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Closure of Gaza Must Be Lifted as Shalit’s Pretext Diminished

Ref: 104/2011


The Palestinian Centre
for Human Rights (PCHR) welcomes the prisoner swap deal between the Islamic
Resistance Movement (Hamas) and Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), under which
over a thousand Palestinian prisoners will be released from Israeli prisons in
exchange for the release of an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who has been held
captive by the Palestinian resistance for more than five year. PCHR appreciates the role of mediation played
by Egypt
and related efforts exerted to achieve the deal. PCHR wishes that the coming period will also witness
further Egyptian contribution to the implementation of the Palestinian
reconciliation agreement that was signed last May between Fatah and Hamas in Cairo.


According to Israeli
and Palestinian statements on the deal made in the media, 1,027 Palestinian
prisoners will be released from Israeli prisons in exchange for the release of
the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was captured by the Palestinian
resistance in Gaza. Under this deal, all of the 27 female
prisoners as well as 300 children will be released from Israeli prisons. The deal includes two phases; the first one
will be completed within a week, during which Shalit will be released in
exchange for the release of 450 Palestinian prisoners, including 279 prisoners
serving life sentences and 27 female prisoners. The second phase will be completed within two months, during which 550
Palestinian prisoners will be released, but the IOF determines the conditions
under which they will be released. Under
the deal, 203 Palestinian prisoners will be deported; 40 of whom will be exiled
overseas and 163 expelled to the Gaza Strip. PCHR expresses reservations on deporting the Palestinian prisoners and
is concerned over this decision, as it is considered forced migration in
violation of international law.


With the completion of
this swap deal, over 5,000 Palestinian prisoners, including approximately 400 people
from the Gaza Strip, will remain detained under cruel and degrading
conditions. In the past five years, their
detention conditions have deteriorated in an unprecedented manner following the
capture of Shalit by the Palestinian resistance in June 2006. Such cruel conditions include denial of
family visits for Gazan prisoners; prevention of hundreds of families from
visiting their imprisoned sons in the West Bank; naked body searches; night
raids; solitary confinement; and medical negligence. Two weeks ago, hundreds of prisoners began an
open-ended hunger strike protesting against additional punitive measures that had
been taken against them by the Israeli prisons administration. The prisons administration responded to the hunger
strike by imposing even more punitive measures, including the transfer of a large
number of them to other prisons; confiscating salt which maintains the salt
balance in the prisoners’ bodies, due to which these prisoners’ health
conditions have seriously deteriorated; confiscating electrical appliances; and
attacks on the prisoners’ rooms and firing tear gas inside them.


PCHR is gravely
concerned over the continued deterioration of prisoners’ conditions inside the
Israeli prisons. PCHR calls upon the
international community to exert pressure on the IOF to release more than 5,000
Palestinian prisoners, who have been detained in the Israeli prisons so far, to
treat them humanely in conformity with the international law, particularly
article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the Standard Minimum Rules for
the Treatment of Prisoners 1955, and to refrain from the punitive measures they
have imposed on prisoners for more than five years now.


On the other hand, PCHR
reminds that the Israeli closure imposed on the Gaza Strip in June 2006 was a
direct result of the attack carried out by the Palestinian resistance in Gaza on 25 June 2006, in
which Shalit was captured. Later, IOF
tightened the closure in an unprecedented manner, including closing all border
crossings designated for the movement of persons and commercial purposes. Those collective punitive measures have a
destructive impact on all aspects of life in the Gaza Strip.


Thus, with the ending
of Shalit’s case and the end of the pretext used by the IOF to maintain the closure
imposed on the Gaza Strip, PCHR calls for immediately lifting of the closure
and an end to all collective punitive measures imposed on the civilian
population. Additionally, PCHR calls
upon the international community to intervene in order to end the suffering of
the Palestinian civilians and lift the closure of the Gaza Strip.