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Israeli minister Ben Gvir calls for execution of Palestinian prisoners to ease overcrowding

The far-right national security minister says the death penalty is a 'partial solution' to prisons bursting with Palestinian captives
Israeli far-right minister Itamar Ben-Gvir speaks to the press at the scene of a shooting attack in the southern town of Kiryat Malakhi on 16 February 2024 (Ahmad Gharabli / AFP)
Israeli far-right minister Itamar Ben Gvir speaks to the press at the scene of a shooting attack in the southern town of Kiryat Malakhi on 16 February 2024 (Ahmad Gharabli / AFP)

Itamar Ben Gvir, Israel's far-right national security minister, has called for the execution of Palestinian prisoners to ease overcrowding in the country's jails.

Writing on social media, he welcomed a decision by the Israeli army to build 936 additional prison places for "security prisoners".

"The additional construction will allow the prison service to take in more terrorists, and will bring a partial solution to the prison crisis that exists in the Shabak," he said, referring to the Israeli Prison Service.

"The death penalty for terrorists is the right solution to the incarceration problem, until then - glad that the government approved the proposal I brought."

In a statement on Wednesday marking Palestinian Prisoners' Day, the Gaza media office said over 5,000 Palestinians had been arrested by Israeli forces during their current war on Gaza, which started on 7 October.

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The office also said that Palestinian prisoners were undergoing "the worst kinds of torture" in Israeli jails, and asked the international community to intervene.

'Intolerable overcrowding' 

The Israeli Public Defender's Office in February published a report stating that some Israeli prisons have been declared to be in a state of emergency due to severe overcrowding. 

During a visit by members of the Public Defender’s Office, squalid conditions were noted, including "intolerable overcrowding", with less than three square metres of space per person, poor sanitary conditions, pest issues, inadequate ventilation, and a lack of basic necessities for the incarcerated. 

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The report said that the overcrowding has caused people stress and anxiety, which can at times cause unnecessary friction in cells. 

A statement from the Public Defender’s Office said that it had witnessed an “unprecedented prison crisis, in which detainees and prisoners were crowded into inhumane living spaces”.

It added that almost half of the incarcerated in Israel are held in harsh conditions that do not meet the High Court’s "first step" of living space, which states that they are to be held in an area of no less than three square metres.

Thousands have also been detained in the occupied West Bank since 7 October.

Palestinian rights group Addameer said on Wednesday that Israel was holding 9,500 Palestinian political prisoners, not including those taken from Gaza.

"The date of October 7 marked a significant turning point that imposed radical transformations on the reality of prisoners and detainees in Israeli occupation prisons," said the group in a statement.

"This was reflected across all dimensions related to this issue, in light of the comprehensive aggression against our people and their detainees, and the ongoing genocide against our people in Gaza for over six consecutive months."

Dozens gathered to protest in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday to mark Palestinian Prisoners' Day, with some demonstrators calling for the release of their imprisoned relatives.

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