BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel has prevented a 22-year-old prisoner, who was arrested aged 14, from receiving visits from his father for five years, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights said Wednesday.
Abdel Abu Habel, who was arrested in 2004, has only been allowed six visits during his 8-year imprisonment.
"I have already lost one son, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2006, and having to live without seeing another son for such a long time is nothing but painful," his father Mohammad Abu Habel told PCHR.
"Karim was arrested when he was only 14 years old. The last time I was allowed to see him was in January 2007, and it was just for half an hour. It has been over five years since I last saw him. His mother last met him in July of this year, for just 15 minutes."
Karim Abu Habel is from Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip and was arrested while playing with friends near his home, his father says. The family was not informed of his arrest and searched for him for a month.
"It was only after a month or so when some of the people who had been detained with Karim in the prison in Ashkelon were released that we learned of our son's arrest."
"After having made numerous unsuccessful attempts to confirm that he was being held there, we finally received a phone call from a female soldier asking us to arrange for a lawyer, because Karim was going to be charged with a series of crimes and there was going to be a trial.
An Israeli military court convicted Karim on 15 different counts, including blowing up a tank -- an act his father insists he couldn't have done as a child. After a two-year trial Karim was sentenced to nine years.
"This is not the only time that Karim has been put behind bars though. When he was 10 years old he was detained by Israel's forces for three months, for no specific reason," his father added.
Karim has been moved between seven different prisons during his imprisonment, and his family has to ask the International Committee of the Red Cross to find out where he is being held.
Israeli authorities have only permitted him to receive six visits, and each time only one relative was allowed to see him.
PCHR says the number of Palestinian boys aged between 12 and 17 imprisoned by Israel increased by 73 percent in the first five months of 2012. Prisoner rights organization Addameer says 189 Palestinian children are being held in Israeli jails.
Israel prevented all residents of Gaza visiting their jailed relatives in 2007 to pressure Hamas to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Shalit was freed in Oct. 2011 and Israel resumed prisoner visits in July 2012 after thousands of Palestinian detainees went on hunger strike for a month.
PCHR said Israel prevented residents from Gaza visiting their jailed relatives on Monday.
PA Ministry of Detainee Affairs Issa Qaraqe said in late October that Israel had only resumed visits on a trial basis and planned to restore the ban.