A complex and contentious process of prisoner exchanges and arrests continues to unfold in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. This situation highlights the enduring challenges and deep-rooted tensions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Paradox of Prisoner Exchanges
Since the truce began, Israel has released 150 Palestinian prisoners, including 117 children and 33 women, while Hamas has freed 69 captives, comprising 51 Israelis and 18 individuals from other nations.
However, this gesture of goodwill is juxtaposed against the backdrop of continued arrests. In the same period, at least 133 Palestinians from East Jerusalem and the West Bank have been detained by Israeli forces, as reported by Palestinian prisoner associations.
Amany Sarahneh, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Prisoners Society, spoke to Al Jazeera about the ongoing situation. “As long as there is occupation, the arrests will not stop,” she stated, highlighting the systemic nature of these detentions as a central policy of the occupation against Palestinians.
Despite the truce, the policy of arresting Palestinians, particularly in response to resistance, remains a daily practice.
A Cycle of Release and Rearrest
The truce, mediated by Qatar, followed 51 days of Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which began after a surprise attack by Hamas on October 7.
Despite the momentary pause in hostilities, the plight of Palestinian prisoners continues. Many of those released are often rearrested, a pattern observed notably after the 2011 Israel-Hamas prisoner exchange. Sarahneh underscored the lack of guarantees against rearrests under the occupation, noting that many currently being detained are those who were previously freed.
The condition of Palestinians under arrest or in detention has reportedly deteriorated since October 7, with allegations of severe beatings and deaths in custody. Rights groups have raised concerns about the halt in medical attention for Palestinian prisoners and the suspension of family and lawyer visits.
Videos surfacing on social media have further highlighted the issue, drawing comparisons to the infamous torture tactics used in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. These reports underscore the deep-seated issues within the Israeli penal system regarding the treatment of Palestinian detainees.
As the streets of Ramallah witness celebrations for the freed prisoners, the underlying issues of repeated arrests and the treatment of detainees in custody remain a significant concern. The current truce, while a step towards de-escalation, reveals the enduring complexities and unresolved issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.