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New minister pledges govt support for hunger strikers

June 4, 2014 7:30 P.M. (Updated: June 4, 2014 10:44 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The new Palestinian minister of prisoner affairs said Wednesday that the plight of detainees in Israeli custody was a top priority for the unity government.

Shawqi al-Ayasa said that the Palestinian leadership was exerting intensive efforts to save the lives of prisoners on hunger strike for 42 days.

"They won't be left prey to the occupation's savagery and grudges," al-Ayasa said.

The minister was speaking at a rally in Ramallah where protesters marched in the streets before they stopped at a sit-in tent in Yasser Arafat Square.

As he denounced all Israeli practices against Palestinian prisoners, the minister said Israel would be held responsible for any consequences.

He highlighted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was seeking to force-feed the prisoners.

Al-Ayasa's undersecretary, Ziad Abu Ein, responded to Netanyahu's remarks Monday by saying they "show the brutality of Israeli leaders and their continuous practice to deny the humanity of Palestinian prisoners, dealing with them as pure numbers."

Netanyahu said Monday that he wanted "medical professionals" to force-feed the prisoners.

The Israeli PM's comments came in the wake of an announcement by the head of the Israeli Medical Association that force-feeding hunger-striking prisoners amounted to torture and would be rejected by medical professionals.

The deputy minister called upon the international community to urgently intervene to stop the "group death" awaiting Palestinian prisoners.

He said such a step taken by Netanyahu amounted to declaring war on prisoners.

According to Abu Ein, some 80 prisoners are being treated in hospitals and are facing sudden death.

Meanwhile a prisoners right group said that hunger-strike leader Abbas al-Sayyid has lost 12 kilos.

Al-Sayyid has been in confinement since he joined the hunger strike in solidarity with administrative prisoners more than a month ago.

Ahmad Abu Taha, the director of the Prisoners Society, said that al-Sayyid was sent to Keshon confinement during his first days of strike.

He added that the prison service confiscated all his necessary possessions and belongings and that the conditions of his confinement are not healthy.

Abu Taha pointed out that al-Sayyid was in the same confinement with prisoners Hasan Salameh and Ibrahim Shreiteh who are now in Tzinok where all their belongings have been confiscated including their holy texts.

He said that al-Sayyid was not happy with the president's decision to dissolve the prisoners ministry.

In Gaza City, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine called for expanding public and political support for the hunger-striking administrative prisoners and their cause.

The left-leaning faction requested an urgent national agreement that would join popular and official efforts.

They demanded an urgent meeting of the executive committee of the PLO to discuss practical steps for saving the prisoners' lives.
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