Monday, July 16, 2012

Gaza families visit jailed relatives in Israel

 Maan News Agency

Published today (updated) 16/07/2012 10:43
Gaza families will visit jailed relatives in Israel for the first time since 2007.

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Families in the Gaza Strip will visit relatives detained in Israeli jails on Monday for the first time since 2007, a prisoners group said.

Gaza-based group Husam told Ma'an that 48 family members would visit 25 relatives being held in Israeli jails. There are a total of 473 Gazan prisoners detained in Israel, group spokesman Muwaffaq Hmeid said.

The families left Gaza City at 4.00 a.m. to travel to the Erez crossing, he added.

Another group of families is expected to visit relatives on July 23, Hmeid said.

"This is a first step and we hope that visits by residents of Gaza will resume in full," said Juan Pedro Schaerer, the head of the ICRC delegation in Israel and the occupied territories.

"We have repeatedly called for the resumption of family visits, which are a lifeline for detainees and their families. Under international humanitarian law, Israeli authorities have an obligation to allow the detainees to receive family visits," a statement said.

In 2007, Israel started limiting what it considers privileges for Hamas and Gaza prisoners in a bid to put pressure on Hamas to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was held in Gaza until last fall.

The visitors issue was one of the key demands of the hundreds of prisoners who went on a hunger strike in the spring.

In a deal to end the strike, Israeli authorities agreed to allow limited personal visits.