JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel is holding nearly 800 Palestinians without trial or charge, the highest number since 2008, an Israeli rights group said on Sunday.
The group, HaMoked, which regularly gathers figures from Israeli prison authorities, said that 798 Palestinians are currently being held in so-called administrative detention, a practice where the prisoners can be held for months, do not know the charges against them and are not granted access to the evidence against them.
The group said the number of those held in administrative detention has risen steadily this year, as Israel conducts nightly arrest raids in the occupied West Bank. Israel said it uses administrative detention to impede attacks and restrain dangerous militants without revealing sensitive intelligence.
Rights groups and Palestinians say it is an abusive system that denies freedom without due process, leaving some Palestinians for months or even years behind bars with no evidence against them made accessible.
Some resort to life-threatening hunger strikes to draw attention to their detention, which often drives up tensions between Israel and Palestinians.
“Administrative detention should be an exceptional measure but Israel makes wholesale use of this detention without trial,” said HaMoked’s executive director Jessica Montell.
“This has to stop. If Israel cannot bring them to trial, it must release all administrative detainees.”
HaMoked said the figure was a new peak in a growing wave of administrative detentions which began last spring following a series of attacks by Palestinians against Israelis that killed 19 people.
Those attacks sparked the Israeli raids that have killed some 100 Palestinians, many of them said to be militants or local youth out to protest the incursion into their cities or towns, but civilians have also died in the violence.