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Israeli officials implement series of punitive actions against hunger-striking prisoners

April 17, 2017 10:04 P.M. (Updated: April 19, 2017 12:43 P.M.)
Poster for the "Dignity Strike," depicting some of Palestine's most high profile prisoners. From right to left: Marwan Bargouthi, Ahmad Saadat, Karim Yunis, Nael Barghouthi, Fouad Shubaki
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- As more than 1,600 Palestinian political prisoners launched an open-ended hunger strike on Monday -- Palestinian Prisoners’ Day -- Israel Prison Service (IPS) officials took a series of punitive measures against the participating prisoners, particularly those leading the strike.

The Palestinian Committee of Prisoners' Affairs released a statement Monday evening saying that IPS officials had forcibly moved hunger-striking prisoners to different sections in Israeli jails, confiscated their personal belongings and clothes, “turned their rooms into solitary confinements,” and banned the prisoners from watching TV.

According to the committee, IPS officials transferred Marwan Barghouthi -- the Fatah movement leader leading the strike -- Karim Yunis, and Mahmoud Abu Srour from Hadarim prison to solitary confinement in Jalama prison.

IPS officials also transferred hunger-striking prisoners Muhammad Zawahra, Nasser Uweis and Anas Jaradat to Israel’s Ela prison in the southern Negev desert, though it remained unclear from where they were transferred.

The committee reported that IPS said Barghouthi would be “prosecuted in a discipline court” as punishment for his op-ed published by the New York Times on Monday, which detailed the struggle of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons and the demands of the hunger strikers.

According to the committee’s statement, IPS officials accused Barghouthi of using his wife to “smuggle” the article out of prison and to the New York Times.

Meanwhile, according to the committee, IPS authorities established a field hospital in the Ktziot prison especially for hunger strikers, while simultaneously banning the future transfer of hunger strikers with deteriorated health conditions to any Israeli civilian hospitals.

An IPS spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Following the announcement of the strike last week, Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan reportedly ordered for a military hospital to be established to ensure that hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners were not transferred to civilian hospitals -- which have so far refused to force feed hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners.

While the Israeli Supreme Court recently decided force feeding hunger-striking prisoners was constitutional, Israeli doctors have sided with internationally accepted medical ethics that regard the practice as a form of torture.

Palestinian prisoners’ solidarity network Samidoun warned that it was “highly possible” that Erdan’s field hospital proposal was “an attempt to impose mass force feeding on striking Palestinian prisoners outside the civilian medical framework.

Thousands of Palestinians marched to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day across the occupied Palestinian territory on Monday, with Israeli forces notably suppressing a demonstration in the southern occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, and detaining four young Palestinians at another demonstration in the central West Bank district of Ramallah.

Israeli authorities have detained approximately one million Palestinians since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967, according to a joint statement released on Saturday by Palestinian organizations.

Palestinian rights groups have long accused Israeli authorities of torture, harassment, and medical neglect of Palestinians in their custody.

Amnesty International said in a statement ahead of the hunger strike last week that "Israel’s decades-long policy of detaining Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza in prisons inside Israel and depriving them of regular family visits is not only cruel but also a blatant violation of international law."

Initially called for by Fatah-affiliated prisoners, Palestinian prisoners from across the political spectrum have since pledged their commitment to undertake the strike, which by some estimates exceeded 2,000 participants when it began after midnight Monday morning.

The Palestinian prime minister’s office released a statement Monday, summarizing the long list of demands put forward by hunger strikers under Barghouthi’s leadership.

“A mass hunger strike started today calling for basic needs and rights of prisoners in an attempt to put an end to the practice of arbitrary administrative detention, torture, ill-treatment, unfair trials, detention of children, medical negligence, solitary confinement, inhuman/degrading treatment, deprivation of basic rights such as family visits and the right to education," the statement read.

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said on Monday that “the entire global community should be alarmed by Israel’s willful breach and devaluation of the rights and lives of Palestinian political prisoners, especially in regards to the imprisonment and ill-treatment of Palestinian men, women, children, and the elderly."
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