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Palestinian prisoner assaulted, another enters 50th day without food amid mass hunger strike

Aug. 3, 2016 7:25 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 3, 2016 9:38 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Mass hunger strikes launched by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody escalated on Wednesday, as Israeli prison forces assaulted hunger striker Mahmoud Balboul, as Bilal Kayid -- whose hunger strike inspired scores of other prisoners to take on strikes in solidarity -- entered his 50th day without food.

According to the Palestinian Prisoner's Society (PPS), Israeli forces assaulted Palestinian prisoner Mahmoud Balboul -- who has been on hunger strike alongside his brother Muhammad for 30 days -- while he was handcuffed to a hospital bed in Israel’s Ramla prison.

Israeli forces violently dragged him from his handcuffs, causing him to suffer from muscle stiffness, while verbally abusing him, PPS said.

During a visit a lawyer from PPS to Muhammad Balboul, who is also being treated in Ramla prison hospital, he told the lawyer that Israel Prison Service (IPS) doctors did not provide his brother with proper medical care, and that prison authorities assaulted Mahmoud in the hospital before transferring him back to Ofer prison.

Muhammad Balboul added that he has been suffering from constant dizziness, muscle stiffness, exhaustion, and insomnia, while Mahmoud suffered from issues in his pelvic bones, acidity caused by chronic vomiting, and has not able to speak as well.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners' Affairs said on Wednesday that an Israeli military court had postponed its appeal regarding the Balboul brothers' administrative detention. Committee lawyer Tariq Barghouth said that the court hearing would take place on Aug. 7.

The Balboul brothers and Kayid are among scores of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons who continued their open hunger strike in protest of Israel’s policy of administrative detention -- internment without trial or charge on the basis of undisclosed evidence.

Sawt al-Asra (Voice of Prisoners) radio identified four other prisoners engaged in open strikes against administrative detention as Ayyad Hreimi, Malik al-Qadi, Walid Masalma, and Nidal Mahmoud Daghlas, while an another prisoner, Muhammad Orman, has launched a hunger strike in protests of solitary confinement.

Medical sources reported that Kayid, now entering his 50th day of his hunger strike, was being held in Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, and was in very serious condition.

He could suffer from a stroke or heart attack at any moment, the sources said, adding that Kayid has lost his sight, ability to talk, and suffered from shortness of breath and physical pain all over his body.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Ministry of Health warned of Kayid’s potential “sudden death.”

Kayid has been refusing medical treatment and has demanded to be transferred back to prison to continue his strike alongside other prisoners.

He was originally detained in 2002 for alleged involvement in the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades -- the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) -- and launched his hunger strike when Israel placed him in administrative detention just as he completed his 14-and-a-half-year sentence.

Hreimi and al-Qadi have been on hunger strike for 19 days. According to PPS, Hreimi has been suffering from fainting and exhaustion, while he and al-Qadi have both been pressured by IPS by various means to end their strikes.

IPS also transferred Daghlas, who was detained in 2001 for his alleged involvement with the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, into solitary confinement, according to PPS.

Orman entered his second day of hunger strike against his solitary confinement. He was detained in 2002 and charged with planning explosions in Israel which caused the death of 35 Israelis.

Since Kayid launched his strike, PFLP-affiliated prisoners have launched solidarity strikes on a rolling basis to support Kayid and demand an end to Israel’s use of administrative detention. The hunger strikes quickly spread across Israeli prisons, with more than a hundred Palestinian prisoners joining from various political parties.

The ongoing action has also inspired sit-ins across the occupied West Bank organized by families of incarcerated hunger strikers and their supporters.

On Saturday, Palestinian and Israeli NGOs -- including Adalah, Addameer, the Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI), and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHRI) -- issued a call for the immediate release of Kayid.

"We call on the international community to urge Israel to release Bilal Kayid immediately, to end the harsh, inhuman, and degrading practices that pressure on hunger strikers to end their strikes, and to review the continuous and systematic human rights violations of Palestinian prisoners and detainees, especially in regards to the policy of administrative detention," the statement read.
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