Mass Hunger Strike Grows on 13th Day, Leaders Call for Continued Protests

Some of Palestine's prisoners. From right to left: Marwan Barghouthi, Ahmad Saadat, Karim Yunis, Nael Barghouthi, Fouad Shubak. (Photo: via Maan)

At least 100 Palestinian prisoners joined the some 1,500 Palestinians on the 13th day of a mass hunger strike on Saturday, amid a continued crackdown by Israel Prison Service (IPS) aimed at disrupting the movement inside prisons.

Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders have called for the escalation of protests, a day after widespread confrontations between locals and Israeli forces across the occupied West Bank in solidarity with the strike.

Abed al-Fattah Dawla, head of the Media Committee of the Freedom and Dignity Strike — a joint committee formed by the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) and Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs – told Sawt al-Asra (Voice of Prisoners) radio station that 100 Palestinians being held in Israel’s Megiddo prison have joined the mass hunger strike.

Meanwhile, lawyer for the committee Loay Akkeh reported in a statement that IPS has continued to suppress the strike after the lawyer visited Palestinian hunger strikers in Israel’s Ofer prison.

He said that punitive measures were being imposed in order to “break the will” of the prisoners and exhaust them in order to quicken the deterioration of their health conditions.

Akkeh visited hunger-striking prisoners Fadi Abu Aita, Luay al-Mansi, Sharar Mansour, and Ahmad Sharabati. The prisoners confirmed that they were still on hunger strike and have been since the start of the strike on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, April 17.

IPS has carried out search raids during early dawn hours in prisoners’ cells, Akkeh said, searching for and confiscating salt that prisoners are using to balance their health conditions amid the strike. Prison authorities have also attempted to strip search the hunger strikers, though prisoners have refused to comply, Akkeh said.

The prisoners also told Akkeh that some 10 hunger strikers in Ofer have been suffering from fatigue and weakness, adding that two of them were transported to the hospital after fainting. One of the prisoners suffered a head injury when he fell to the ground and required stitches.

The prisoners added that the hunger strikers had lost between four to 14 kilograms of their weight, and have been suffering from severe headaches, and stomach and joint aches.

IPS officials have attempted to offer the hunger strikers food while they are being transferred to the hospital in order to tempt them into breaking their strike. However, the prisoners said that they have refused.

IPS officials also confiscated all of the prisoners’ personal clothes, leaving them with only their prison uniform, which they are only permitted to wash once a week despite the increasingly hot weather and the lack of fans in the prison facilities, according to Akkeh.

Akkeh stressed that these procedures taken by the IPS are a violation of the prisoners’ rights.

A spokesperson for IPS was not immediately available to comment.

Later on Saturday, the media committee announced that lawyers from prisoners’ support groups like PPS and the prisoners’ committee will completely boycott Israeli court in cases related to political Palestinian prisoners.

A similar boycott was announced on the second day of the hunger strike, but the media committee clarified Saturday that the lawyers decided to stop pleading on behalf of Palestinian prisoners, except in hearings over whether or not to extend the remand of detainees.

The media committee urged all lawyers who work with prisoner rights groups and those who work individually to abstain from representing any Palestinian prisoner jailed by Israel.

In a separate statement, the media committee said that some 1,200 Palestinian prisoners in Ofer prison performed Friday prayers together in support of the hunger strikers and refused their meals that day in an act of solidarity.

The committee also said that Israeli forces stormed the cells of hunger-striking Palestinian detainees on Friday in Israel’s Ramla prison, where prisoners have abstained from drinking water for three days as of Saturday.

The statement added that numerous Palestinian detainees had been transferred to Ramla prison and placed in solitary confinement cells, who the committee identified as Nasser Ewias, Zeyad Zahran, Wajdi Judeh, Muhammad Khaldi, Naser Abu-Hmeid, William Rimawi, and Kameel Abu-Hniash.

One of those transferred, the ill prisoner Nasser Abu Hmeid, was attacked by IPS forces when he refused to stand for a search after the forces stormed into the prisoner’s’ room in southern Israel’s Ashkelon prison on Thursday. He was subsequently transferred to solitary in Ramla.

The statement confirmed that IPS has continued transferring the hunger strikers into solitary confinement and between different Israeli prisons in an attempt to separate hunger strikers from one another and break the strike.

The committee added that the Israeli Supreme Court had set a date for a hearing following a petition submitted to the courts on May 3 relating to the right of lawyers to visit the hunger-striking detainees, as lawyers have continued to be barred from visiting detainees participating in the mass strike.

The committee concluded their statement by encouraging Palestinians to continue organizing solidarity events and demonstrations across the West Bank on Saturday, in a continuation of protests and solidarity events marking a “Day of Rage” on Friday, which erupted into violent clashes with Israeli forces across the West Bank.

The committee also called on Palestinians to meet at the hunger strike tents — erected in cities, villages, towns, and refugee camps across the Palestinian territory in solidarity with the prisoners — at 11 a.m.

On Thursday, a general strike was held in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in solidarity with the hunger strikers. While almost all shops voluntarily closed in support of the mass hunger strike, several Palestinians told Ma’an that shops had received direct orders from the Palestinian Authority (PA) to close.

Hundreds of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel have been participating in the hunger strike led by senior Fatah official Marwan Barghouthi since April 17 to protest the torture, ill treatment, and medical neglect of prisoners at the hands of Israeli authorities, as well as Israel’s widespread use of administrative detention — internment without trial or charges.

Israeli authorities have detained approximately one million Palestinians since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967, according to a joint statement released last week by Palestinian organizations.

According to prisoners’ rights organization Addameer, some 6,300 Palestinians were held in Israeli custody as of March.

(Ma’an, PC, Social Media)

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