The successive Israeli occupation governments adopted arbitrary policies after the occupation of theWest Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967. Prisons and detention centers are used to crush Palestinians spiritually and psychologically. Those prisons werecrowded with tens of thousands of Palestinians including children, elders and women. Some estimate the number of Palestinians arrested by Israel since 1967 is around 750,000, including 12,000 women and tens of thousands of children.
Prisons, built first by the British Mandate of Palestine, are used by Israel to crush Palestinians. Moshe Dayan, Israel’s former Minister of Defense wanted to use these prisons to destroy Palestinians and separate them from the rest of the world. Detention centers were equipped with all needed equipments and facilities to achieve this inhumane goal.
Transferring detained people from the occupied territory to the land of the occupying power is illegal under international law. The Israeli occupation is accused of running secret prisons away from the eyes of the world in which certain people are held. The occupation is also accused of conducting medical tests on prisoners.
The execution or the suicide of Ben Zygier, also know as Prisoner X, raised the issue of Arab and Palestinian prisoners in Israel’s secret prisons. For decades, Palestinians and human rights organizations have been talking about Israel’s secret prisons. Some of these prisons belonged to the British Mandate of Palestine and others were later built.
Secret prisoners are considered a violation of international law which asks for certain standards to be met in regard to prisons’ conditions. This requires exposing these prisons and making them face worldwide public opinion, so the international community can understand why they are considered war crimes.
Israel‘s secret prisons
Israel built 28 detention and interrogation centers. In addition, it built secret prisons to serve as “graveyards for the livings” in which all international norms and rules are broken, and all forms of torture are practiced with no attempt whatsoever to follow international law.
Prisoners held in these secret prisons are called “Prisoner X”. Prisoner X is defined as the person who was kidnapped or disappeared from his/her residency area without informing his/her families or human rights organizations of the places they are being held or the charges that they are facing.
Some prisoners released from these secret prisons spoke of brutality and torture. They were held in 2-square-meter cells run by 504 Unit, which is assigned to practice all forms of torture. Israel’s Supreme Court’s decision declined the closure of the 1391 secret prison.
“May God let me see my son Majed soon,” these were the words of Ahmed Alzuboun, moments before his death. Ahmed Alzuboun is the father of Majed Alzuboun, who has been missing for 21 years now after he tried to cross the Jordan-Palestine borders. It’s not known whether he is alive or dead.
The death of the Alzuboun, the father, re-opened thecases of the 20 missing Jordanians, whose names are recorded in the National Jordanian Committee to support prisoners and the missing in the occupation jails.
Hundreds of Arab prisoners went missing. They are either imprisoned in Israel’s secret prisons or were shot dead, then buried in Israel’s “Numbers Graveyards”.
Israeli and international media sources revealed four numbers graveyards:
1- Banat Jacob (daughters of Jacob) graveyard next to the Israel-Lebanon-Syria borders. Some estimate the number of people buried there around is 500. Most of them were killed in the 1982 war and afterward.
2- The numbers graveyard which is located in the military zone between Jericho and Damiah bridge. It’s surrounded by a wall that has an iron gate with a banner which reads “Graveyard for the Enemies’ Victims”. 100 graveyards are there which carry numbers from 5003-5107.
3- Refeem Graveyard in the Jordan Valley.
4- Shiheta Graveyard next to the Sea of Galilee. The people buried there were killed between 1965 and 1975. What is most provocative is that these graves are not dug deeply enough to protect the bodies of the dead from animals looking for something to eat.
According to the above mentioned facts, there is a relation between numbers graveyards and missing prisoners. They might have been killed and their organs have been stolen.
No one can tell the number of these secret prisons. A number of people were kidnapped and Israel claimed it killed them without handing their bodies to their families or providing an evidence of their death. Examples of these are Adel and Imad awadallah (Palestine), Mohammed Atiah, Majed Alzuboun, and Laith Alkilani (Jordan) and Yehia Skaf (Lebanon).
Some freed prisoners mentioned names of these secret prisons such as “Barack”, “Sarafand”, “1901” and “Itileet”.
Jonthan Cook of the Counterpunch says “Facility 1391, close to the Green Line, the pre-1967 border between Israel and the West Bank, is different. It is not marked on maps, it has been erased from aerial photographs and recently its numbered signpost was removed. Censors have excised all mention of its location from the Israeli media, with the government saying that secrecy is essential to “prevent harm to the country’s security”. According to lawyers, foreign journalists divulging information risk being expelled from Israel. But, despite government attempts to impose a news blackout, information about more than a decade of horrific events at Facility 1391 are beginning to leak out. As a newspaper described it, Facility 1391 is “Israel’s Guantanamo”.
In 2003 interview, Ariel Sharon, Israel’s former Prime Minister said “Israel is committed to release all Jewish captives. I have been handling this profile for the last 50 years. When I was in the paratrooper units, we used to kidnap Jordanian soldiers for future swap deals”. It’s known that Jordan never reached a prisoners swap deal with Israel. The question is, where are these Jordanian prisoners?
In the same year, the debate about the killing of Nachshon Waxman, an Israeli soldier killed as IOF tried to release him from his Hamas captors who wanted to exchange him for Palestinian prisoners. An Israeli officer said in an interview “My unit was assigned to release Waxman. We would have managed to get him the same as we did with Imad and Adel Awadallah”. This means Imad and Adel Awadallah were not killed as Israel claimed.
Torture in secret prisons
Torture varies in Israel’s secret prisons from psychological and physical torture, chaining prisoners and banning them from going to the rest room and tying them to chairs for a long time. Banning prisoners from sleeping and pouring cold water on them, threatening them of rape, stripping them kicking them, and asking them to stand for a long time. Prisoners are told that they are held “on the moon” so that they have no option but to confess.
X prisoners are put to trail in military courts where the whereabouts of their trials are kept secret. They are brought to the house of the judge when possible; otherwise, the judge comes to the court himself. The proceedings and hearings are kept secret. An officer writes them down on a laptop that is connected to the court’s network.
1391 secret prison
According to prisoners released from this prison, the 1391 secret prison was built during the British Mandate of Palestine in the center of Palestine. It was used later by Israel as a secret prison. Conditions in this prison are not like any other prison. Prisoners are kept individually in very small cells. The prison is surrounded by watch towers, wires and trees.
The international community needs to take action, otherwise those forgotten prisoners will die and be given new numbers in Israel’s notorious numbers graveyards.
The study was originally published in Arabic by Alzaytouna Center for Studies and Consultations, Lebanon. Translated by Center for Political and Development Studies, Palestine.