Every Monday for over a year, dozens of women gather at the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Gaza City to protest their inability to visit their sons who are detained in Israeli jails.

Since last June, Israel has denied the families entry for reasons that remain unknown and the women are appealing to the ICRC in the hope that the Israeli authorities will finally allow them to visit their sons.

Fatma Alnems, 75, of the Sabra neighborhood in Gaza City held a
picture of her son, Ghazi, while attending the sit-in at the ICRC offices. Ghazi has been sentenced to 100 years of imprisonment in one of Israel’s detention facilities and Fatma explained that ‘I have not seen him for the past year.

Before this denial I used to visit him twice a month, but now I no longer see him, and I don’t know why, why Israel deprives me of seeing him. Maybe I will pass away before I see him, who knows?’ However, she hopes that Ghazi may finally be
released as part of an exchange of prisoners with Israel.

A similar sentiment was expressed by mother of Ibrahim Baroud, who has
been in jail for 23 years. ‘I have not seen my son for 12 years, so I am here joining other helpless mothers like myself, in the hope that I can get through to him, maybe for the last look in my life,’ Baroud’s 70-year-old mother said, while pointing to her son’s picture.

She added that ‘I have been prevented from visiting Ibrahim, and when I wanted once to head for [the Hajj] pilgrimage I was prevented by the Israelis for security reasons.’

The 70-year-old mother of detainee Ayman Alfar, has not seen her son
for the past 12 months, since Israel imposed a closure on the Gaza Strip last June.

She explained that “I have not seen him since the coup. My son was imprisoned when he was 17 year-old and he has been now in jail for the past 19 years or for longer than his age. I appeal for the release of all detainees not only my son. May God be merciful
to them all by freeing them.’

These mothers and many others look forward to a prisoners’ swap deal between Israel and Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza. Three Palestinian groups; Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees and the Army of Islam, have been attempting to have some of those prisoners freed.

On recent Egyptian-mediated talks over the captured Israeli soldier Gil’ad Shalit, PRC’s spokesman in Gaza, Abu Mojahed, spoke to IMEMC.

‘ The Israeli occupation still blocks any progress over such talks by refusing to release prisoners with long-term sentences, therefore, the Palestinian resistance insists that if Israel does not free such prisoners, Shalit will remain in captivity’, Abu Mojahed maintained.

In June2006, the said three factions captured Shalit during a cross-border attack in southern Gaza Strip. For releasing Shalit, Israel has employed all means at its disposal including military attacks, but it yet failed.

According to the ICRC, there are 12,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, hundreds of them have been sentenced to long-term imprisonments. In addition, Israel continues to detain 950 Palestinians from Gaza, including four women and some juveniles.

‘This humanitarian situation is of a major concern to the ICRC. Therefore, the ICRC has made the necessary contacts to solve this problem, bearing in mind that the same program is running and continuing as usual in the West Bank,’ Iyad Nasser the ICRC’s media spokesman in Gaza explained.

Asked whether there has been any Israeli justification for the
decision to stop the program, Nasser maintained that no clear-cut reason has been given.

He asserted that ‘the ICRC is following and working according to the Israeli security regulations and measures since 1967, therefore, the ICRC is not in the position to
list whatever Israeli reasons for blocking or stopping such a program.’

Since 1967, Israel has detained Palestinians on almost a daily basis, as part of their crackdown on the Palestinian resistance to its occupation of the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In June 2007, Israel placed the coastal territory under strict closure, following the Islamist Hamas party takeover of Gaza amidst factional fighting with Fatah party of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. Last month, Hamas began negotiating possible prisoner swap with Israel through Egyptian mediators.

The talks were reportedly suspended over what Hamas described as Israel’s procrastination to implement a recent ceasefire deal with Israel, brokered by Cairo.

Meanwhile, the protest outside the ICRC offices will continue every Monday until Palestinian prisoners can be seen by their mothers, fathers, wives, children, sisters and brothers.