The Australian Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN) marked Wednesday 17 April, Palestinian Prisoners Day by highlighting the escalation in Israel’s arrests of Palestinians and its brutality against prisoners since 7 October 2023, as well as acknowledging the ongoing resistance to Israeli occupation and apartheid that these prisoners represent.

APAN also calls on the Australian Government to demand that Israel’s authorities release all Palestinians unlawfully detained in occupation prisons, and to end Israeli violations of Palestinian prisoner rights.

Israeli Occupation Forces have arrested more than 8,270 Palestinians from the West Bank since 7 October, many of whom were detained for expressing sympathy with Palestinians in Gaza, or for flying Palestinian flags.

This brings the total number of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails to 9,500, including 3,660 administrative detainees who are held without trial or charge, 200 child prisoners, and 80 women prisoners.

These figures do not include Palestinians who have been arrested in Gaza, where Israel detains people in makeshift prisons, beyond the scrutiny of international law.

Since October last year, Palestinian prisoners have been subjected to an horrific increase in Israeli brutality and violence, with prison authorities severely beating, humiliating and deliberately starving and depriving detainees of healthcare and life essentials.

Sixteen Palestinians have died in Israeli jails since 7 October 2023, including Palestinian revolutionary, writer and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Prisoner’s Movement member Walid Daqqa.

Daqqa, who had been imprisoned for nearly 40 years and was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer in 2021, was subjected to medical neglect and died on 7 April 2024. Israeli authorities have refused to release his body to his family for burial, despite pleas from Amnesty International and human rights group Adalah.

Children are also routinely arrested, abused and often tortured in Israeli jails, with Israel the only state in the world to prosecute children in military courts, without basic rights to a fair trial.

Ahmad Manasra is one such child. Manasra was arrested in 2015 and sentenced to 10 years in prison by Israeli Occupation Forces when he was aged 13, after being accused of stabbing two Israelis in an illegal settlement in the West Bank.

He has been mistreated during his time in prison, to the point of developing schizophrenia. A team of psychologists have appealed to Israel’s president for him to be pardoned due to the severe state of his mental health.

Palestinian women are also subjected to neglect and harsh treatment in Israeli prisons, often including psychological torture, sexual violence and sexually explicit harassment.

Israa Ja’abis was arrested in 2015, aged 31, when a propane tank she was moving to her new home was ignited by an electrical fault in her car, injuring an Israeli police officer.

Ja’abis was sentenced to 11 years in prison, and despite having suffered serious injury as a result of being trapped inside her burning car, was denied adequate medical attention in prison.

She was released as part of the prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel in November last year, eight years into her sentence.

Fifteen Palestinians released as part of this prisoner swap have since been re-arrested.