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Israel is holding more hostages than Hamas

Originally published: Speaking Security on April 10, 2024 by Stephen Semler (more by Speaking Security) (Posted Apr 29, 2024)

Hamas is holding 132 hostages: 130 of them1 were taken captive on October 7 and two were taken hostage before then (one in 2014, the other in 2015).

Israel holds thousands of Palestinians as de facto hostages. According to the Israel Prison Service, 3,661 of its 9,312 “security” inmates2 are held without charge or trial as “administrative detainees.” What’s administrative detention? B’Tselem explains:

In administrative detention, a person is held without trial without having committed an offense, on the grounds that he or she plans to break the law in the future. As this measure is supposed to be preventive, it has no time limit. The person is detained without legal proceedings, by order of the regional military commander, based on classified evidence that is not revealed to them. This leaves the detainees helpless—facing unknown allegations with no way to disprove them, not knowing when they will be released, and without being charged, tried or convicted.

Israel routinely uses administrative detention and has, over the years, placed thousands of Palestinians behind bars for periods ranging from several months to several years, without charging them, without telling them what they are accused of, and without disclosing the alleged evidence to them or to their lawyers.

Israel holds 2,397 more people in administrative detention now than it did before October 7. Omar Al-Khatib is one of them. He was taken hostage (administratively detained) by Israel on March 1. Why? Like many of the other Palestinians Israeli forces have arbitrarily detained since October 7, Israel probably intends to use Al-Khatib as currency in a prisoner exchange deal. As Zachary Foster writes:

In all likelihood, he will be leveraged as a bargaining chip in hostage negotiations with Hamas. In other words, he was taken for the same reason that Hamas took Israeli civilians hostage on Oct. 7th, as leverage in a prisoner swap.3

In September, Israel broke the 30-year record for the number of Palestinians it had unlawfully imprisoned under administrative detention (1,264). Critically, freeing Palestinian prisoners was Hamas’ central motivation for taking hostages on October 7. This is from Hamas’ official statement on its attack:

Operation Al-Aqsa Flood on Oct. 7 targeted the Israeli military sites, and sought to arrest the enemy’s soldiers to pressure the Israeli authorities to release the thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails through a prisoner exchange deal. Therefore, the operation focused on destroying the Israeli army’s Gaza Division, the Israeli military sites stationed near the Israeli settlements around Gaza.

The White House doesn’t mention Israel’s hostage taking of Palestinians. Not because it excuses Hamas’ actions (it doesn’t), but because acknowledging it delegitimizes Biden’s Hamas-is-ISIS narrative. This narrative aims to legitimize Israel’s continued brutalization of Gaza by making it seem like Hamas can’t be negotiated or reasoned with, that it’s the only obstacle to peace, and that Israel’s merely acting in self-defense.4

May all the hostages return to their homes soon.

| Israel is holding more hostages than Hamas | MR Online

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  1. Israel said 34 hostages are dead but didn’t clarify how they died. Hamas claims dozens have been killed in Israeli airstrikes, which seems plausible. Several freed hostages said they were almost killed by Israel’s bombs, and another had briefly escaped captivity after an Israeli airstrike collapsed the building on top of him.
  2. These figures were provided to HaMoked by the Israel Prison Service. Security inmates lose their fundamental rights. The treatment of these prisoners violates international law and, as you probably guessed, the overwhelming majority are Palestinians from occupied territories. This total includes 2,071 sentenced prisoners, 2,731 remand detainees, 3,661 administrative detainees, and 849 people held as unlawful combatants, which is a category that doesn’t exist in international law and is Israel’s way of ignoring the Third Geneva Convention of August 12, 1949.
  3. Read more (recommended): Meet the Palestinian Hostages Taken by Israel, Known as “Administrative Detainees”
  4. The Biden administration’s policy of obliterating any notion of historical context is also why White House officials talk about Hamas as if it fell from the sky (and wasn’t the direct product of Israeli occupation).
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