An inmate who spoke to Aljazeera.net via a smuggled mobile phone said tents were gutted by the blaze which broke out early on Saturday.

 

Inmates say the fire could have been prevented, that prison authorities were slow to act and that the prison wall hampered firefighters in their work.

 

Another inmate, Abu Ubaida, said he believed an electrical short circuit caused the fire at about 4.30am in the morning.

 

""We warned the prison's management four months ago that the electricity network is damaged in many of the prison's sections, forming a real danger to all 2100 detainees in the jail," he said. 

 

"A separation wall surrounds the prison from all sides, and it has prevented firefighters from reaching the burned section.

 

"We have protested against the wall many times but the management has rejected our protest.

  

"The fire spread, totally burning six tents, hosting 20 prisoners in each. Luckily, only two detainees were injured and transferred to Suruqa hospital in Bair al-Saba," he added. 

 

"One of the injured has moderate burns in the face, while the other has suffocated. They are not in a serious condition."

 

Prison population rises

 

Most of the internees in the Ketziot detention camp in the al-Naqab desert are community leaders and professionals incarcerated without charge or trial. 

 

Palestinian President Abbas
is to be sworn in on Saturday

The prisoner population rose significantly during the past few weeks after the Israeli army carried out massive detentions in the southern West Bank, which observers contended were aimed at preventing potential Islamist-oriented candidates from taking part in the upcoming local and legislative elections in the occupied territories.

 

Most of the detainees are given between five and six months of "administrative detention".

 

The mostly spontaneous "sentences" are renewed automatically, in some cases accumulating to six years.

 

Most of the detainees do not know why they are imprisoned and have no idea when they will be released.

 

Two months ago, the internees decided collectively to boycott the detention camp's so-called court which passes sentences. The Israeli authorities punished the action by barring inmates from exercises and denying them certain categories of food.

 

Report cites violations

 

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Ministry of Detainees Affairs accused the Israeli government of continuously violating the human rights of Palestinian minors who are detained.

 

A report released by the ministry on 13 January said there were as many as 312 Palestinian children, including 12 females, imprisoned in Israel in "extremely poor living conditions and receiving harsh treatment".

 

"The Israeli authorities systematically deprive the detainees of their fundamental rights and they are often detained without being told the reason for their arrest," said the report.

 

It added that the Israeli authorities treated Palestinian children as criminals, exposing them to torture and abuse, including barring them from their visiting rights.

Israel allows "moderate physical pressure", a euphemistic reference to torture, to be applied on Palestinian prisoners and detainees, either as a tactic to extract confessions or as an punishments.

Abu Ubaida appealed to humanitarian organisations including the Red Cross to visit the prison to examine and monitor the living conditions and treatment of inmates.