkpoints en route to family prison visits inside Israel.

According to Addameer, 6,200 Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons as of May.
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