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Fatah-affiliated prisoners held by Israel prepare for mass hunger strike in April

March 24, 2017 11:13 P.M. (Updated: March 30, 2017 9:27 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Fatah-affiliated Palestinians held in Israeli prison have announced that imprisoned members, excluding the sick, will launch a mass open hunger strike on April 17 that will be led by Fatah leader and member of the group’s central committee Marwan Barghouti, according to a statement released by the movement on Friday.

Fatah said in the statement that Barghouti confirmed from prison the necessity of maintaining unity while carrying out the hunger strike and committing fully to the strike, instead of individually negotiating with Israel Prison Service (IPS).

Barghouti also encouraged all Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli custody to “be aware of all rumors and lies that IPS will use during the hunger strike to weaken the prisoners’ will and determination.”

According to the statement, the hunger strike will be launched to demand issues around prison visitations, treatment of Palestinian women prisoners, medical care of Palestinian prisoners, and prison transportation.

The statement highlighted that a central demand would be to resume second visitations for Palestinian prisoners that were halted by the International Committee of the Red Cross last year. The decision, which reduced arranged visits for male Palestinian prisoners from two days a month to just one, was met with protest and became a central issue in a mass hunger strike carried out by Palestinians held in Israeli prisons last year.

The statement also demanded that Israeli authorities allow first and second degree cousins to visit their imprisoned relatives, as the Israeli policy currently only permits immediate family members to visit those held in Israeli prisons, while also demanding that Palestinian prisoners be allowed to take a picture with their families every three months and that the duration of visitation sessions be extended from 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

For the Palestinian women prisoners, the statement said the strike would demand that Israeli authorities address their issues of being transported for long hours between Israeli courts and prisons, a main demand of at least one open hunger strike carried out last year by renowned hunger striker Samer al-Issawi and Munther Snawbar.

Meanwhile, the statement also demanded more humane treatment for all Palestinians being transported between Israeli prisons or from prisons to Israeli courts.

Medical issues among Palestinian prisoners will also be a central demand of the hunger strikes, according to the statement.

Prisoners will demand the closure of Israel’s Ramla prison hospital where many Palestinians are treated, due to its “inadequacy in providing medical care,” while demanding frequent medical tests for prisoners, quick and urgent surgeries when needed, the permitted entrance of doctors from various medical specialties into the prison to check on Palestinian inmates, the release of all Palestinian prisoners who are sick or suffering from a disability, and the abolition of any costs of medical treatment imposed on sick Palestinian prisoners.

Other demands of the prisoners will include IPS officials providing cable channels; putting kitchens under control and supervision of prisoners; as well as permitting the entry of books, magazines, clothing, food, and “special personal belongings” for the female prisoners.

The prisoners also called for the end of solitary confinement, administrative detention -- internment without charge or trial which is often the focus of Palestinian hunger strikes, resuming the Hebrew Open University program that allowed Palestinian prisoners to access education, and allowing Palestinian prisoners to take the tawjihi (secondary school) exams while in Israeli prisons.

According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 6,500 Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons as of January, including 53 women and 300 children.
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