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Several prisoners still on hunger strike in Israeli jails

May 17, 2012 1:47 A.M. (Updated: May 23, 2012 12:17 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Several prisoners in Israeli jails are still on hunger strike, officials said Thursday, days after a deal was struck to end a mass hunger strike movement.

Israeli Prisons Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman told Ma'an that Mahmoud al-Sarsak and Akram al-Rekhawi are refusing food. They are being held in Ramle prison clinic, she said.

Al-Sarsak has been on hunger strike for 60 days and is protesting his detention without charge or trial. A soccer player, al-Sarsak was detained in July 2009 while leaving the Gaza Strip to join the national team in the West Bank.

He being held under Israel's "unlawful combatant" law and has not been informed of any charges against him.

The prisoner rights group Addameer told Ma'an that al-Sarsak is the only prisoner held under the policy. Addameer says al-Sarsak was told he would be released on July 1 but the offer was retracted.

His next judicial review is due on Aug. 22. Detention orders of six months are indefinitely renewable under the "unlawful combatant" law.

Al-Rekhawi was held in Ramle's prison clinic prior to launching his hunger strike and is still refusing food in protest at inadequate medical treatment. He has been on hunger strike since April 17.

The 38-year-old suffers from asthma, diabetes and cataracts, a lawyer for the ministry of prisoners in Ramallah, Fadi Abedat, told Ma'an.

Abedat said another prisoner Mohammad Abu Libda was still on hunger strike and being held in Ramle clinic along with Sarsak and Rekhawi.

Abu Libda, 35, who is paralyzed and uses a wheelchair, has been detained since 2000 and was sentenced to 12 years. He has been on hunger strike since April 17.

Addameer told Ma'an that another prisoner, Mohammad Taj is also continuing his hunger strike, demanding to be treated as a prisoner of war.

Taj, an officer in the Palestinian Authority security forces, went on hunger strike on March 18. He briefly stopped his strike over the weekend but resumed it on Tuesday. He is being held in solitary confinement in al-Jalameh prison and was beaten by prison guards on Wednesday, his relatives told Addameer.

Weizman, the spokeswoman for Israel's Prison Service, told Ma'an the continued strikes would not affect a deal reached on Monday to end a mass hunger strike by around 2,000 detainees.

Prisoner representatives signed a deal Monday to end the mass strike in exchange for Israeli "facilitation" on policies toward solitary confinement, family visits and living conditions.

Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Ma'an on Monday that all prisoners must end the hunger strike within 72 hours, and not later refuse food, for the deal to hold.

But Weizman told Ma'an Thursday that the prisoners still on strike were not part of the mass movement and their cases would not affect the deal.
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