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Palestinian woman turns herself into prison over Israeli accusations of 'incitement'

Sept. 6, 2017 1:04 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 6, 2017 8:46 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- A Palestinian woman turned herself into Israeli prison on Tuesday to serve a three-month sentence over posts she allegedly made on Facebook.

After serving out an eight-month period in house arrest, Israeli authorities handed 48-year-old Sahar al-Natsheh a prison sentence in Nov. 2016, accusing the occupied East Jerusalem resident and mother of seven of “incitement” on social media, after having also been banned from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

She turned herself into Israel’s Ramla prison on Tuesday, her family told Ma'an.

Al-Natsheh has been detained multiple times for praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound after Israeli authorities attempted to ban her from the entering the Jerusalem holy site.

She was most recently detained in the compound in March 2016, claiming at the time that Israeli forces assaulted her during the arrest. She was released after another two-month ban from Al-Aqsa was issued against her.

Before being released to house arrest, while in Israeli custody, al-Natsheh said she was held in solitary confinement for 11 days, during which time she was deprived of water to drink for two days while kept in a filthy cell with a wet, rotten mattress.

Israeli authorities accused her of incitement on social media for posting pictures of slain Palestinians, writing “inciting captions,” and posting the will of slain Palestinian attacker Bahaa Elayyan. Israeli interrogators focused on old photos posted on her Facebook account of Palestinians throwing rocks at Israeli forces, and car-ramming attacks committed by Palestinians against Israeli forces, she previously told Ma'an.

Al-Natsheh, however, maintained that her Facebook account was hacked, and it was not her who posted the pictures.

She said she believed that the primary reason for her sentencing was for her violation of her Al-Aqsa ban, and that the incitement charges against her were just a cover.

While in house arrest, she was banned from using social media, smart phones, and speaking to the press. She was also forbidden from escorting her husband to the hospital when he was sick, and couldn’t attend her son’s graduation ceremony.

She has six daughters and a son, the eldest being 28 and the youngest 15. She has 12 grandchildren.

According to Palestinian prisoners' right group Addameer, of the 6,279 Palestinians currently being imprisoned by Israel, 65 are women or girls.

In recent months, Israel has detained hundreds of Palestinians for social media activity, alleging that a wave of unrest that first swept the occupied Palestinian territory in October 2015 was encouraged largely by "incitement."

Critics have instead pointed chiefly to the frustration and despair brought on by Israel's decades-long military occupation of the Palestinian territory and the absence of a political horizon as reasons for the rise of unrest.

The Israeli government has also been accused of utilizing “anti-terrorism” discourse in order to justify and further entrench the Israeli military’s half-century occupation of the West Bank and near decade-long siege of the Gaza Strip.

By contrast, a February report released by the Arab Center for Social Media Advancement 7amleh documented that slanderous, provocative, and threatening posts made by Israelis against Arabs and Palestinians had more than doubled in 2016, reaching 675,000 posts made by 60,000 Hebrew-speaking Facebook users -- with only very few cases being opened against Israelis.

Meanwhile, since Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a far-reaching Cyber Crimes Law in June, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are now also vulnerable to being arrested by Palestinian security forces for expressing their opinions online.
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