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4 Palestinian prisoners suspend their hunger strikes

Aug. 5, 2016 1:09 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 7, 2016 6:26 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Four Palestinian prisoners Friday suspended their open hunger strikes in Israel’s HaDarim prison, launched on July 18 in protest of a decision by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to reduce family visits for Palestinian male prisoners from two to one a month, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS).

PPS said in a statement that prisoners Ziyad al-Bazzar, Ahmad al-Barghouthi, Mahmoud Sarahneh, and Amin Kamil suspended their hunger strikes after receiving promises by Israeli Prison Service (IPS) officials that efforts would be made to reinstate regular family visits for the prisoners.

The prisoners told a PPS lawyer that IPS officials deliberately transferred them between several Israeli prisons during their hunger strikes, a common tactic used by IPS officials in an attempt to force prisoners into ending their strikes.

The prisoners added that each of them had lost some 13 kilograms since the start of their hunger strikes.

Last month, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) denounced ICRC’s decision, calling it a continuation of suppressive procedures imposed on prisoners by Israeli authorities, and saying that the NGO did not consult with Palestinian officials or prisoners’ families before implementing the change.

The group said the reduction in family visits constituted a move against a right obtained by prisoners after a 35-year long struggle, adding that it increased the suffering of families of prisoners.

In June, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) also slammed ICRC’s decision, saying that the international NGO was “increasing the burden upon (prisoners) with policies and procedures...which represent a clear decline of its role in accordance and even collusion with the systematic policy of the occupation.”

The prisoner solidarity network Samidoun explained that families of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel must obtain special permits to visit their imprisoned family members. However, since these permits are often rejected or delayed, families of prisoners rely heavily on ICRC-arranged visits that, before July, were organized twice a month for 45 minute sessions with the prisoners.

More than 300 Palestinian prisoners have joined a mass hunger strike in Israeli prisons, including those protesting against ICRC’s decision. The hunger strike movement which was first launched in solidarity with prisoner Bilal Kayid, now entering his 51st day without food, while scores of others have continued to join in protest of Israel’s arbitrary use of administrative detention on Palestinians -- a policy of internment without charge or trial.
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