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300 Palestinian prisoners now participating in mass hunger strike

Aug. 4, 2016 3:45 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 5, 2016 8:26 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- More than 300 Palestinians are currently participating in an open hunger strike in Israeli prisons, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) said on Thursday.

PPS said that 285 Hamas-affiliated prisoners held at the Eshel and Nafha prisons entered an open hunger strike on Thursday to protest suppressive measures by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), while some 40 prisoners from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) were striking in support of fellow prisoner Bilal Kayid.

Hamas leader Abd al-Rahman al-Shadid said in a statement that over 300 of the movement's members in Israeli jails launched a hunger strike on Wednesday that would “continue until Israeli forces end the humiliation and oppression against them.”

Al-Shahid said that Hamas-affiliated prisoners were abused, beaten, and strip searched while being moved days prior to them joining the strike.

According to al-Shahid, the number of Hamas-affiliated hunger strikers is expected to rise as the protests continue, adding that tensions were high in various prisons where solidarity hunger strikes were taking place resulting in what he claimed was a targeting of Hamas-affiliated prisoners by the IPS. 

Kayid enters his 51st day of hunger strike on Thursday in protest of being sentenced to administrative detention -- internment without trial or charges -- on the day when he was meant to be released from prison after serving a 14-and-a-half year sentence.

Kayid is one of six Palestinian prisoners currently on hunger strike to protest their administrative detention. These hunger strikers included brothers Mahmoud and Muhammad al-Balboul, who began their hunger strikes on July 4 and 7 respectively; Malik al-Qadi; and Ayyad Hreimi, who both began their strikes on July 15.

Meanwhile, prominent imprisoned Palestinian journalist Omar Nazzal began his own open hunger strike on Thursday.

Israel’s policy of administrative detention, almost exclusively used against Palestinians, has been widely criticized by rights group that have accused Israel of using the policy to erode Palestinian political and social life by detaining scores of Palestinians without proof of wrongdoing.

Four other prisoners -- identified as Ahmad al-Barghouthi, Mahmoud Sarahneh, Ziyad al-Bazzar, and Amin Kamil -- have been refusing food to denounce a recent decision by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to decrease the number of family visits to prisoners to once monthly.

Meanwhile, prisoner Walid Malluh Masalmeh has been on a hunger strike since July 18 to protest being held in solitary confinement for more than ten months.

According to prisoners rights group Addameer, Israel was detaining some 7,000 Palestinian prisoners as of May, including 715 in administrative detention.

The large-scale solidarity movement amongst prisoners has resulted in an equally massive crackdown by the IPS, which has conducted multiple raids, cell block closures, confiscations of personal property, and transfers of detainees in attempts to quell the strikes.

PPS reported that IPS raided Section 10 of the Eshel prison on Thursday and transferred a number of detainees to the Ohalei Kedar prison after a “humiliating search.”

According to the prisoners’ testimonies, Israeli forces raided cells in Eshel prison, handcuffed prisoners, and stripped them of their clothes, while IPS officials took pictures.

The ongoing prisoners movement has inspired sit-ins across the occupied Palestinian territory organized by families of incarcerated hunger strikers and their supporters.

Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) carried out a sit-in in Gaza City in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners on Thursday.

The deputy speaker of the PLC in Gaza, Ahmad Bahr, called on all Palestinian resistance factions and their military wings to unite to release prisoners from Israeli custody.

Bahr also demanded that the Palestinian Authority end its controversial security coordination with Israel. “We must unite to free prisoners,” he added.

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