Palestinian terror convict dies in Israeli custody under undisclosed circumstances

PA says Khaled Jamal Shawish, 53, is 9th Palestinian prisoner to die in custody since Oct. 7; Hamas, Fatah, accuse Israel of medical malpractice

An undated photo of Nafha and Ramon prisons in southern Israel. (Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)
An undated photo of Nafha and Ramon prisons in southern Israel. (Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

A Palestinian prisoner jailed by Israel for terror offenses died on Tuesday shortly after arriving at Rehovot’s Kaplan Medical Center, the Israel Prison Service announced Wednesday.

The prisoner, identified by the IPS as Khaled Jamal Shawish, 53, had been detained in 2007, and was serving 10 life sentences at Nafha Prison, south of Beersheba, for his role as a commander in the Jenin branch of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades during the Second Intifada.

The cause for his hospitalization was restricted due to privacy rules, the IPS said.

“As with any incident of this type, the circumstances will be investigated,” IPS said in a statement.

The Israel Hayom daily quoted Palestinian officials from both Hamas and Fatah blaming Israel for Shawish’s death.

According to the newspaper, Hamas released a statement on behalf of its minister in charge of prisoners, Zaher Jabarin, eulogizing Shawish and warning that “disasters will befall the Occupation” as a result of Israel’s “policy of harassment and medical malpractice against Palestinian prisoners.” The statement implored Palestinians “to confront the Occupation and its settlers.”

Fatah leadership’s statement similarly accused Israel of premeditated medical malpractice. Referring to Shawish as a “great commander” and an exemplar of “sacrifice and courage,” the secularist faction said his death “indicates beyond any doubt that the IPS is executing a policy of medical assassination against ailing prisoners.” The alleged policy, according to Fatah’s statement, “is of a piece with the fascist pronouncements of the so-called National Security Minister [Itamar] Ben Gvir.”

The Palestinian Authority said that Shawish was the ninth Palestinian prisoner to die in an Israeli prison since October 7.

Illustrative: National Security Itamar Ben Gvir visits south Tel Aviv, September 3, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The far-right Ben Gvir, who became Israel’s minister in charge of internal security services toward the end of 2022, has consistently pushed for downgrading conditions for Palestinians incarcerated by the Jewish state for security-related charges, shortening shower times and limiting family visits, despite warnings from some prison officials and defense figures that such measures could inflame the already fraught West Bank.

The minister has doubled down on such efforts since Hamas’s brutal October 7 onslaught. Since then the right-wing firebrand has been criticized for boasting about his orders to demean Palestinian prisoners, which hostages’ families warned potentially endangered Israelis still languishing in Hamas captivity.

Gil Dickmann, whose cousin Carmel Gat is held hostage in Gaza, addressed the minister on X in November, writing that his comments “about the dark dungeon, the hole in the floor, the handcuffs and the humiliation put her in real danger. Every tweet of yours is a match that burns the hearts of our families.”

Over 250 people of all ages were abducted on October 7, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists stormed southern Israel, killing nearly 1,200 people, mainly civilians, while committing numerous atrocities and weaponizing sexual violence on a mass scale.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, the Israeli Defense Forces launched an unprecedented offensive in the Gaza Strip, displacing over a million people, and killing over 29,000, according to the Strip’s Hamas-run health ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants. Israel says at least 12,000 of those killed were terror operatives.

In tandem, the IDF has intensified its raids in the West Bank, arresting more than 3,200 wanted Palestinians across the West Bank since October 7, including more than 1,350 affiliated with Hamas, according to security authorities.

Illustrative: IDF troops operate in the West Bank, early February 19, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Palestinian Authority health ministry says that more than 400 West Bank Palestinians have been killed in that time.

Qatari news agency Al Jazeera cited the Nablus-based NGO Palestinian Prisoner’s Society as saying that 247 Palestinians have died in Israeli custody since the Jewish state took control of the West Bank in 1967. The remains of 17 prisoners are being withheld by Israel, the group said.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report. 

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