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Israel releases 3 Gazans captured during ground assault

Aug. 16, 2014 10:49 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 18, 2014 10:47 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities on Friday night released three Palestinian men captured by Israeli forces during the ground invasion of Gaza, the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoner Affairs said.

The release of the three comes amid Palestinian concern and Israeli silence over the fate of at least 250 individuals Palestinian groups allege were captured by Israeli forces during the assault.

Director of statistics at the Ministry of Prisoner Affairs Abd al-Nasser Farawana named the three released men as Ahmad Muhammad Hmeidan Abu Lihya from Khan Younis, Abd al-Qadir Freih Salim Shalouf from Rafah, and Nafith Hussein Muhammad Shalouf, also from Rafah.

Two of the men appear in a list of 26 people given by Israeli authorities to the Palestinian prisoner ministry last week that they said were the names of those detained during the fighting.

Israeli authorities at the time said that those who had been captured in Gaza had been transferred out of the coastal territory and were being held in Ashkelon prison, just north of Gaza inside Israel.

The third individual released on Friday night, however, does not appear on the list, re-igniting concerns that Israeli authorities have not been forthcoming about hundreds of Gazan men being secretly held inside Israel.

An Israeli military spokeswoman told Ma'an last week that 159 Palestinians had been detained during the assault, who she said were "actively doing terrorist attacks," presumably meaning that they were engaging in fighting against invading Israeli forces.

Addameer prisoner rights group has estimated that at least 250 Palestinians were taken during the Israeli invasion, saying that around 150 were detained on July 24 alone.

Minister of Prisoner Affairs Shawqi al-Ayasa said in a statement on Aug. 6 that Israel had failed to give the ministry crucial information including ID numbers, locations, and conditions, expressing "growing fears that some of the prisoners have been executed."

A lawyer for Al-Mezan Center For Human Rights told Ma'an on Monday that at least 15 Palestinians had been held under the Unlawful Combatants Law, an Israeli law that allows the detention without trial of Gazans for an unlimited period time with almost no legal recourse.

The law is similar to the administrative detention policies used in the West Bank, under which nearly 450 Palestinians are currently being held indefinitely without charge or trial.

Under international law, it is illegal for an occupying power to transfer detainees outside of the occupied territory.

Israel, however, insists that Gaza is not occupied -- despite its control over Gaza's land, sea, and air -- but also refuses to treat captured Palestinians as prisoners of war, which would entitle them to specific humanitarian and legal rights under the Geneva Conventions.

A total of 6,500 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons, 1,500 of whom were detained in just the last two months.

During the Israeli assault on Gaza, Hamas said they captured one Israeli soldier, Oron Shaul. After initial denials, Israel said the soldier was killed in Gaza but his body was never recovered, suggesting that Hamas kept the body for potential use in a later prisoner exchange.

Israel later accused Palestinian groups of trying to capture one of their soldiers near Rafah on Aug. 1, a charge Palestinian militant groups denied. Israel bombarded Rafah for two days afterwards, killing more than 100 Palestinians.
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