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Overcrowded Quarters and a Lack of Food and Medicine Are a Daily Reality for Gaza Prisoners

© Photo : PixabayPrison
Prison  - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.07.2021
There are 16,000 inmates in Gaza, and according to the Independent Commission for Human Rights, they all leave in appalling conditions, partly due to the fact that Hamas, which runs the Strip, doesn't have the funds to assist them, and partly because the number of prisoners is constantly growing.
It's been three months since Rami Aman, a peace activist from Gaza, was released from the prison of Hamas, the Islamic group that controls the Strip. 
Hamas attempted to accuse him of spying for Israel and although they never succeeded in finding evidence to corroborate the claims, Aman spent many days in a Gaza prison.
In an earlier interview, Aman told Sputnik about the harsh conditions he has been living in, which included torture, hunger and poor hygiene.

Lacking the Basics

But Aman was far from the only one. Even though exact numbers are unknown, there are 16,000 prisoners in Gaza jails. Some are jailed on espionage charges. The vast majority are there because of criminal offences. 
Sobhia Gomaa, the Coordinator of the Fact-Finding and Complaints Management Unit at the Independent Commission for Human Rights, has been monitoring the conditions of Gazan prisoners for years. And she says their conditions are "appalling".
"First of all, there is an acute shortage of cleaning supplies, medicine, bathing, health care products. And they also lack food".
Gomaa explains that often power and gas shortages disrupt the ability of the prison administration to provide inmates with warm meals. This is why they turned to canned food, but that caused an increase in the amount of prisoners, whose health deteriorated and who sought medical assistance.
However, this is not their only problem. According to Gomaa and the organisation she represents, Gaza prisons are overcrowded and the lack of space prompts Hamas authorities to hold them in either detention or rehabilitation centres that are often not equipped to hold a large number of inmates. 
The situation in those detention centres is acute too, and in some the conditions are so bad that one mattress is shared by three or four prisoners. 

No Hope in Sight

The Independent Commission for Human Rights has repeatedly tried to draw the attention of the authorities to the dire conditions of local inmates. 
They warned that if the situation continued to deteriorate, some might even lose their lives. But Gomaa says that most of her organisation's pleas have fell on deaf ears.
The main reason for this, she thinks, is the growing crime rate in Gaza.
"Many people have run into debts and that has pushed them to engage in crime. So while the number of criminals is going up, the efforts of the government will largely be futile, also due to the fact that the government is lacking the means to provide prisoners with their basic needs." 
Gaza's economic situation started to deteriorate in 2007, when Hamas, an organisation deemed terrorist by Israel, took control over the enclave, prompting the Jewish state to impose a total blockade of the enclave.
The economy kept souring in 2020 after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the decision of the authorities to shut down private businesses and public institutions, a move that sent thousands of Gazans home without a paycheck.
In an enclave where more than half of two million people are currently living below the poverty line, and where residents access to essential things, catering to the needs of the inmates is not Hamas' top priority.
"The situation here is different from what you have in other places. The conditions of prisoners are bad because they depend on many internal and external factors, including political, economic and cultural instability. And this is also the reason, why those conditions will not improve in the near future. The entire Strip is like a big prison and I doubt this will ever change."
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