Israel is currently holding over 1,100 Palestinians without trial or charge, the highest figure since 2003, an Israeli rights group said Sunday.
The group, HaMoked, which regularly gathers figures from Israeli prison authorities, said that 1,132 people were being held in administrative detention, a practice in which prisoners can be held without charge practically indefinitely and are not granted access to the evidence against them.
The vast majority of them are Palestinians. Just four of the detainees are Jewish Israelis.
The last time Israel held this many administrative detainees was in May 2003, when at least 1,140 were held without charge in the throes of a violent Palestinian uprising known as the Second Intifada.
The number of those held in administrative detention has risen steadily over the past year and a half, as Israel has conducted near-nightly arrest raids in the West Bank in response to a spate of deadly terror attacks against Israelis.
Israel says administrative detention is a tool that helps keep dangerous terrorists off the streets and allows the government to hold suspects without divulging sensitive intelligence. Critics say the policy denies prisoners due process.
The detentions must be renewed by a military court every six months, and prisoners can remain in jail for years under the mechanism.
Some resort to life-threatening hunger strikes to draw attention to their detention, which often drives up tensions between Israel and Palestinians.
The practice has also been used with a handful of Jewish Israeli terror suspects in recent years, though far-right leaders have come out against its employment in such cases, including last week, when four settlers were put into administrative detention over their alleged involvement in a series of rampages in Palestinian villages.
They are currently the only Jewish Israeli suspects held under the controversial tool.
“Against Palestinians, Israel makes wholesale use of what should be a rare, exceptional measure. The government is now expanding the use of administrative detention against Israeli Jews as well,” said Jessica Montell, HaMoked’s executive director. “All administrative detainees must be given a fair trial or released.”
Agencies and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.