Dr. Hanan Ashrawi on behalf of the National Prisoners Committee - We urge the international community to intervene

June 22, 2014

There can be no justification to the collective punishment Israel is imposing upon the Palestinian people. In the last few days alone, Israel has conducted incursions in almost every Palestinian city in the West Bank, arrested over 380 Palestinians, bombed the Gaza strip, and killed two Palestinians, Mahmoud Dudin, a 13 year old boy from Dura and Mustafa Aslan, 22 years old from Kalandia refugee camp, and injured hundreds. We urge the international community to intervene to end this Israeli aggression, as this dangerous escalation may lead to dramatic consequences for the entire region. We consider such international intervention to protect the Palestinian civilian population, as an integral part of the 3rd parties legal, moral and political obligations.

This most recent Israeli attack is taking place as the hunger strike against administrative detention, one of the worst forms of arbitrary detention, reaches its 60th day, thus being one of the longest collective hunger strikes ever observed. Israel decided to deal with this hunger strike through punitive measures, including solitary confinement, transfer of prisoners, deprivation of visitation rights, seizing personal belongings. The international reaction to this hunger strike is far from adequate and contributed in the occupying power's decision to respond to the legitimate claims of the prisoners through repression.

The wide arrest campaign launched following the disappearance of three Israeli settlers will only aggravate the problem, and will lead to increased tension. Many of the 380 Palestinians arrested in the last few days are going to be held under administrative detention for indefinite time. Among those arrested, there are over 50 prisoners released in the exchange deal of 2011, including Nael Barghouthi who had spent 34 years in Israeli jails. A dozen parliamentarians have been arrested, bringing the number of imprisoned Members of Parliament to 22.

Anywhere else such behaviour would have led to wide international condemnation. Instead, Israel was elected two days ago Vice-Chair of the UN Special political and decolonization committee. The world cannot stand by while Israel, the occupying power, commits such grave breaches of international humanitarian law, and demonstrates such contempt for human rights and universal values. Israel must be held accountable for the lives of Palestinians, notably the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. But we also underline the responsibility of third parties and their obligation to act at once to ensure respect for international law. The international community must pressure Israel to stop at once its military operation, including the arrest campaigns, release all Palestinian prisoners arrested in the last few days, including the parliamentarians and the released prisoners of the exchange deal, and put a definite end to administrative detention. We draw the international community's attention to the importance of the prisoners question in the context of peace efforts. The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination enshrined in international law entails the release of all Palestinian prisoners. The freedom of all Palestinian prisoners is a necessary pre-requisite for the freedom of the Palestinian people and achieving peace. While release of prisoners is of essence to create a favourable environment for peace negotiations, Israel has chosen escalation including on the prisoners' file, by reneging on its commitment to release 30 pre-Oslo prisoners, by reneging on its commitment to following a precedent hunger strike to gradually end administrative detention, by conducting this wide arrest campaign, and by imposing collective punishment on prisoners and their families.

By transferring its own population within the occupied territory, Israel did not only commit a grave breach of international law, it created a situation of permanent threat to international peace and security, by besieging the Palestinians from within and by putting its own population at risk. Its decision to conduct a wide military operation following the disappearance of three Israeli settlers through indiscriminate attacks and collective punishment will only contribute to further fuelling the conflict. Occupation fosters insecurity. Israeli occupation must end for peace and security to prevail. We can deal with each event separately, a recipe for failure, or we can finally act together with resolve to end this occupation and achieve peace.

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