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Palestine PM urges UN, Red Cross to make Israel stop abusing Palestinian inmates following Gilboa outbreak

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh (Photo by Wafa news agency)

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has urged the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations to follow up on the conditions of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, after the Tel Aviv regime ramped up repressive measures against them in the wake of a daring escape by six inmates from a high-security Israeli prison.

The Palestinian premier made the appeal during the weekly cabinet meeting in Ramallah on Monday, demanding that world bodies make sure the inmates are not subjected to torture and abuse, and compel Israel to implement the Third Geneva Convention related to the treatment of prisoners, Palestine’s Wafa news agency reported.

The remarks came following the re-arrest of four of the six inmates who managed to escape the Gilboa prison last week, as reports emerged that they were severely beaten and that the Israel Prison Service (IPS) has sent many Palestinian prisoners into solitary confinement and restricted their access to essential services.

Shtayyeh further called on the ICRC and the UN to hold the Israeli authorities fully responsible for the lives of Palestinian prisoners, particularly those who were recaptured.

Since last week, over 4,500 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons have been facing a repressive campaign following the escape of the six inmates.

The prisoners, five of whom belong to the Islamic Jihad, escaped the Gilboa prison located in the northern part of the occupied territories through an underground tunnel. The facility has earned notoriety as the Israeli version of the Guantanamo prison.

Reports said the IPS was preparing to evacuate the remaining 400 prisoners and disperse them among other prisons in order to probe the escape.

Despite conducting a thorough search for days on end, the Israeli police service kept failing to find any clues about their whereabouts. However, the police reported re-arresting four of the inmates on Saturday.

Following the arrests, thousands of Palestinians held protests across the occupied West Bank in support of the six prisoners, particularly those who were recaptured.

The protests were held amid fears of an Israeli retaliation that has already ushered in the repression of hundreds of Palestinian political prisoners.

The Gilboa prison is one of the highly-fortified detention centers in Israel. The jailbreak has come as a huge embarrassment to Tel Aviv and exposed fault lines in its much-hyped security and intelligence apparatus.

The Palestinian resistance groups and several political factions have warned Israel against causing harm and endangering the lives of prisoners.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Shtayyeh denounced Israel’s talk about the "economy-for-security" plan for the besieged Gaza Strip, stressing that the issue is political, not economic.

"What is required here is a serious and real political process based on international legitimacy and international law that will end the occupation, lift the siege off the Gaza Strip, and stop the aggression against all the Palestinian territories, and then the process for the reconstruction [of Gaza] becomes possible and permanent," he said.

The Palestinian premier further pointed to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, saying a decision to ban gatherings will go into effect as of Monday in an attempt to curtail the rise in infections.

He also called on everyone to get vaccinated in order to reach community immunity, stressing that most of the cases that entered the intensive care units were people who had not yet been vaccinated.

Shtayyeh said public places should be strict in implementing the health rules, indicating that the security services will make sure the rules are enforced.

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