RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Karim Yunis, the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner in Israeli custody, announced that he would join a mass hunger strike on April 17, organized by Fatah-affiliated prisoners and led by imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi.
According to a letter sent by Yunis to the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs on Saturday, he decided to join the hunger strike in order to challenge the “ongoing violations on the dignity and rights of Palestinian prisoners by the Israel Prison Service (IPS).”
A mass hunger strike will “awaken team spirit and unity among prisoners that will help them defend their rights,” he said.
The prisoners have “purely human demands,” Yunis insisted, and seek to “restore privileges that they used to have, but have been reduced by IPS.”
These privileges include the right to family visits, the right to allow Palestinian prisoners’ children to visit them in Israeli custody, the right to education while imprisoned, among others.
“I have been in jail for 35 years, and I don't know my relatives at all because they are denied visits for so-called security reasons." Yunis explained. This deprivation of family visits, he said, has become "an abusive punishment depriving prisoners of the basic human right of communicating with their family members."
Yunis, a Palestinian citizen of Israel from the Palestinian town of Arara in Israel, was sentenced in 1983 to life in Israeli prison for allegedly carrying out an attack on an Israeli soldier in the occupied Golan Heights as part of the Fatah resistance movement in 1980. However, his sentence was later reduced to 40 years in Israeli prison.
While Yunis was among some 20 imprisoned Palestinian citizens of Israel who were expected to be released as part of the Oslo peace accords in the 1990s, Israeli authorities have yet to release them
A long list of demands
have been presented by Palestinian prisoners for the upcoming hunger strike, including proper medical care, an end to deliberate medical neglect, and an end to isolation and administrative detention.
An IPS official reportedly said that they would not respond to any of the prisoners’ demands, while Israel TV reported that Israeli security has expressed fear of a “collapse in security conditions” in prisons during the strike.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan reportedly ordered that a military hospital be established across from the Negev prison to ensure that hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners were not transferred to civilian hospitals, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.