Monday, 22 December 2014

Prisoner from Gaza barred from seeing son for nine years


Jehad Saftawi has not seen his father in more than nine years. After being denied entry permits to present-day Israel multiple times, the 23-year-old Gaza City-based journalist eventually stopped bothering to apply for prison visits through the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Because his 52-year-old father Emad was imprisoned while Jehad, the oldest of five siblings, was just nine years old, his mother “more or less had to raise us alone. It was very difficult because all of her relatives live in Syria,” Jehad told The Electronic Intifada.

Countless Palestinian families have faced such difficulty.

There were an estimated 6,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention as of 1 October, according to Addameer, a Ramallah-based group that monitors Israel’s arrests of Palestinians.

At least 381 of the prisoners were from the Gaza Strip.

Though Israel’s restrictive policies translate into hardship for all Palestinian political prisoners, those from Gaza have faced a number of unique hardships, particularly in recent years.

Gavan Kelly, advocacy officer for Addameer, explained that Palestinians in Gaza were banned from visiting relatives in Israeli prison during the 51-day military offensive against the Strip this summer.

The “denial of family visits has been used as a form of collective punishment” for Palestinians in Gaza, Kelly told The Electronic Intifada. He added that since 20 October, “visits have resumed, but are only taking place every two months as opposed to every two weeks as required under international law.”

On 8 December, 21 relatives of prisoners were granted entry to present-day Israel via the Erez crossing in northern Gaza, the Ma’an News Agency reported.

“Hardest years”

Jehad Saftawi said the last nine years have been the hardest of his life. His father, who was arrested in 2000, is always on his mind.

Along with his mother, two brothers and two sisters, he was on a family vacation in Amman, Jordan, shortly before his father’s arrest. “My dad was an employee working with the Palestinian Authority at the time,” he recalled. “He was in Dubai for his job and was supposed to return to Gaza two days after us.”

“We made it back to Gaza and waited for him. My mom got a call from the Israeli military saying that my father had been arrested while crossing Rafah,” he added, referring to the border post between Gaza and Egypt.

“My mother started to scream and cry a lot,” he said. “She was pregnant with my youngest sister at the time and knew that it would be bad.”

For Jehad’s mother, it brought back memories of a difficult past. Israel imprisoned her husband in 1992, during the first intifada — a popular uprising that spanned from 1987 to 1993 — for charges related to his activism with the Palestinian political organization Fatah.

But it was not long before Emad escaped from detention along with five fellow prisoners. Jehad said four of the prisoners who took part in that jailbreak were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers.

The surviving prisoners escaped to the Sinai desert region of Egypt, where Emad was imprisoned for several months before negotations between Fatah and the Egyptian government secured his release. But he remained in Egypt and was only able to return to Gaza in 1994 when the Palestinian Authority was established.

Upon returning to Gaza, Emad abandoned his ties with Fatah and became a supporter of Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian political group banned by Israel. more

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