Palestinians stage 'day of rage' over Shin Bet's violent interrogation of prisoner
Palestinians took to the streets on Tuesday in the central occupied West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem in a "day of rage" to call for the release of a Palestinian prisoner severely beaten and left in a critical condition by Israeli intelligence services.
Israeli forces fired tear gas, sound bombs and rubber-coated bullets towards protesters outside the illegal Israeli settlement of Beit El, after Palestinian prisoner solidarity group Samidoun and students from Birzeit University called for a demonstration in support of Samir Arbeed.
According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, dozens were treated for tear gas inhalation.
Elsewhere, Israeli forces suppressed a demonstration in East Jerusalem outside the Hadassah hospital where Arbeed is currently held, during which two protesters were arrested.
Arbeed, a 44-year-old Palestinian, was hospitalised in critical condition - with a fractured rib cage, bruises, signs of beating all over his body and severe kidney failure - on Friday, three days after he was detained by Israeli forces over suspicions of involvement in an August bomb attack near the illegal Israeli settlement of Dolev, north-east of Ramallah, that killed a 17-year-old Israeli.
Palestinian rights groups have called for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) - the only international humanitarian organisation allowed to access Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons - to intervene in Arbeed’s case.
Arbeed’s wife, Noura Miselmani, told Middle East Eye on Saturday that he had been in good health prior to his arrest, raising suspicions that he was subjected to torture during interrogation by Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence service.
The Israeli Ministry of Justice has since opened an investigation into Arbeed’s treatment - although Palestinians have long denounced internal Israeli investigations into allegations of mistreatment of Palestinians as being more geared towards public relations than actual accountability.
Dozens of demonstrators stood outside the ICRC headquarters in al-Bireh, the sister city of West Bank administrative centre Ramallah, on Tuesday morning chanting slogans in solidarity with Arbeed.
A number of activists began staging a sit-in outside the headquarters, announcing that they would stay until the ICRC sent a doctor to assess Arbeed’s condition and an independent investigation was opened into his treatment in Israeli custody.
Prisoners’ rights organisation Addameer, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society and the Palestinian Authority (PA) Ministry of Health delivered a letter to the ICRC expressing their collective concern for Arbeed.
Health Minister May Kila told MEE that the ministry was ready to send a Palestinian or international medical team to Hadassah hospital in order to examine Arbeed.
“The Palestinian people are worried for Arbeed’s life,” she said.
Addameer director Sahar Francis told MEE that one of the organisation’s lawyers was able to visit Arbeed at the hospital for a few minutes on Monday, but was unable to speak to the prisoner.
The lawyer, she added, reported that Arbeed was unconscious and placed on artificial ventilation, and remained in a critical state.
Meanwhile, Francis stressed, Arbeed remains officially detained and under investigation. Following an Addameer request for his release, a hearing is expected to be held in an Israeli court on Wednesday regarding his case.
For activist Dalia Nassar, the lack of an ICRC visit to Arbeed until now is “the latest example of the longstanding violation of Palestinian prisoners’ rights, especially for those with health issues and on hunger strike”.
Israeli authorities have long been criticised by rights groups for the ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners in its custody, the majority of whom are held in detention centres inside Israel in violation of international law.
In July, 31-year-old Nassar Taqatqa was found dead in unclear circumstances in a solitary confinement cell, a month after he was detained by Israeli forces. According to Addameer, some 220 Palestinians have died in Israeli custody since 1967 - 60 of whom are believed to have died due to medical negligence, and 73 others as a result of torture.