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PFLP prisoners suspend hunger strike for 10 days, await Israeli decision on Bilal Kayid

June 29, 2016 8:14 P.M. (Updated: July 3, 2016 10:37 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian prisoners affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) announced a ten-day suspension of their mass hunger strike Wednesday, according to a statement released by the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners' Affairs in the Gaza Strip.

Dozens of PFLP-affiliated prisoners held in Israeli prisons launched a mass hunger strike last week in solidarity with Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayid, who had started his hunger strike a few days earlier when Israeli authorities sentenced him to six months of administrative detention without charge or trial upon completion of his 14-year prison sentence.

According to the ministry, the hunger striking prisoners have suspended their strike as they await a decision by Israeli authorities regarding Kayid’s detention.

The ministry added that the Israel Prison Service (IPS) had returned 12 hunger-striking prisoners back to Israel’s Megiddo prison after transferring them to other prisons in Israel on Friday -- a common tactic used by Israeli authorities to pressure Palestinian prisoners to end their hunger strikes.

IPS has transferred dozens of PFLP hunger-striking prisoners to various prisons across Israel since the start of the mass strike in an attempt separate them and disrupt organizing activities, and have placed others in solitary confinement.

IPS also placed PFLP leaders Wael Jaghoub and Salah Ali in isolation on Friday “in an attempt to repress their growing protest steps and to neutralize the role of leaders and isolate them from the rest of the prisoners,” a statement by the PFLP said.

As Kayid entered the 15th day of his hunger strike on Tuesday, IPS transferred him from solitary confinement at Ramon prison to solitary confinement at Ela prison in attempt to pressure him to end his strike.

Israeli prison officers have carried out a variety of punitive measures against PFLP-affiliated prisoners who have joined the strike, such as raiding their cells, confiscating electronic devices, and shutting down water and cooling systems.

Kayid, a member of the PFLP, has been held in solitary confinement for more than a year after Israeli authorities learned of his leadership activities between Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

The PFLP prisoners branch called the Israeli decision a “serious threat to all Palestinian prisoners that we must confront early before it becomes a systematic policy of the occupation,” in the statement published Friday.

The statement said that the movement's prison branch was initiating protest measures to continue throughout June and early July, to culminate in an open hunger strike by all PFLP-affiliated prisoners being held by Israel on July 7.

Kayid was originally detained in 2001 for alleged involvement in the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades -- the armed wing of the PFLP.

Rights groups have claimed that Israel's administrative detention policy has been used as an attempt to disrupt Palestinian political processes, notably targeting Palestinian politicians, activists, and journalists, as it allows Israel to imprison Palestinians without disclosing evidence and without charge or trial.

Although Israeli authorities claim the withholding of evidence during administrative detention is essential for state security concerns, rights groups have instead claimed the policy allows Israeli authorities to hold Palestinians for an indefinite period of time without showing any evidence that could justify their detentions.

Israel considers the majority of Palestinian political parties to be “terrorist" organizations. As a result, most Palestinians who participate in the political arena in the occupied Palestinian territory risk being imprisoned by Israeli authorities.

According to the prisoner’s rights group Addameer, there were 7,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons as of May, 715 of whom held under administrative detention.

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