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Hundreds rally in Gaza, Ramallah marking Palestinian Prisoner's Day

April 17, 2016 4:39 P.M. (Updated: April 25, 2016 12:30 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Hundreds of Palestinians rallied on Sunday in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip commemorating Palestinian Prisoner’s Day.

The rally in Gaza City, which was organized by a prisoners’ committee representing various Palestinian factions, marched from the Unknown Soldier’s Square in the center of Gaza City to the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Officials from different Palestinian factions delivered speeches during the rally, expressing support for Palestinian prisoners and detainees jailed in Israel’s prisons.

Abdul-Hamid Hamad of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) maintained in his speech that Israel “continues to violate the rights of Palestinian prisoners in an obvious breach of international law.” He urged Palestinian leaders to take the prisoners’ plight to the International Criminal Court and other international organizations.

A senior Hamas leader, Khalil al-Hayya, promised that his movement would make serious efforts to free all political prisoners from Israeli custody. “You will soon be free, as the resistance -- the al-Qassam Brigades in particular -- will never neglect your suffering.”

Abu Ubaida, the spokesperson for the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades -- the military wing of the Hamas movement -- said that the "al-Qassam Brigades have enough tools to accomplish an honorable prisoner swap deal with Israel," likely referring to the four Israelis currently held captive in the Gaza Strip.

"The enemy's leadership must realize that behind our prisoners stand men who won't enjoy life until their brothers are freed from their chains. We will prove that we keep our promises," Abu Ubaida said.

Representatives of prisoner rights organizations and families of prisoners also joined the rally.

In the central occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, a number of official and non-governmental organizations organized a rally marking Palestinian Prisoner’s Day. Among the organizers were the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society, the Center for Defending Freedoms, and the Ramallah governor’s office.

Hundreds rallied in the streets waving Palestinian flags and posters showing solidarity with Palestinians detained and imprisoned by Israel.

Ramallah and Al-Bireh Governor Laila Ghannam said in a speech that prisoners “are guards of the Palestinian dream and the spirit of Palestinian land.” She added that the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were sparing no efforts to end the prisoners’ suffering.

Palestinian Committee of Prisoners' Affairs Chairman Issa Qaraqe maintained that Israel should be put on a “list of shame” because of its violations of prisoners’ rights and crimes against humanity.

According to prisoner’s rights group Addameer, there are 7,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. Among them are 68 women, 438 minors, including 98 children under the age of 16.

The organization estimates that 40 percent of the Palestinian male population has been detained at some point.

Israel currently holds 700 Palestinians under its policy of administrative detention -- internment without trial or charge. Six administrative detainees are children.

There are some 1,000 sick Palestinian prisoners, including 24 suffering from cancer, according to the Palestinian Prisoners' Center for Studies. Rights groups have widely condemned Israel for its medical negligence of Palestinians in its prisons.

Earlier on Sunday, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said Israel's mass incarceration of Palestinians had "transformed our homeland into a large prison."

The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council marked the day calling for the end to collective punishment by Israel and an investigation by the International Criminal Court.

“Israeli mass incarceration of Palestinians is an inextricable part of the ongoing violence of occupation,” the statement read.

“It is important that on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, we all stand united to call for an end to Israeli violations of Palestinian rights.

“As Israel acts with ever growing contempt for international law and the will of the international community, action is now needed more than ever. We demand that the Israeli government refrain from abuses against Palestinians, including sweeping arrest campaigns and violations of prisoners’ rights.”

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