RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Palestinian youth from Qalandiya refugee camp blocked off a main raid connecting Ramallah and Jerusalem in the central occupied West Bank as well as surrounding side streets Sunday morning to put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to intervene in the case of two hunger strikers from the camp imprisoned by Israel.
Protesters used dumpsters to close the roads, creating severe traffic congestion from the Semiramis neighborhood of Ramallah to Qalandiya. Dozens of children were unable to access their schools in the northern outskirts of Jerusalem, including in Qalandiya, Kafr Aqab, Semiramis, and the airport area.
Locals said clashes also broke out in the early morning hours between youth from Qalandiya refugee camp and Israeli forces stationed near the Israeli army's Qalandiya checkpoint, with youth throwing stones and empty bottles at the soldiers who responded by firing fire tear gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets at demonstrators. No injuries were reported.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an they were looking into reports of the clashes.
Qalandiya refugee camp residents Jamal Abu al-Leil, 50, and 47-year-old Raed Fayez Mteir declared hunger strikes on Feb. 16, after being imprisoned by Israel without charge or trial for one year under the widely condemned policy of administrative detention. Israeli authorities have issued six-month administrative detention orders for the two prisoners three times since they were detained.
Abu al-Leil is a former member of Fatah’s revolutionary council, while Mteir is head of the Qalandiya youth center. Both have been previously detained by Israel several times.
The two have joined imprisoned journalist Muhammad al-Qiq who has been on hunger strike for at least 20 days to protest his administrative detention. Al-Qiq, who lives in Ramallah and is originally from Dura in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, was released from prison in May last year after he refused food for a grueling 94 days -- also in protest of his administrative detention at the time. However, al-Qiq was redetained in mid-January after he participated in a protest in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem demanding the release of bodies of slain Palestinians held in Israeli custody. Al-Qiq’s previous imprisonment by Israel -- widely condemned by the United Nations, Amnesty International, and other rights groups -- and subsequent hunger strike cast a spotlight on Israel’s use of administrative detention, its arbitrary imprisonment of Palestinians, and the concerted targeting of Palestinian journalists.
Al-Qiq was one of a number of prominent Palestinian hunger strikers in 2016, who included the Balboul brothers who went without food for 77 and 79 days, Malik al-Qadi for 68 days, and Bilal Kayid for 71 days.
While Israeli authorities claim the withholding of evidence during administrative detention, which allows detention for three- to six-month renewable intervals, 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.
Rights groups have claimed that Israel's administrative detention policy has been used as an attempt to disrupt Palestinian political and social processes, notably targeting Palestinian politicians, activists, and journalists.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has long been accused of their security coordination with Israel and what critics have called "a revolving door policy" of funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons through politically-motivated arrests.
According to Addameer, as of January, 6,500 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons, 536 of whom were being held under administrative detention.