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Hamas prisoners slammed for 'stalling' over hunger strike

Oct. 11, 2011 3:54 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 12, 2011 12:05 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The head of the Palestinian Detainees Center has criticized prisoners affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad for stalling on joining a hunger strike to protest Israel's prison conditions.

Qadura Fares said the attitude of detainees affiliated with the Islamist groups was "astonishing" considering that the key demand of strikers was an end to solitary confinement, which is mostly imposed on senior Hamas cadres.

Fares said Hamas detainees had held talks with prisoners from other factions to announce a hunger strike several months ago, but that they were "hesitant now."

He added: "At one time they talked about being on strike every two days and another time said they were still thinking. I believe there is no room for thinking or for hesitance now. The impact of the strike would be stronger had they (Hamas) and the Islamic Jihad joined."

Palestinians jailed in Israel went on a mass hunger strike on Sept. 27 to protest harsh conditions imposed since Israel toughened restrictions on them in a bid to force the release of a captured Israeli soldier.

The strike was launched by detainees affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who were protesting against the treatment of PFLP leader Ahmad Saadat, who has been held in isolation for three years.

Detainees from other factions have since started refusing food, and sources told Ma'an that Hamas prisoners were considering joining the strike under pressure from party members held in isolation.

Minister of Detainee Affairs in Ramallah Issa Qaraqe said Monday that detainees were threatening to refuse water, as well as food, to escalate the protest.

Qaraqe added that 420 prisoners in Gilbou jail had joined the open strike and formed a "struggle committee."

Detainees said Sunday that Israeli prison authorities had met some of the strikers' demands, including the transmission of satellite television, provision of whole chickens, allowing family visits without handcuffs, and visits between different sections of prisons.

But Qaraqe told activists at a solidarity tent near Ramallah on Sunday that the main goal of the strikers was to put an end to solitary confinement, with other less important demands having been exaggerated by Israeli media sources.

Under international law it is illegal for Israel, as an occupying power, to transfer Palestinians outside the occupied territory.

The prisoners' rights group Addameer says Israel has detained over 650,000 Palestinians since it occupied the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, around 20 percent of the population.

As most detainees are male, around two in five Palestinian men living in the West Bank and Gaza have been detained by Israel, Addameer reports.

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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