This is the second time this year these news make the headlines. In February 500 prisoners were released. The prisoners that were released that time had mostly served their time, or sat without charges. This time some of the prisoners released have only served parts of their sentences.
The atmosphere is high in towns and neighbourhoods in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.Cars are honking, children and family are gathering, ex-prisoners kissing the ground, tears and laughter.
One might be fooled into thinking that Israel is changing its policy of mass arrests of Palestinians and keeping thousands behind bars. That this is representing a change. But it is not. This is just another PR stunt.
Today as I am writing, a 17 year old from Bethlehem is standing before a military court that is ruling according to military laws that basically are there to support the ongoing occupation. The army is charging this boy to sit inside a prison cell, or tent, for the next 10 years, for trying to resist the soldiers taking over his space and time, put his life to a halt.
The trial is in Hebrew, as well as all the documents. The defendant's lawyer has had hard times trying to visit his client, obtaining information and preparing for the case.
Children have systematically been and are still arrested as young as 9 years of age, spending shorter or longer time in Israeli prisons. Most of them accused of throwing stones at the army occupying their hometowns. The facts concerning their stories are shocking.
There are stories of the most gruesome torture and strategies to break these kids down, force them to confess for things they often didn’t do, spending time in horrible conditions, especially under interrogations, denied of sleep and food and isolated. Sucking their childhoods out of them, leaving dark memories many of them will have problems talking about afterwards and that none of them will ever forget.
323 children are today in Israeli prisons.
For more information about conditions for the prisoners, the system of military court hearings, psychological effects of the prisoners etc, there are several organizations, such as Addameer and the DCI, who have done thorough work, and some excellent publications on the issue.