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Palestinian organization to create committee on prisoners' health amid hunger strike

Aug. 11, 2016 10:24 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 12, 2016 2:59 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- A number of Palestinian organizations focused on prisoners, human rights, and health decided on Wednesday to establish a committee to follow the cases of Palestinians in poor health being held in Israeli prisons.

Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs lawyer Kamil Natour; Hurryat Center for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights head Heli Al-Araj; Palestinian medical association members Ibrahim Khamis and Bashar Fadil; and Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) lawyer Lubna Hindi met on Wednesday to discuss the plan.

The committee reportedly intends to push for Palestinian doctors to be allowed to visit Palestinian prisoners and inspect the medical conditions in Israeli prisons, as well as to take legal action when prisoners’ lack of medical care in Israeli custody can be proven.

The organizations’ officials said that more than 700 Palestinian prisoners currently suffer due to poor medical access, 150 of whom reportedly in serious health conditions requiring “immediate medical intervention.”

The Palestinian Prisoners' Center for Studies had previously estimated that some 1,000 sick Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons.

The announcement comes as PPS reported that the health conditions of four hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners were seriously deteriorating, as Israeli authorities refused to transfer them to hospitals, keeping them instead in medical facilities inside detention centers.

A PPS lawyer who visited the Ofer prison said on Wednesday that Mahmoud Balboul, who has been on hunger strike for 39 days, was suffering from constant vomiting, dizziness, stomach acidity, spasms, insomnia and inability to speak -- while his brother Muhammad Balboul, who had been on hunger strike for 36 days, suffered from similar symptoms, as well as poor eyesight.

The PPS lawyer added that Ayyad Hreimy and Malik al-Qadi were experiencing dizziness and arthritis after forgoing food for 28 days.

On Tuesday, the Israeli Supreme Court turned down an appeal to transfer the Balboul brothers to a medical facility outside prison, on the basis that accepting it would be an “intervention” in the Israeli Prison Service’s (IPS) jurisdiction.

An ongoing mass hunger strike was initially launched in solidarity with Bilal Kayid, a prisoner who has gone for more than 50 days without food in protest of being sentenced to administrative detention -- Israel’s policy of internment without charge or trial -- the day he was set to be released after serving more than 14 years in prison.

The large-scale solidarity movement among prisoners has resulted in an equally massive crackdown on mostly Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) prisoners 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.

In addition to hunger strikers, PPS has raised the alarm in the past several days regarding the treatment of prisoner Yousif Ibrahim Nawajah.

Rights groups have widely condemned Israel for its medical negligence of Palestinians in its prisons, which Addameer has called a "deliberate policy of neglect."

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