Palestinian Prisoner's Death in Israeli Medical Ward Prompts Raised Alert

Israeli Prison Service says 30-year-old Nassar Taqatqa has been under medical supervision, while Palestinian officials demand investigation into death

Nitzan Prison in central Israel, February 16, 2016.
Ilan Assayag

A Palestinian security prisoner died on Tuesday morning in a medical facility in Nitzan Prison, causing the Israel Prison Service to raise its alert level across the country’s prisons over fears of riots.

Nassar Taqatqa, 30, from Beit Fajjar, a town near Bethlehem, was arrested six weeks ago for alleged ties to Hamas. Following his arrest, he was questioned by the Shin Bet security service, and according to the Palestinian Authority’s Prisoners Affairs Commission, was held in solitary confinement.

The chairman of the commission, Qadri Abu Bakr, told Haaretz that he demands an examination of the circumstances of Taqatqa's death as well as an independent investigation.

Nassar Taqatqa.
Courtesy of the Taqatqa family

The Prison Service said that Taqatqa had been examined a few days earlier at Haemek Hospital in Afula and then released. On Monday he was sent for medical supervision in the mental health center in the prison, where he was found dead on Tuesday. The service added that the circumstances of his death are being investigated.

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Taqatqa’s family said he did not suffer from medical problems and they view Israel as responsible for his death. They said it was the first time he had been arrested.

However, on Tuesday the Palestinian Prisoners Club presented a medical document signed by a doctor that suggests that Taqatqa suffered from seizures and neurological problems that caused him to lose consciousness, as well as respiratory problems that did not allow him to be in enclosed spaces. The group stated that this medical opinion was provided to Israeli security officials upon his arrest, and said his death was the result of negligence and a lack of appropriate medical treatment.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, 220 Palestinians have died in Israeli prisons since 1967.