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IPS raids Ofer prison, damage Palestinian prisoners' belongings

April 19, 2017 9:11 P.M. (Updated: April 20, 2017 2:47 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli Prison Service (IPS) authorities raided Section 14 of Ofer prison in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah on Wednesday afternoon, conducting searches that lasted several hours.

According to a statement from the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners' Affairs, IPS forces raided the section and destroyed the personal belongings of Palestinian prisoners.

An IPS spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

The raid came as an estimated 1,500 Palestinian prisoners across Israeli prisons entered the third day of the “Freedom and Dignity” mass hunger strike.

Since the strike began on April 17, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, Israeli authorities have carried out a series of punitive measures against participating prisoners, the latest against a group of seven sick prisoners, who had their electronic devices and other possessions confiscated, as they were left with just three blankets, one pair of underwear, one small towel, and one toothbrush for the seven men to share.

Israeli authorities have also established field hospitals, Israel’s public security minister has confirmed, for Palestinian prisoners. The move has raised alarm that hunger strikers, who will likely face deteriorating health conditions in coming days, will be force fed en masse -- violating international standards of medical ethics and international law that regard the practice as inhumane or even a form of torture.

Israeli doctors in civilian hospitals have so far refused to force feed hunger strikers, despite the Israeli Supreme Court's recent decision that ruled the practice to be constitutional.

In addition to punitive measures taken against the group of sick prisoners, IPS has punished the hundreds of other hungers strikers by suspending family visitation rights, preventing lawyers from visiting some hunger strikers, and moving hunger-striking prisoners around in its detention facilities in order to separate them from Palestinian prisoners who were not participating in the hunger strike.

IPS officials have also placed a number of hunger-striking prisoners -- including Marwan Barghouthi, the leader of the strike, and Karim Yunis -- in solitary confinement and banned the prisoners from watching TV, with IPS declaring “a state of emergency” in detention facilities holding Palestinian prisoners.

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.

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