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Palestinians accuse Israel prison of medical neglect after death of elderly detainee

Saadia Farajallah, the oldest Palestinian female prisoner, died six months after being assaulted by Israeli forces during arrest
Saadia Farajallah, 68, was the oldest Palestinian female detainee in Israeli prisons (Palestinian media)

A 68-year-old Palestinian woman died in an Israeli prison on Saturday, six months after she was beaten and detained by Israeli forces near a military checkpoint in Hebron, the Palestinian Prisoners Club reported. 

The Prisoners Club accused Damon prison authorities of medical neglect as Saadia Farajallah's health had recently been in decline due to multiple chronic illnesses, including high blood pressure and diabetes.

It said Israeli forces brutally assaulted Farajallah as they detained her in Hebron's old city on 18 December 2021 for allegedly attempting a stabbing attack, and this had aggravated her already weak health. 

The head of the Prisoners and Former Prisoners Committee, Ibrahim Najajra, rejected the Israeli claims regarding the incident, saying that Farajallah's condition would have prevented her from exerting any efforts, let alone attempting an attack.

"The cause of death is not immediately clear, but initial information indicates that she suffered a heart attack and died inside the Damon prison," Najajra told Middle East Eye. 

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"Saadia's death is a result of medical neglect, [the Israeli authorities'] failure to provide her with the necessary treatment, and her continued detention in unhealthy conditions."

The death of Farajallah, who was the oldest Palestinian female detainee, brings the total of Palestinians who have died in Israeli prisons since 1967 to 230. 

Najajra said the Israeli court had repeatedly denied lawyers' requests to release Farajallah, who had not been allowed any family visits for the duration of her detention.

The Palestinian Prisoners Club said Farajallah lost consciousness after performing her ablutions for morning prayers. Fellow detainees had immediately transferred her to the prison's clinic, where she died.

Farajallah attended a court hearing in a wheelchair on 28 June, when the prosecution sought a five-year prison sentence and 15,000 shekel ($4,200) fine, the Prisoners Club said. Her lawyer had requested that the prison authorities present her to a specialised doctor following medical tests that showed her health was in decline.

Najajra said the prisoners committee will seek to open an investigation to uncover the cause of Farajallah's death and the circumstances surrounding it.

There are 4,700 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, including 32 women and 170 children, according to Palestinian prisoners' rights group Addameer.

Of those, around 640 are held under "administrative detention," a controversial policy that Israel uses to hold detainees without charge or trial for renewable periods of three to six months.

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