Two Palestinian women moved to Israeli administrative detention

Bushra al-Tawil and Shatha Hassan, who were arrested by Israeli forces last week, are now held without charge or trial.

Palestinian university students
There are 80 Palestinian university students in Israeli prisons, in what the Right to Education campaign calls an 'appalling violation of freedom of speech' [File: Abbas Momani/AFP]

Two Palestinian women arrested last week by Israeli forces have been referred to administrative detention, a form of internment where a prisoner is held indefinitely without charge or trial.

Bushra al-Tawil, 26, was detained in an Israeli raid on her home in the occupied West Bank city of al-Bireh, days after her father was released from an Israeli prison.

The Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS) said al-Tawil is currently being held in Hasharon prison in northern Israel.

A defender of rights of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons, al-Tawil has been arrested several times by Israeli forces. According to local media, she has gone on a hunger strike to protest against her detention.

Al-Tawil was first arrested when she was 18. She served five months of her 18-month sentence before being released as part of a 2011 prisoner swap deal.

However, she was re-arrested in 2014 and spent the remaining 11 months of her sentence in detention. In 2017, she was arrested again and spent eight months in prison.

Her father, Jamal al-Tawil, was a former municipality leader in al-Bireh. He was released on December 5 after two years of administrative detention.

Students a ‘target’ for Israeli army

Shatha Hasan, a 20-year-old student and coordinator of the student council at Birzeit University, was also arrested last week at her family home in Ramallah.

She was referred to administrative detention for three months on Tuesday, the PPS said.^tfw

Translation: The Israeli occupation transfers Birzeit University student Shatha Hassan to three months in administrative detention

On December 12, a large contingent of Israeli military vehicles surrounded her house in the Ain Misbah neighbourhood in a pre-dawn raid.

Videos circulated on social media showed her mother calling out, “God be with you” to which Shatha replied “Pray for me!” before she was bundled into an Israeli jeep by soldiers.

Local media reported Israeli forces had set up a makeshift checkpoint on the road leading to Birzeit University in the central West Bank to check the identities of students passing through in the run-up to a conference organised by the students’ arm of the Hamas movement.

A video made by the Israeli army was circulated before Hassan’s arrest, saying that Birzeit University was a “recruitment centre for terrorism and inciting violence”.

“From our long experience with the Israeli occupation, whenever they launch a campaign of disinformation about the university, it means that they are preparing for a campaign of oppression and increasing repression on the education process in the Palestinian territories,” Ghassan Khatib, a university professor, told Al Jazeera.

Birzeit University has long been a target for the Israeli army. In March 2018, then-student council president Omar Kiswani was arrested during a raid by undercover Israeli forces on campus.

According to the Right to Education campaign, more than 80 students are currently held in Israeli prisons – including 20 who are yet to be convicted. 

“These detentions and measures are nothing but an appalling violation of freedom of speech and expression,” the campaign said in a statement on its website.

The PPS said the number of female prisoners in Israeli jails has reached 42, of whom 38 are held at Damoon Prison, while the remaining four, including Tawil, are kept in the Hasharon detention centre.

More than 5,500 Palestinians are currently languishing in prisons throughout Israel, according to official Palestinian figures, with 450 under administrative detention.

52 years of barring basic freedoms

Separately, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report on Tuesday calling on Israel to grant Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, at the minimum, the same rights protections given to Israeli citizens.

The 92-page report – titled Born Without Civil Rights: Israel’s Use of Draconian Military Orders to Repress Palestinians in the West Bank – highlights the use of Israeli military orders that criminalise non-violent political activity.

“Israeli military law in place for 52 years bars Palestinians in the West Bank from such basic freedoms as waving flags, peacefully protesting the occupation, joining all major political movements, and publishing political material,” Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division at HRW, said.

“These orders give the army carte blanche to prosecute anyone who organises politically, speaks out, or even reports the news in ways that displease the army.”

Citing examples of broadly defined Israeli military orders, the report said between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2019, the Israeli army prosecuted 358 Palestinians for “incitement”, 1,704 for “membership and activity in an unlawful association”, and 4,590 Palestinians for entering a “closed military zone” – a term the army frequently uses for protest sites.

The report also cited a 10-year sentence that can be imposed on Palestinians who participate in a gathering of more than 10 people without a military permit on any issue “that could be construed as political”, or if they display “flags or political symbols” without army approval.

Whitson said given Israel’s long-term control over Palestinians, the government “at minimum should allow them [Palestinians] to exercise the same rights it grants its own citizens, regardless of the political arrangement in place”.

Source: Al Jazeera