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Palestinians detained in Israel start hunger strike

Sept. 27, 2011 2:29 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 2, 2011 8:16 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails have started a hunger strike to protest their treatment by the Israeli prison services, Palestinian Authority Minister of Detainee Affairs Issa Qaraqe said Tuesday.

Detainees are threatening to disobey all prison rules if their demands are not met, Qaraqe said, adding that the move would be unprecedented.

Prisoners may defy all prison orders, refuse to wear uniforms or stand up for daily counts, he said in a statement.

Detainees affiliated to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine are on an open hunger strike to demand an end to the solitary confinement of PFLP leader Ahmad Saadat, who has been held in isolation for three years.

They are also demanding an end to the solitary confinement of 20 other prisoners, some of whom have been held in isolation for 10 years, Qaraqe said.

In Rimon and Nafha prisons, detainees went on hunger strike after a visit by the Israeli Minister of Internal Security. The minister told prisoners' representatives that their demands would not be met.

Prisoners had demanded that Israeli authorities end solitary confinement and collective punishment, allow detainees to study, and stop humiliating inspections and the practice of chaining detainees' hands and feet during visits by lawyers and relatives.

Qaraqe said detainees in other prisons would go on hunger strike on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but that an open hunger strike would begin if demands were not met.

Meanwhile in Shatta prison, detainees have refused to see their relatives or lawyers since the prison service announced that their hands and feet would be chained during visits, Qaraqe said.

In his address to the UN General Assembly on Friday, President Mahmoud Abbas told world leaders that peace with Israel required "the release of political prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons without delay."

He added: "The time has come for the thousands of prisoners to be released from the prisons to return to their families and their children to become a part of building their homeland, for the freedom of which they have sacrificed."

Palestinian human rights and prisoners group Addameer said the disobedience campaign was in response to "an escalating series of punitive measures" by the Israeli prison authorities.

In June, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to toughen conditions for Palestinians in Israeli jails, in an effort to pressure Hamas to release captured Israeli solider Gilad Shalit.

The measures were widely condemned by Palestinian officials and prompted hunger strikes by prisoners in protest against the changes.

According to latest reports from the Palestinian Authority 6,000 Palestinians are being detained in Israeli prisons, including 219 in Administrative Detention who are held without charge.
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