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Tensions rise in Israel's prisons as 100 Palestinian prisoners join mass hunger strike

July 27, 2016 2:04 P.M. (Updated: July 27, 2016 5:01 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Tensions have continued to mount inside Israel’s prisons as at least 100 Palestinian prisoners have joined a mass hunger strike in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners Bilal Kayid and brothers Muhammad and Mahmud al-Balboul, according to statement released by the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs on Wednesday.

A lawyer from the committee said that Israeli Prison Service (IPS) raided the cells of the hunger-striking prisoners and transferred prisoners to other Israeli jails in an attempt to separate the prisoners and force them to end their strikes.

According to the statement, IPS officials have also imposed punishments on Palestinians participating in the strike, including placing them in solitary confinement, confiscating their personal belongings and electrical devices, enforcing a financial penalty of 600 shekels ($156), and depriving the prisoners of family visitations for two months.

The committee also stated that Palestinian hunger-striking prisoner Bilal Kayid’s condition was “life-threatening” as a result of his 44-day strike.
According to the statement, Kayid has refused to take any medications and has reiterated his commitment to continuing his strike until released from administrative detention -- an Israeli policy of internment without charge or trial almost exclusively used against Palestinians

In solidarity with Kayid and other hunger-striking prisoners, Palestinian prisoners have been going through a rolling system of hunger strikes, with some 50 prisoners going on a hunger strike for several days before another group of prisoners begin their own strike, in an attempt to pressure the Israeli government to respond to the demands of hunger strikers.

Kayid, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Palestine's most popular left-wing political faction, went on hunger strike on June 14 after being placed under administrative detention on the day he was scheduled to be released after completing a 14-and-a-half-year prison sentence.

Kayid is one of the most high-profile hunger strikers since Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq came near death during a 94-day hunger strike before he was finally released in May.

The two al-Balboul brothers, held in Israel’s Ofer prison, have also reportedly suffered from medical complications due to their 23-day hunger strike in protest of being transferred to administrative detention. The statement added that IPS officials have reportedly assaulted the brothers in an attempt to force them to end their strikes.

The brothers were detained on June 9 from Bethlehem, just two months after their 14-year-old sister, Nuran, was detained after attempting to cross Israel’s 300 checkpoint between northern Bethlehem and Jerusalem for allegedly possessing a knife, an accusation locals have denied.

Muhammad, a dentist, was sentenced to six months of administrative detention, while Mahmoud, a Master’s student at al-Quds University, was sentenced to five months.

Nuran was released from prison on July 12 after serving three months in prison.

The three are children of Ahmad al-Balboul, a prominent leader in Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, who was shot dead along with three other Palestinians by undercover Israeli forces in March 2008.

Committee head Issa Qaraqe expressed his support in the statement for the sit-in strikes staged across the occupied West Bank in support of hunger-striking prisoners and in protest of Israel’s arbitrary detention of Palestinians.

The sit-ins took place in the Duheisha refugee camp, Manger Square in Bethlehem, and in Ramallah, where hundreds of participants attended, including the detainees’ families and several Islamic association representatives.

Qaraqe urged an international intervention in Israel’s policies against Palestinians in order to save the lives of the hunger strikers, adding that the international community should take responsibility for Israel’s discriminatory detention policies against Palestinians.

Israel considers the majority of Palestinian political parties to be “terrorist organizations." As a result, most Palestinians who participate in the political arena in the occupied Palestinian territory risk being imprisoned by Israeli authorities.

According to Palestinians, Israel uses the policy of administrative detention to detain family members of Palestinian political leaders, in an extension of several policies that rights groups have deemed “collective punishment” aimed at disrupting family life for Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 7,000 Palestinians were being held by Israel as of May, 715 of whom were held in administrative detention.

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