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PLO: 800,000 Palestinians detained since 1967 occupation

April 17, 2014 2:24 P.M. (Updated: April 19, 2014 11:21 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israeli military forces have detained over 800,000 Palestinians since the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, the PLO said Thursday.

"For Palestinians, having loved ones in prison is not the exception: it is something which has affected every Palestinian family," PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement marking Prisoners Day.

"In the context of prolonged occupation, Israel -- a foreign military power -- has unlawfully imposed itself on the land of another people and has oppressed millions, in many varying ways. The plight of the prisoners reflects the plight of the Palestinian people as a whole."

Over 800,000 Palestinians have been detained since 1967, with 5,224 currently being held in Israeli detention centers, according to the PLO.

There have been a total of 50 Palestinian parliamentarians in Israeli jails at one time or another, Erekat said, representing over one third of the Palestinian parliament.

Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouthi was the first member of the Palestinian parliament to be detained after Israeli forces raided Ramallah on April 15, 2002, and seized the Fatah representative in an arrest raid.

Eleven remain incarcerated at the present time, including Secretary General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Ahmed Saadat.

An international campaign to free Barghouthi and all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, that includes the signatures of the Robben Island Declaration by Nobel Peace Laureates, church leaders, and human rights figures, has since garnered widespread support.

"Israel has criminalized all forms of resistance, both armed and peaceful, and even political and civic engagement. The Palestinian leadership has chosen to resist through diplomatic and peaceful means, in order to achieve the Palestinian people's inalienable rights, as enshrined in international law," Erekat added.

Earlier this month, Israel reneged on an agreement to release a final group of pre-Oslo Palestinian prisoners, throwing ongoing peace talks into crisis.

Israel originally committed to freeing all Palestinians detained after signing the Oslo Accords in 1993, and again in 1999 as part of the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement.

"Israel must choose between the pursuit of occupation and the pursuit of peace. Each settlement, each arrest, each violation, each refusal to abide by its commitments and obligations, shows that Israel is heading in the wrong direction," the PLO negotiator added.

"But history teaches us that justice prevails. We follow the example of Nelson Mandela and the people of South Africa. No oppression, no denial of rights can continue forever."

In 2013, some 3,000 Palestinian prisoners refused breakfast as part of a one-day hunger strike to mark Prisoners Day.
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