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Scores of Palestinian prisoners launch solidarity hunger strike

Sept. 14, 2016 5:28 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 17, 2016 10:37 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Some 50 Palestinian prisoners affiliated with the Fatah and Islamic Jihad movement who are being held in Israeli custody launched an open hunger strike on Wednesday in solidarity with Muhammad and Mahmoud Balboul and Malik al-Qadi, who have continued their own hunger strikes for some two months in protest of being placed in administrative detention -- internment without charge or trial.

A statement released by the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society said that the strikes would include groups of Palestinian prisoners in the Negev, Nafha, Ofer, and Ramon prisons.

A mass hunger strike was launched last month in support of PFLP-affiliated prisoner Bilal Kayid, who has since ended his strike after 71 days without food. At the height of the movement, more than 300 Palestinians held in Israeli prison were participating in the strike.

The three prisoners currently on hunger strike are all experiencing deteriorating health conditions as they are being held in Israeli hospitals. Muhammad and Mahmoud Balboul, who have been on hunger strike for 69 and 72 days respectively, have been suffering from temporary blindness, difficulty speaking, severe stomach pains, while falling into intermittent comas.

Sanaa Balboul, Muhammad and Mahmoud's mother, was able to visit her sons on Sunday for the first time since they were taken by Israeli soldiers after a raid on their home on June 9, shortly before their younger sister Nuran, 16, was released after spending four months in Israeli prison.

Meanwhile, 25-year-old Malik al-Qadi, who has entered his 60th day on hunger strike, slipped into a coma on Saturday at Israel’s Wolfson Medical Center. The hunger striker reportedly suffers from a severe lung infection, a low heart rate, urinary system complications, puffiness around the eyes, and hearing loss.

Al-Qadi, a journalism and media students at al-Quds University, has been on a hunger strike since July 16, after being detained on May 23. Al-Qadi had previously spent four months in Israeli custody after being detained in December 2015.

On Friday, an Israeli court temporarily suspended al-Qadi’s administrative detention, just one day following the suspension of the Balboul brothers’ detentions. In all three cases, the courts said the sentences would be suspended until their health conditions improved.

However, all three prisoners have steadfastly committed to their hunger strikes until they are completely released from administrative detention.

Rights groups have claimed that Israel's administrative detention policy has been used as an attempt to disrupt Palestinian political processes, notably targeting Palestinian politicians, activists, students, journalists, and at times targeting family members of notable Palestinian leaders.

Although Israeli authorities claim the withholding of evidence during administrative detention is essential for state security concerns, rights groups have instead claimed the policy allows Israeli authorities to hold Palestinians for an indefinite period of time without showing any evidence that could justify their detentions.

According to Addameer, as of August, 7,000 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons, 700 of whom were being held under administrative detention.

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