A photograph dated 18 May 2005 and released on 27 June 2011 shows Arabs in the Israeli prison in Ayalon, in central Israel, as they gather together. EPA/FILE/NATI SHOHAT ISRAEL OUT [ISRAEL OUT]

Red Cross calls on Israel to ensure right to family visits of Palestinian prisoners

Jerusalem, Aug 2 (EFE).- The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called on Israel on Saturday to “safeguard the rights” of Palestinian prisoners after Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir limited family visits for detained Palestinians.

“Under International Humanitarian Law, Palestinian detainees are protected persons, and (they) have a right to family contact. This includes family visits while in detention,” the Red Cross said in a press statement on the X social media network.

“The ICRC calls on all relevant Israeli authorities to safeguard the rights of protected persons in Israeli custody and uphold related IHL obligations.”

Ben Gvir, a firebrand lawmaker known for his anti-Arab racist rhetoric, announced on Friday that he would reduce the number of family visits for terror-accused Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

The prisoners were allowed visits from their families once a month, even though Israeli prison policy stipulates visits every two months.

“The Prison Service must strictly adhere to the legal requirement of family visits for security prisoners every two months. As soon as I became aware of this situation, I immediately instructed compliance with the law.” Ben Gvir wrote on X.

The tweet sparked outrage among Palestinian authorities, who warned of potential negative repercussions.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the military, and the prison service are reportedly resisting the move, which might take effect on Sunday.

Ben Gvir canceled the release of elderly and sick Palestinian prisoners whose sentences for minor offenses are about to end, even as Israeli prisons are overcrowded.

He also proposes the death penalty for those accused of fatal attacks against Israelis.

Currently, about 4,000 Palestinians are in Israeli prisons on charges related to terrorism.

The ICRC has facilitated visits by family members of Palestinian prisoners to Israeli jails since 1968.

According to the aid agency, in the first six months of 2023, more than 29,000 Palestinian family members visited their detained relatives in Israel.

“This provides much-needed contact for both those in detention and their family members, fulfilling a basic and universal human need.”

The ICRC said it would continue to support the families by facilitating the visits.

Israel took control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the six-day war of 1967 and has since maintained a long regime of military occupation and colonization of the territory. EFE