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Palestinian prisoners held by Israel complete 2nd week of mass hunger strike

April 30, 2017 2:16 P.M. (Updated: May 7, 2017 4:12 P.M.)
Freedom and Dignity strike, Day 14 - Some of Palestine's most high profile prisoners. From right to left: Marwan Barghouthi, Ahmad Saadat, Karim Yunis, Nael Barghouthi, Fouad Shubaki827
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners out of approximately 6,300 Palestinians held by Israel entered the 14th day of an open-ended hunger strike on Sunday, with Israeli prison authorities ramping up punitive measures in an attempt to pressure prisoners to break their strikes -- as the health of hunger strikers continued to decline.

The media committee for the "Freedom and Dignity strike," formed by the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners' Affairs and the Palestinian Prisoner's Society (PPS), announced that preliminary efforts to start negotiations between hunger strikers and the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) began Saturday.

According to the committee, IPS said negotiations would be based on the condition that they exclude Marwan Barghouthi, a prominent imprisoned member of the Fatah movement who is leading the strike.

Head of PPS Qaddura Fares insisted that Israeli authorities involve Barghouthi. “A straight line is the shortest distance between two points,” he said.

Fares urged the Palestinian people to remain determined in the battle to achieve the hunger strike’s demands, which include bringing an end to the torture, ill treatment, and medical neglect of Palestinians prisoners by Israel.

In response to a request for comment, IPS spokesperson Hana Herbst denied that IPS would be involved with any negotiations, saying: "The Israel Prison Service manages prisoners and their living conditions and does not negotiate with prisoners."

The media committee also reported Sunday that IPS forces assaulted hunger-striking prisoner Nasser Uweis, who is held in a solitary confinement cell in Ramla prison. Uweis was sentenced to life in prison in 2002.

Meanwhile, IPS has continued suppressive measures against hunger striking prisoners, notably moving Karim Yunis, the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner, from a solitary confinement cell in al-Jalama prison in Haifa -- where he was placed on the first day of the hunger strike -- to a solitary confinement cell in Gilboa prison in Nazareth some 50 kilometers away.

An IPS spokesperson declined to provide justification for the transfer.

Since the the launch of the strike, IPS has continuously been transferring hunger strikers into solitary confinement and between different Israeli prisons in an attempt to separate hunger strikers from one another and break the strike.

The media committee said that IPS has continued to ban lawyers from visiting Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, except at Ofer prison in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah and Ashkelon prison in southern Israel.

A hearing has been scheduled at the Israeli Supreme Court for May 3, following a petition submitted by lawyers to secure their right to visit the hunger-striking detainees, according to the committee.

Meanwhile, PPS lawyer Khalid Mahajna appealed IPS’s decision to ban lawyer visitations at the Israeli magistrate court in Beersheba on Sunday, on behalf of Mujahid Hamid and Haroun Ayyad, who are held at Ashkelon prison, and Ali Elayyan who is held at Nafha prison.

The Israeli court said it would look into the appeals on Thursday, May 4.

An IPS spokesperson declined to comment on the ongoing ban of lawyer visitations.

Following a visit to Ofer prison, lawyer Luay Akka from the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said that hunger strikers were still being subjected to daily raids in the early dawn hours, with IPS officers also attempting to conduct strip searches on hunger-striking prisoners.

Prisoners in Ofer have reported that IPS officers confiscated their clothes, leaving them with only their prison uniforms that they are permitted to wash just once a week. They have also been deprived of access to cold water, despite the warm weather, according to Akka.

Akka said that IPS forces were confiscating salt that hunger strikers have been using to balance their health amid the strike, and that prison officers have also been taunting prisoners by placing food in front of them, which Akka denounced as “psychological torture.”

IPS spokesperson Hana Herbst responded to the accusation, saying that "prison staffs offer the prisoners meals and some of the hunger strikers choose to eat," claiming that the practice has lowered the number of hunger striking prisoners to under 1,000 -- despite reports indicating that the strike's participants had risen to 1,700.

The spokesperson however declined to comment on prisoners being denied access to cold water, or the confiscation of clothing and salt.

Meanwhile, the media committee said that the medical conditions of hunger strikers were on a steady decline, reporting symptoms such as severe pains throughout their bodies, severe headaches, and continued weight loss.

After Akka visited hunger striking prisoners Fadi Abu Eita, Luay al-Mansi, Sharar Mansour, and Ahmad al-Sharabati in Ofer prison on Saturday, they informed the lawyer that the healths of ten hunger strikers had severely deteriorated, one of whom had fainted and was taken to the prison’s clinic.

The media committee also announced on Saturday that lawyers from prisoners' support groups like PPS and the prisoners' committee would completely boycott Israeli court in cases related to political Palestinian prisoners.

A similar boycott was announced on the second day of the hunger strike, but the media committee clarified that the lawyers had decided to stop pleading on behalf of Palestinian prisoners, except in hearings over whether or not to extend the remand of detainees.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority (PA) government said Sunday that it held Israel completely responsible for the lives of Palestinian detainees held in Israeli custody.

PA spokesperson Tariq Rishmawi said in statement that the detention of Palestinians -- including children, women, and those suffering from chronic illnesses -- required immediate intervention by the international community.

He denounced the ongoing “racist incitement campaign” launched by Israeli authorities and media, which has attempted to portray all Palestinian prisoners as murderers and terrorists.

Rishmawi said Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike were “national heroes,” and that the reputation of the international community was “on the line,” regarding its ability to hold Israel accountable for its crimes.

The PA spokesperson also expressed appreciation for mounting public support for the hunger strike across the occupied Palestinian territory, in Israel, and abroad, and called upon the Palestinian people to organize more events “to express the unity of Palestinian people under the leadership of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.”

The Justice and Peace Commission of the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land expressed its support of the hunger strike in a statement released Saturday. “The aim of this desperate act is to shed light, both locally and internationally, on the inhuman conditions in which they are detained by the Israeli Authorities,” the statement said.

The commission said it “affirms the necessity of the application of international law with regard to political prisoners,” and “condemns the use of detention without trial, all forms of collective punishment, as well as the use of duress and torture for whatever reason.”

“We urge the Israeli Authorities to hear the cry of the prisoners, to respect their human dignity, and to open a new door towards the making of peace,” the statement said.
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