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Hunger strike in 16th day as thousands rally for 'Friday of Anger'

May 9, 2014 5:49 P.M. (Updated: May 14, 2014 10:50 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Nearly 100 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails entered the 16th day of a hunger strike on Friday as solidarity rallies were held across the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Prisoner's Center for Studies said Friday that the prisoners had confirmed their determination to continue their open hunger strike until authorities meet their demands, which focus on Israel fulfilling a promise made in 2012 to limit the detention of Palestinians without charge or trial, which it does regularly under a policy called "administrative detention."

The center told Ma'an that two prisoners who have been on hunger strike since before the beginning of the mass strike were in "critical condition," including Ayman Atabeesh who has been on strike for 71 days and Adnan Shaytah who has been on strike for 48 days.

On Thursday, the vast majority of more than 5,000 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli prisons took part in a solidarity hunger strike with the nearly 100 prisoners who have been refusing food since April 24.

'Friday of Anger'

Rallies in support of the hunger-striking prisoners also took place in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Friday, after the Coalition of Youth of the Intifada, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad called for a "Friday of Anger."

Thousands took part in rallies in Hebron in what organizers claimed were some of the largest rallies in the city seen in seven years.

Hebron governor, mayor and former ministers and leaders from both Hamas and Fatah turned out for the protest beginning at the Hussein Mosque.

Amjad Najjar, president of the prisoner's club in Hebron, told Ma'an that the rally was the largest in Hebron since the beginning of the Palestinian political division in 2007 and that it was "a victory for the cause of prisoners and a victory for all the children of the Palestinian people," stressing that members of all parties had taken part in the marches.

The secretary general of Fatah in Hebron said that the party had come out "en masse" for the protest, stressing that the march showed the spirit of intra-Palestinian unity that had emerged since the national reconciliation agreement at the end of April.

"Although the majority of administrators prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails are Hamas members, we went out today to support the just issue of the prisoners," he said.

Um Wahham, the wife of administrative detainee and Palestinian legislative Council member Jamal al-Natsheh, expressed concern over the fate of her husband, who has been detained by Israel without trial for 14 months.

"I fear for the life of my husband, who has been subject to assassination attempts by Israeli forces more than once both inside prison and outside, and has spent 12 years of life in the occupation's jails," she said.

Other marchers also expressed concern over the fates of jailed relatives, including the wife of Hamas leader Abd al-Khalek Natsheh, who was placed in administrative detention 14 months ago and has still been neither charged nor tried.

She said that his health was poor and was not allowed to receive any medicine, adding: "I saw him around four months ago in prison and it was the first time that I was allowed to see him as I had been banned from visiting him, and since that time I am worried for his health."

Over 150 Hamas members took part in a solidarity rally with prisoners in Tulkarem in the northern West Bank, in one of the first appearances of Hamas members in the city since the national unification deal.

The march took place in the city center at the Gamal Abdel Nasser roundabout, waving green Hamas flags and pictures of prisoners and chanting Hamas slogans in solidarity with the detainees.

Hundreds also took part in a rally in Ramallah in front of the El-Bireh city hall.

Many took part in rallies across the Gaza Strip on Friday, with Islamic Jihad rallies beginning at a number of mosques in Khan Younis, while Hamas launched marches from mosques in the Jabaliya refugee camp north of Gaza.

Islamic Jihad leader Ahmad Modallal called for an uprising against the "heinous crimes" of the Israeli occupation against the rights of prisoners through policies of medical negligence and isolation.

"There are currently 5,000 prisoners in Israeli jails who will triumph against the warden, just as Khader Adnan and all other prisoners did," he said during the rally, calling upon prisoners to unite to defeat administrative detention through hunger strikes as prisoners have done before.

"Where are the international human rights organizations that demanded the release of Shalit?" he continued, comparing the international treatment of thousands of Palestinian prisoners to that of an Israeli soldier held by Hamas for five years.

A 2012 agreement which ended a hunger strike of 2,000 Palestinian prisoners was meant to end the detention without trial of Palestinians, but as of March 1, 183 Palestinians were still being held under administrative detention.

Palestinians held in administrative detention are often held without charge or trial for months and without access to the evidence leading to their detention, even though international law stipulates this tactic only be used in exceptional circumstances.

The practice uses laws dating back to the British Mandate period.
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