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'Pots and pans' march held in Ramallah in solidarity with mass hunger strike

April 23, 2017 10:27 A.M. (Updated: April 25, 2017 4:45 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Hundreds of Palestinians clanged pots and pans while marching through the streets of Ramallah on Saturday night, to express solidarity with some 1,500 hunger strikers inside Israeli prisons who are calling on Israeli authorities to grant them basic rights.

A number of rallies took place Saturday in the occupied Palestinian territory, as will as in Israel and abroad, amid growing support for the hunger strikers who continue to face harsh punishments for refusing their meals.

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.

Solidarity rallies have been organized daily since the strike began on April 17, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, under the banner of “Freedom and Dignity.”

Participant of the march in Ramallah Nassim Shahin said that she joined the action to support her brother Hussam Shahin, from occupied East Jerusalem, who is serving a 27-year prison sentence. “The message we aim to deliver to the public is of the necessity of supporting these prisoners on hunger strike, who have sacrificed their freedom for the freedom of others,” Shahin said.

Representative of the Palestinian National Security Forces Issam Bakr called for wider participation in West Bank marches. “The higher the participation the better, so we can more effectively deliver the prisoners’ message to the world, and exert more pressure on the (Israeli) occupation government to meet their demands.”

Abd al-Fattah Dawla, the spokesperson for a committee established to support the Freedom and Dignity strike -- affiliated with the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs and Palestinian Prisoner's Society, said demonstrators took to the streets to send the message that “prisoners are putting their lives at risk and are fighting with their empty stomachs to gain the freedom of their people.”

Member of the committee Amani Sarahna called for “more creative” special events like Saturday’s march to be organized in support of hunger-striking prisoners.

Amin Shuman, head of the Higher Follow-up Commission for Prisoner Affairs, affirmed that solidarity events will be escalated daily. “This mass hunger strike completely differs from all individual hunger strikes that were launched before,” Shuman said, adding that individuals who have launched long-term hunger strikes often take dietary supplements to survive for extended periods.

A number of Palestinian prisoners launched individual hunger strikes this year in protest of being held without charge or trial, including Rafaat Shalash, Jamal Abu al-Leil, Raed Mteir, and Muhammad al-Qiq, who ended his second prominent hunger strike in March after 33 days without food.

By contrast, Palestinians undertaking the current mass strike have only been consuming water and salt -- if available -- “putting their lives at risk of near death by the strike’s second week,” Shuman said.

He highlighted that Palestinian prisoners have died during hunger strikes, noting that in the 1970s and 1980s, the Israel Prison Service (IPS) tried to force-feed prisoners to suppress hunger strikes, which resulted in the deaths of Abd Al- Qadir Abu Al-Fahem in 1970, Rasem Halawi in 1980, and Ali al-Jaafari in 1980.

In anticipation of the ongoing Freedom and Dignity strike, Israeli authorities established field hospitals for Palestinian prisoners, raising 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.

Rallies were organized elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in Israel and abroad on Saturday. A Palestinian woman was injured when Israeli police violently suppressed a peaceful protest in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.

Rallies were also staged in support of the hunger strike throughout the day in the Negev-region city of Beersheba in southern Israel, and in Gaza City, which saw thousands take to the streets.
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