Israeli Prison Service (IPS) transferred Monday 34 Palestinian children from Ofer prison in Ramallah to Damoun in Haifa without any stated reason and without the presence of adults to represent them.
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The transfer, common for adults but unusual for child detainees, was slammed by Palestinian activists and rights organizations as illegal and dangerous.
"This move puts the minors at risk of abusive measures by the IPS in the absence of their adult overseers," the Palestinian Prisoners' Society (PPS) said.
It also breaches the law that states prisoners under the age of 18 cannot be moved from one prison to another without at least an adult representing them, a researcher at the Palestinian Prisoners' Center for Studies Amina al-Tawil said.
"In addition to the risk of being physically abused by Israeli forces, this transfer puts the lives of these Palestinian children in danger."
"During this cold weather, the minors will not have access to heaters or even adequate clothing to keep warm," al-Tawil added. "Some of them have also sustained injuries during their arrests, which can get worse throughout the move."
Ofer prison is located southwest of the West Bank city of Ramallah, whereas the Damoun facility is in the coastal city of Haifa.
"Damoun is one of the worst prisons," al-Tawil said. "Its cells, according to released prisoners who had previously spent time there, are full of mold and not fit for human conditions, and does not provide daily necessities."
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Damoun also houses Israeli prisoners held on criminal charges, such as murder, robbery, and drug trafficking. While Israel does not hold Palestinian security prisoners in the same cells as Israeli criminals, the threat to Palestinians comes via transfers in shared “bostas.”
The “bostas” are blacked-out windows vehicles where prisoners are maintained during rides that can last hours, in tightly divided cells with metal chairs, with no rest stops, food, or toilet breaks.
"This close contact puts the lives of Palestinian prisoners - men, women, and children - at risk, as Israeli prisoners make gestures of slitting their throats, threats, and a constant stream of verbal abuse," al-Tawil said. "A child will no doubt get affected by this, adding more pressure to his or her mental state."
Israel is currently detaining 200 Palestinian minors in Ofer, Damoun, and Megiddo. Palestinian adult prisoners in Ofer usually take care of the children by helping them adapt to their new conditions, preparing school lessons for them, offering psychological support, and representing them in any dispute with the IPS.