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Israel Carries Out Arbitrary Arrests of Two Palestinian Men at Eretz Border Crossing

Thursday, 01 August 2013 20:50 22-28 July - Ref.: 133/2013
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gaza-strip-access-to-resitricted-areasIn the past week Al-Haq documented the arbitrary arrest of Husam Khalil al-Za’anin, 28, at the Eretz border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Husam and his mother, Firyal Ahmad al-Za’anin, 54, had applied for permits to enter Israel in order to go to al-Maqased hospital in Jerusalem, where Husam planned to undergo surgery to treat a ripped nerve in his right arm. Since the arrest, Husam has been held in detention at al-Majdal prison, Ashkelon.

A week earlier, Ni’ma ‘Abd-al-Fattah, 35, who was crossing the Eretz border to go to Musallam Hospital in Ramallah, was also prevented from leaving the Gaza Strip despite having obtained the necessary permits for herself and her husband. In addition, her husband, Muhammad ‘Abd-al-Qader Shamlakh, 42, was arbitrarily arrested at the border crossing and detained at al-Majdal prison. At the time of writing, Ni’ma has not received any information regarding Muhammad’s ongoing detention.

Husam Khalil al-Za’anin – Gaza City

In 2007, when Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip, clashes between Hamas and Fatah broke out. On 14 June 2007, Husam was injured on his right arm by three live bullets, which were fired at him during confrontations between the two factions. As a result of his injury, a nerve in Husam’s right arm was ripped. At the time of the incident, Husam was working for the Palestinian Authority (PA) Preventive Security Agency, and continues to do so.

Shortly after his injury Husam attempted to travel to Israel to access medical facilities therein, but despite obtaining prior permission, he was refused entry at the border crossing. On the same day as Husam’s injury, Israel imposed a closure on the occupied Gaza Strip, which continues today. Amongst other restrictions, the closure severely limits the freedom of movement of Palestinian residents of Gaza, including their ability to leave the Gaza Strip. However, in June 2011, Husam managed to travel to Cairo, where he underwent intensive medical treatment for two weeks. Nonetheless, Husam’s condition did not improve but, instead, continued to deteriorate until he was unable to hold any object with his right hand. Throughout this period, Husam received ongoing treatment in the Gaza Strip, including surgery at Al-Shifa Hospital and physiotherapy at al-Wafa’ Hospital, both located in Gaza City.

As a result of his failed attempts to receive effective treatment in both Egypt and Gaza, Husam again began the procedures necessary for travel to Israel at the beginning of June this year, with the intention of accessing alternative medical treatment unavailable in Gaza. Husam obtained an appointment on 23 July at the al-Maqsed hospital in East Jerusalem, where he planned to undergo surgery on his arm. A week before the scheduled appointment Husam’s mother, Firyal, submitted a request through the Palestinian Health Coordination Office, which is a division of the District Coordination Office (DCO), to obtain the necessary permits for herself and her son to enter Israel. On 21 July, Husam received a phone call from a man who introduced himself as an Israeli Intelligence officer. The officer summoned Husam to appear at the Eretz border crossing on the morning of 23 July in order to address Husam’s travel to Jerusalem.

At 7:30 am on 23 July, Husam and Firiyal left for the Eretz border crossing. Once there, they passed through the Palestinian side of the crossing and arrived at the Israeli side, where they were searched. Subsequently, Husam and Firiyal entered a waiting room, assuming that their entry permits to Israel would soon be issued. Approximately two hours later, a number of Israeli intelligence officers entered the waiting room and ordered Husam to collect his bag and mobile phone and to follow them immediately. Husam was taken into an adjacent room, while Firyal remained in the waiting room for hours, waiting for her son to return.  

At approximately 2:30 pm, an Israeli soldier ordered Firiyal to leave the waiting room and return home. She subsequently left the border crossing but remained outside, waiting for her son. After a number of hours had passed, Firyal asked the Palestinian Coordination Officers for information regarding Husam. They informed her that Husam was being interrogated by the Israeli intelligence officers and that she had to go home. At around 5:30 pm, after having waited for hours without being informed of her son’s fate, Firiyal returned home. Approximately one hour later, she received a phone call from an Israeli intelligence officer, who informed her that Husam was detained at the al-Majdal prison in Ashkelon, but did not disclose the reasons for the arrest.

Since the day of Husam’s arbitrary arrest, his family has been unable to contact him or obtain any information regarding his condition or the charges against him. Husam is the father of two daughters.

Ni’ma ‘Abd-al-Fattah Shamlakh – Gaza City

Ni’ma, a Palestinian resident of Gaza city, suffers from problems with her retina and consequently obtained a permit to go to Ramallah on the 14 July to receive medical treatment. A couple of days before her appointment, on 12 July, Ni’ma received a phone call from an officer at the Palestinian Health Coordination Office, who informed her that she and her husband Muhammad must report to the Eretz crossing on the morning of 14 July.

At approximately 7:00 am on 14 July, Ni’ma and Muhammad arrived at the Eretz crossing. They waited until 12:45 pm, at which time a Palestinian officer informed Muhammad to go to the Israeli side of the crossing because the Israeli intelligence officers wanted to talk to him. Ni’ma waited for three further hours, until the crossing was closed, but her husband did not return. At that time she was told to go home and did not receive any information about her husband for three days.

On 18 July, an Israeli intelligence officer phoned Ni’ma and informed her that her husband was detained at al-Majdal prison. Ni’ma has not received any further information, nor has she received the required treatment for her eyes. Muhammad is the sole breadwinner for Ni’ma and her 6 children.

Al-Haq condemns the arbitrary nature of Husam and Muhammad’s arrests by the Israeli authorities and calls upon Israel to immediately halt this practice and disclose the charges against these men. Furthermore, Israel must put an end to its closure of the Gaza Strip, which constitutes a form of collective punishment of the entire civilian population of Gaza and is in clear violation of international humanitarian law.