More Palestinians were detained by Israel without trial at the beginning of August than during any other month this year, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Society. The NGO, which supports Palestinians incarcerated in Israeli jails, and their families, had no explanation for the sudden surge in the number of individuals under what is called administrative detention.
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During the first 16 days of August, it was reported, Israel issued new orders for 47 individuals to be incarcerated without trial and without charges being filed against them. By comparison, only 37 such orders were issued in all of March, 19 in June, and 20 in July.
Including extensions through August of existing orders from previous months, Israeli authorities handed down a total of 84 administrative detention orders during those 16 days – compared to a total of 91 new and extended orders for all of January, 111 in March, and 97 in July, according to the prisoners' organization.
A total of some 400 Palestinians are being held in jails in Israel under these circumstances at present.
Additional, new orders for detention without trial were issued later in August, but they are not included in these figures, Qadura Fares, a former minister in the Palestinian Authority government and one of the heads of the NGO, told Haaretz.
Fares dismissed the possibility that the detentions were related to the murder of the three members of the Solomon family in the West Bank settlement of Halamish in July. He explained that Omar al-Abed, 20, from the nearby village of Khobar, who has been indicted for the three murders and on seven counts of attempted murder, acted alone and not as part of any group.
However, Israeli officials believe that this attack led to a rise in tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank in late July and early August, which could explain the increase in detention orders.
Although the Israel Defense Forces has yet to release data relating to administrative detainees for the month of August, an official confirmed that the Palestinian numbers seem to be accurate and that the number of orders issued during the month did rise significantly. This is not necessarily the result of any new policy, but instead reflects an increase in the number of specific, individual cases "as a result of the security situation during this period, because the issuing of each order is examined on an individual basis,” the IDF source noted.
Israeli Arab, Jewish detainees
Four young men from the Israeli Arab city of Umm al-Fahm received administrative detention orders following an attack on July 14, during which two Israeli Border Police officers were murdered at the entrance to the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. Those administrative detention orders, signed by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, are valid for six months.
Three of the men from Umm al-Fahm were initially arrested for questioning on July 23; four days later Lieberman signed the detention orders. Their families claim that the three were not members of or active in any organization, political party or Islamic movement, although they did maintain a religious lifestyle.
A few days later, a 22-year-old man from Umm al-Fahm was ordered to be held without trial, too. His lawyer, Omar Khamaisi of the Al-Mezan Legal Center, said his client was transferred to the Shin Bet security service for questioning after his arrest. The man's four-month administrative detention order was signed by then-acting Defense Minister Yuval Steinitz.
Issuing an order for an Israeli Arab citizen to be held without trial or charges is extremely rare. Last year a 20-year-old computer technician, Mohammed Khaled Ibrahim, from the village of Kabul in northern Israel, was held under those conditions for nearly seven months, marking the first time an Israeli citizen was detained in such a manner in years. He was freed in April only after a court ordered his release since he had not been indicted.
Two weeks ago, the sole remaining Jewish prisoner being held under administrative detention was released. According to the Shin Bet, Elia Nativ was suspected of violent acts, including vandalism and arson involving vehicles owned by Palestinians and property belonging to diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.
Nativ, 19, from the settlement of Yitzhar, was arrested about two months ago by the Shin Bet, shortly after Jerusalem District Court released him from regular criminal detention. Hanoch Rabin, another right-wing activist arrested with Nativ, was released after arrest a few weeks ago, but was not placed under administrative detention.