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Israeli special unit storms Palestinian prisoner cells in Ofer for 'drill inspection'

Palestinian Prisoners Media Office said the operation was 'provocative' and could lead to an escalation with Palestinian prisoners
Palestinian demonstrators at a rally in support of prisoners held in Israeli jails, Gaza City, 18 April 2021 (AFP)

An Israeli special unit on Tuesday morning stormed Palestinian cells in Ofer military prison, where dozens of Hamas members are being detained, and carried out an inspection drill amid rising tension in Israeli jails.

The Palestinian Prisoners Media Office said that the storming of Ofer jail was "provocative" and could lead to an escalation with Palestinian prisoners.

There are currently 4,450 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, including 900 in Ofer. Palestinian prisoners in Ofer have taken part in several hunger strikes in recent years, demanding better living conditions inside the cells, regular family visits and an end to the policy of storming cells to carry out inspections.

Some Palestinian prisoners have been on hunger strikes that lasted over 100 days in protest against administrative detentions, a highly controversial practice used almost exclusively against Palestinians, which allows for detention without charge or trial for renewable periods of three to six months.

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In January, Israel bowed to international pressure and offered Palestinian prisoners the Covid-19 vaccines as part of its nationwide vaccination programme.

Israel had dismissed calls to take protective measure inside the cells of Palestinians to minimise the risk of the spread of coronavirus since the pandemic hit the country in March 2020. 

In November, around 73 Palestinian prisoners tested positive for Covid-19 inside the Israeli prison of Gilboa. The Israel Prison Service proceeded to completely close the prison, cancel all family visits and transfer those infected to another prison.

This is the second time this month that Israeli special units have stormed the cells of Palestinian detainees at Ofer.

Separately on Tuesday, Israeli forces arrested six Palestinians, five in the occupied East Jerusalem, and one in Hebron city, south of the occupied West Bank, Palestine’s official news agency Wafa reported.

The detainees included Nasr Hashem al-Natsheh, 28, who was arrested at his home in Hebron, Yousef Hazineh, Nawras Abu Ghazal, Issa Mutib and Yazan Hirbawi, who were arrested in the al-Saadiyeh neighbourhood in Jerusalem’s Old City, and Mohammad Haroon, who was arrested in the Alo-Tor neighbourhood, according to Wafa.