Palestinian Authority Health Minister Mai al-Kaila on Sunday raised the alarm about an imminent Covid-19 outbreak in crowded Israeli prisons where hundreds of Arab terrorists are spending long sentences.
Al-Kaila, who holds a Ph.D. in Public Health and Health Administration and is the chair of the PA Medical Council, said in a statement that all of the Israeli prisons are potential epicenters of the pandemic, which means the lives of many prisoners, especially the elderly and the sick, are at high risk due to overcrowding and the lack of distancing.
She held Israel fully responsible for the lives of the prisoners, especially in the Hadarim prison in the Sharon Valley, where more than 1,200 security prisoners are reportedly incarcerated, including Marwan Barghouti, one of the contenders for Mahmoud Abbas’s throne.
The Health Minister called on the international community to pressure Israel to immediately release the sick and elderly prisoners due to the health risks they are currently facing. She also called for the designation of an impartial committee to monitor the health of the security prisoners and supervise their test results.
According to WAFA, a total of 140 terrorist prisoners have tested positive for the coronavirus.
On Dec. 27, 2020, Minister of Internal Security Amir Ohana (Likud), ordered the Prison Service (IPS) not to vaccinate security prisoners, contrary to the directive of the Health Ministry. An official statement issued by Ohana’s office stated that he instructed the IPS to vaccinate staff members only. According to the announcement, “Security prisoners should not be vaccinated without a permit and in accordance with the progress of vaccines in the general public.”
According to sources inside the IPS, it is not yet ready to launch a mass vaccination campaign for prisoners. Before Ohana’s announcement, the service began a survey to see which of the inmates would be interested in getting vaccinated.
According to WAFA, it is estimated that 700 security prisoners are suffering from a variety of illnesses, 300 of whom are suffering from chronic and serious diseases such as cancer.
Arab prisoner Fouad Shobaki, 81, is the eldest Arab security detainee in Israeli prisons. Shobaki served in the PA’s security forces under Yasser Arafat when, in 2002, the PA arrested him for being the organizer behind the Karen A, a ship that carried weapons from Iran and was captured by the Israeli Navy. Shobaki was held in a PA prison in Jericho, when, in 2006, an Israeli force stormed the prison and removed him, to faced trial in an Israeli military court. He was sentenced to 20 years, which were reduced to 17.
A letter Shobaki had written to the PA and was leaked to the media last December stated: “Today, I feel sad that you don’t even mention my name in your meetings. Is there anyone from the leadership who is asking about me or calling on popular or international movements to release me?”
Shobaki concluded: “I am telling you that I am the next prison martyr. Shame on you for sitting in chairs that you do not deserve.”
It’s conceivable that the sudden outrage expressed by Health Minister al-Kaila may be rooted in her government’s public shaming.