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Solidarity events held in Gaza, Israel, West Bank in support of hunger strikers

April 22, 2017 1:43 P.M. (Updated: April 24, 2017 7:37 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinians held protests in the besieged Gaza Strip, Israel, and the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, on Saturday to support imprisoned Palestinians refusing food as part of the “Freedom and Dignity” mass hunger strike, which has entered its sixth day in Israeli prisons.

Israeli police suppressed a protest in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Saturday afternoon, which notably left Jerusalemite activist Suad Abu Rumouz injured by shrapnel from a stun grenade fired by Israeli forces.
 

Silwan activist Khalid al-Zeir told Ma'an that participants of the rally were caught off guard by the some 50 Israeli troops that attacked the rally with stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets.

Al-Zeir insisted it had been a peaceful protest, and that demonstrators were chanting national unity slogans in support of Palestinian prisoners.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a written statement in Arabic that "an unlicensed demonstration was organized in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners." She claimed that masked demonstrators threw stones and Molotov cocktails, and that one police officer was lightly injured by a stone. "Police officers dispersed the rioters and restored peace and order in the area."


In Gaza City, thousands of Fatah-affiliated Palestinians marched from al-Katibeh Square in western Gaza to the al-Saraya Square in the center of the city in solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners.

Protesters came from different areas of the besieged Gaza Strip and repeated slogans calling for more solidarity campaigns to support the prisoners, while waving Palestinian flags.

Fatah-affiliated lawmaker Naimeh al-Sheikh told Ma’an that marches would continue in Gaza until the prisoners’ demands are met. She added that despite the issues that the Gaza Strip is currently facing, Gazans would insist on standing with the hunger strikers.
Legislative council member of the Fatah movement Majed Abu Shammaleh called upon Palestinians to support the prisoners with their fight waged “with empty stomachs” to improve their conditions in Israeli prisons.

Abu Shammaleh said that support and solidarity movements are crucial in putting pressure on Israeli authorities to help Palestinian prisoners reach their goals.

“What the prisoners are currently fighting for, and what some will pay the price for, are just the most basic requirements of human life,” Abu Shammaleh said, adding that their demands could seem “normal” to some, but it would make a “real difference” for the prisoners to have decent meals, a cover during the cold months, a visit from a relative, or even a book to read.

Abu Shammaleh called upon international Palestinian and Arab societies to get involved in actions to support the prisoners, including pressuring embassies and ambassadors to support the hunger strike.
Demonstration in Beersheba (MaanImages)

Meanwhile, in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, the southern Islamic movement held a solidarity sit-in for Palestinian hunger strikers in front of the Islamic cemetery.

Head of the movement, Sheikh Hammad Abu Daabis, lawmaker Abd al-Hakim Hajj Yahya, head of the movement in the Negev Kamal Haniyeh, and the head of the Higher Guidance Committee for Arab residents of the Negev Said al-Kharrumi all took part in the sit-in.

Al-Kharrumi told Ma’an that the “prisoners’ cause is our people’s first cause and their battle is the battle of our people.”
Meanwhile, taxi drivers in Ramallah in the central occupied West Bank organized a convoy on Saturday, touring the city to raise awareness and express solidarity for the hunger strikers.

Photos of some of the hunger-striking prisoners and posters in support of the hunger strike were plastered on the taxis.

Speaker of Ramallah's taxi union Muhammad Sarhan told Ma'an the action represented just a "small part" of the duties of the Palestinian people to support political prisoners. He urged Palestinians individuals and organizations to organize more actions to support prisoners, who "face continuous threats and violations while being held in Israeli custody."

On Friday night, dozens of Palestinians in the West Bank city of Bethlehem lit candles in the Nativity Square in solidarity with the hunger strikers.

Participants gathered near a sit-in tent that had been erected in the square in support of the hunger strike, while local leaders delivered speeches on the importance of continuing solidarity actions and supporting the Palestinian prisoners until their demands were met.

Meanwhile, demonstrations were held across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israel, and among the diaspora in Syria on Friday to support the hunger strikers, with thousands of Palestinians participating.

Initially called for by Fatah-affiliated prisoners, Palestinian prisoners from across the political spectrum have since pledged their commitment to undertake the strike, with the media committee of the “Freedom and Dignity” strike estimating that some 1,500 prisoners have been forgoing food.

The hunger strikers have denounced the torture, ill treatment, and medical neglect of Palestinian prisoners at the hands of Israeli authorities, as well as Israel’s widespread use of administrative detention -- internment without trial or charges -- which is only permitted under international law in extremely limited circumstances.

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 last week by Palestinian organizations.

According to prisoners' rights organization Addameer, some 6,300 Palestinians were held in Israeli custody as of March.
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