Palestinian dies after falling into coma while in Israeli custody

Ramallah, occupied West Bank – A Palestinian prisoner, who was rushed to a hospital after falling into a coma on Thursday night, has died in Israeli custody with two years of his 12-year sentence left.

Ahmad Abu Ali, 48, was announced dead on Friday morning at the Israeli Soroka hospital in the southern Naqab area (Negev). Abu Ali was suffering from diseases including chronic heart problems and diabetes, according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS).

The Palestinian prisoner movement announced “a state of alert” and several protest actions on Friday morning in response to Abu Ali’s death. These included returning all meals for one day, as well as shutting down the prison sections and refusing to cooperate with prison authorities during three days of mourning.

Abu Ali, a father of nine, was transferred to the hospital suddenly on Thursday night after he fell into a coma in his cell, the PPS told Al Jazeera.

The prisoner group said he died as a result of medical negligence by Israeli prison authorities, holding Israel responsible for his death.

His health problems were “accompanied by the deliberate procrastination of the prison administration in providing him with the necessary treatment and in conducting medical examinations for him and following up on his health status until this led to his death today,” the PPS said in a statement.

It said that Abu Ali had health problems prior to being imprisoned in 2012, but that these had “seriously deteriorated” during his time behind bars due to the “general policy of medical negligence”.

“There is no proper care in prison,” Amany Sarahneh, spokesperson for the PPS, said.

“He was not taken to hospital for follow-ups in a regular manner – which is something that all sick prisoners face. They have to wait months and sometimes years for dire medical check-ups and surgeries, and sometimes those are only carried out after pressure from the prisoners themselves or their lawyers,” she told Al Jazeera.

The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs said in a statement it “condemns the crime of killing the prisoner Ahmad Abu Ali”.

“It is inconceivable that the international silence should continue in the face of these systematic crimes,” the commission said.

Medical negligence

Tensions inside Israeli prisons have been high in recent weeks, and have threatened to stir up an already-fragile situation on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Collective punishment measures were imposed for more than a week on at least 100 detainees across a number of prisons, including individual and collective solitary confinement, raids and searches of rooms, beatings, confiscation of all electrical devices, and bans on canteen access and family visits.

Since 1967, at least 235 Palestinians have died in Israeli prisons, according to the commission.

Palestinian officials and rights groups have long documented and condemned a “deliberate Israeli policy of medical negligence”.

Specialised doctors are not regularly available, except for dentists, and “over-the-counter painkillers are administered as a remedy for almost all health problems,” rights groups said in a joint report to the United Nations.

In 2020, four Palestinian prisoners died in Israeli custody.

In November 2021, Palestinian prisoner Sami Umour, 39, died following a months-long delay of an urgently needed surgery for the serious heart problems he was suffering from.

The vast majority of Palestinians view detainees in Israeli prisons as political prisoners who have been jailed for resisting the Israeli military occupation, which is not recognised under international law.

There are now about 4,700 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, including 150 children and 34 women. This includes approximately 600 prisoners who are ill with different diseases, as well as more than 20 who suffer from cancer.

Meanwhile, 835 prisoners are held under “administrative detention,” a controversial Israeli policy that allows it to hold Palestinians without charge or trial.

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