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Israel turns occupied Palestinian territories into 'open-air prison': UN expert

The file photo shows Palestinian prisoners behind bars at an Israeli jail

A UN expert has condemned Israel’s systematic and arbitrary detention of Palestinians, saying the regime has essentially turned the occupied territories into “an open- air prison.”

Francesca Albanese, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, made the remarks at a press briefing in the Swiss city of Geneva on Tuesday.

"There is no other way to define the regime that Israel has imposed on the Palestinians - which is apartheid by default --other than an open-air prison," Albanese said, adding that Israel has been carrying out widespread arbitrary, and systematic detention of Palestinians since the 1967 Six-Day War.

She further criticized Israel for labeling all Palestinians as potential security threats, noting, “Palestinians are presumed guilty without evidence, arrested without warrants, detained without charge or trial very often, and brutalized in Israeli custody."

Israel's mission to the UN in Geneva rejected Albanese's findings, saying her mandate was created with "the sole purpose of discriminating against Israel and Israelis."

Albanese has frequently slammed the human rights abuses, apartheid policies, war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by Israel in the occupied territories.

On Monday, Albanese presented a report to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), saying since 1967, more than 800,000 Palestinians, including children as young as 12, had been arrested and detained by Israeli authorities.

The report said it was based on a six-month investigation and "consultations, testimonies, stakeholders' contributions, and a comprehensive review of primary and public sources."

Albanese, who said she could not visit the occupied Palestinian territories before submitting the report due to "Israel's continued refusal to facilitate her entry," also outlined what she called unlawful detention practices, saying they could amount to international crimes.

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There are reportedly more than 7,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Human rights organizations say Israel violates all the rights and freedoms granted to prisoners by the Geneva Convention.

Israeli jail authorities keep Palestinian prisoners under deplorable conditions lacking proper hygienic standards.

Palestinian inmates have also been subjected to systematic torture, harassment, and repression.

The Israeli military frequently carries out wide-ranging arrest campaigns across the occupied West Bank under the pretext of searching for “wanted” Palestinians.

The latest development comes a week after the Tel Aviv regime waged a two-day aerial and ground offensive against the city of Jenin and its refugee camp, killing at least 12 Palestinians and injuring 140 others.

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