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As Bilal Kayid’s health worsens, Palestinian leader calls for ‘day of rage’

Aug. 16, 2016 6:59 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 17, 2016 12:53 P.M.)
A demonstrators holds a poster of hunger-striking prisoner Bilal Kayid.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The health of hunger-striking prisoner Bilal Kayid has continued to deteriorate at a rapid pace, according to the head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, who called for Palestinians to participate in a “day of rage” in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners in a statement released Tuesday.

Qaraqe expressed worry in the statement concerning the health of Kayid, entering his 63rd day without food, saying after a visit with the hunger striker that Kayid has “turned into a skeleton.”

He added that Kayid continued to suffer from severe exhaustion, inability to speak, hear, see, or walk, while also experiencing serious pain in his stomach, lungs, and kidney. The hunger striker has been held in the intensive care unit at Israel’s Barzilai hospital, where he has been handcuffed to his bed since his health deteriorated last month.

Qaraqe urged the media and the international community to put Israel under pressure in order to stop the violations being committed against Palestinian prisoners, while urging Arab and international intervention to end the arbitrary detention of Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

He added that Thursday would be declared a “day of rage” in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners.

Kayid is a prominent member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). After being sentenced to six months of administrative detention -- an Israeli policy of internment without charge or trial -- on the day he was expected to be released from a 14-year prison sentence, he declared an open hunger strike.

PFLP-affiliated prisoners across Israel’s prisons launched solidarity hunger strikes to support Kayid, with at least 100 Palestinian prisoners participating as of Monday.

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.

Other Palestinian prisoners also joined the strike in protest of being placed in administrative detention: Muhammad and Mahmoud Balboul have been on hunger strike since July 4 and 1 respectively; prominent Palestinian journalist Omar Nazzal declared his strike on August 4; while Ayyad al-Hreimi and Malik al-Qadi have also been on hunger strike in protest of being held without charge or trial.

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

On Tuesday, four more Palestinian prisoners announced open hunger strikes from four different Israeli prisons in solidarity with the hunger strikers held in administrative detention and in protest against recent decisions to place restrictions on family visits and to ban the Ma’an TV channel from playing inside Israeli prisons.

Prisoner Walid Masalmeh is also on hunger strike in protest of being held in solitary confinement.

The large-scale solidarity movement among prisoners has resulted in an equally massive crackdown on mostly PFLP prisoners by the Israel Prison Service (IPS), which has conducted multiple raids, cell block closures, confiscations of personal property, and transfers of detainees in attempts to quell the strikes.

Israeli authorities have also blocked hunger-striking prisoners from visiting their lawyers, claiming their health conditions could not permit the visitations.

Meanwhile, Israeli authorities have recently banned at least 54 Palestinians from family visitations. IPS has repeatedly denied family visitation for scores of Palestinian prisoners held in in prisons across the state of Israel, and some families have reported being held at Israeli checkpoints and forced to return to their homes in the occupied territory, despite being granted visitation permits.

The incidents came amid widespread protests over the International Committee of the Red Cross' (ICRC) recent cuts to family visitations, reducing arranged visits for male Palestinian prisoners from two days a month to just one.

However, the Palestinian Authority announced its plans last week to cover the financial expenses of the second family visit for Palestinian prisoners, while ICRC would still be responsible for arranging the visits with Israeli authorities.
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