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15 days on, Palestinian hunger-striking prisoners remain united behind Barghouthi

May 1, 2017 5:38 P.M. (Updated: May 3, 2017 2:08 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- As some 1,600 Palestinian prisoners entered their 15th day on hunger strike on Monday, Israeli authorities and the prisoners remained at an impasse over negotiations, as the hunger strikers have insisted that senior Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi represent them and their demands.

In an interview with Mawtini Radio, Abd al-Fattah Dawla, the head of the Media Committee of the Freedom and Dignity Strike -- a joint committee formed by the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) and Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs -- said on Monday that the Israel Prison Service (IPS) had “tried to circumvent the leadership of the strike” and exclude Barghouthi, under whose aegis the hunger strike began, from being involved in negotiations.

However, Dawla added that Palestinian prisoners had remained united behind Barghouthi, as Karim Yunis, the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner, refused to represent the hunger strikers in negotiations with IPS without Barghouthi.

The Palestinian hunger strikers -- who Israeli authorities claim number fewer than 1,000, while some Palestinian sources estimate them to be as many as 1,700 -- 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, which is only permitted under international law in extremely limited circumstances.

Dawla added that a number of hunger strikers were in serious health conditions after forgoing all nutrition except for salt and water for 15 days, although he said that no information could be confirmed due to the ongoing ban on family and lawyer visitations imposed by Israeli authorities on hunger strikers.

Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs’ lawyers Yamin Zeidan and Suleiman Shahin said that the Israeli central court in Haifa hadn’t issued a clear order regarding an appeal presented to allow lawyer visitations to Yunis.

The media committee of the hunger strike said that the central court had given IPS until Thursday to respond to the case, a move the lawyers said was aiming to stall any decision being made in favor of lifting the ban.

While at the hearing, Yunis told journalists that prisoners were committed to continuing the strike until their demands were met.

Meanwhile, Palestinian prisoner solidarity network Samidoun reported that Israeli authorities were continuing to transfer hunger strikers from one prison to another in an attempt to break their will. Quoting Sawt al-Asra radio (the Voice of Prisoners), Samidoun stated that 45 prisoners detained in Ohalei Kedar had been transferred to the Gilboa, Megiddo, and Ofer prisons, while 10 prisoners were transferred from Gilboa to Ohalei Kedar, only to be returned to Gilboa hours later -- an exhausting process given the hunger strikers’ weakened healths.

The media committee of the hunger strike also reported that IPS was raiding hunger strikers’ cells on a daily basis searching to confiscate salt and phones.

Meanwhile, Ayman Bisharat, a hunger-striking prisoner who was released on Sunday evening after serving 16 years in Israeli custody, told crowds in his hometown of Tammun in the Tubas district of the occupied West Bank that hunger strikers’ healths were taking a turn for the worse, and held Israel responsible for their well-being.

However, Bisharat said that the hunger strikers nonetheless were in high spirits and remained determined to achieve their goals, calling on the world to support their “heroic” struggle.
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