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9 days on, several imprisoned Palestinian hunger strikers hospitalized

April 25, 2017 3:06 P.M. (Updated: April 26, 2017 11:05 A.M.)
Some of Palestine's most high profile prisoners (from left): Fouad Shubaki, Nael Barghouthi, Karim Yunis, Ahmad Saadat, and Marwan Barghouthi.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israel Prison Service (IPS) has transferred a number of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners to hospitals and prison clinics, after their health deteriorated seriously, the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs said on Tuesday, the ninth day of the large-scale “Freedom and Dignity” hunger strike.

Hundreds of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel have been participating in the hunger strike led by senior Fatah official Marwan Barghouthi since April 17 to protest the torture, ill treatment, and medical neglect of prisoners at the hands of Israeli authorities, as well as Israel’s widespread use of administrative detention -- internment without trial or charges.

Committee lawyer Karim Ajweh said on Tuesday that Nazih Othman, one of seven sick prisoners who have joined the hunger in Ashkelon prison, had spent three days in the Barzilai hospital, while fellow sick hunger-striker Said Musallam was still in the hospital receiving treatment.

Ajweh said that a number of other prisoners -- who he identified as Riyad al-Umour, Ibrahim Abu Mustafa, Kamal Abu Waar, Nael Shahin, and Amir al-Titi -- continued to refuse all sustenance except for salt and water, despite serious pre-existing health issues.

More than 1,500 imprisoned hunger strikers have also begun to lose weight, feel dizziness, and suffer from severe head and joint pains after nine days without food, but have continued to refuse treatment in prison clinics, and have also refused to stand up during daily head counts as a symbolic move of defiance.

Israeli authorities have cracked down on Palestinian prisoners since the beginning of the strike, notably placing scores of hunger strikers in solitary confinement, dispersing them throughout Israel’s network of prisons to separate hunger strikers from each other, seizing personal belongings, and preventing hunger strikers from praying, accessing prison yards, or watching TV.

A media committee for the strike formed by the Palestinian Prisoner's Society (PPS) and the Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs reported on Tuesday that IPS special forces had stormed Section 14 of Nafha prison, where hunger-striking prisoners are currently being held, and fired tear gas at them. The raid sparked outrage among detainees, as non-hunger-striking prisoners in Nafha reportedly pledged to take “supportive steps” to show solidarity with the strike.

Meanwhile, the National Committee to Support Hunger-striking Prisoners called on Palestinians to boycott Israeli products in solidarity with the hundreds of detainees currently forgoing food.

The committee, which is also affiliated with the Palestinian Committee of Prisoner’s Affairs and PPS, called on Palestinian merchants to stop selling Israeli products and to empty their stocks of all goods manufactured in Israel.

"As the Freedom and Dignity battle continues, the (Israeli) occupation escalates its discourse and oppressive measures against our children and our heroes who are fighting this saga,” the support committee said in a statement. “To help them remain firm, it has been decided to completely boycott Israeli goods in Palestinian markets."

The statement went on to ask all Palestinians to abstain from buying Israeli products, and urged young Palestinian men to "to prevent vehicles distributing Israeli goods from entering the (occupied) Palestinian territory."

The support committee also reiterated calls for a general strike to be held across the occupied Palestinian territory on April 27 in solidarity with the hunger strikers, which was first asked for by the Fatah movement who has also pronounced Friday, April 28 to be a “day of rage."

"We urge crowds of our people to go to solidarity tents in order to raise the voice of prisoners who are fighting a brave battle," the statement continued.

The teacher’s union in the West Bank has already pledged to join Thursday's general strike.

Meanwhile, demonstrations in support of the mass hunger strike have been organized daily. A march Monday evening from the central occupied West Bank city of Ramallah to the DCO checkpoint near the illegal settlement of Beit El was violently suppressed by Israeli forces, who shot and injured nine young Palestinian men after clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli soldiers.

Witnesses told Ma'an that three were shot with live ammunition and six with rubber-coated steel bullets, while dozens suffered from tear gas inhalation. Palestinian youth, meanwhile, threw stones and Molotov cocktails towards soldiers.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that they were looking into the reports.

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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