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Israeli Prison Service continues to transfer, coerce prisoners to end strike

May 4, 2017 8:25 P.M. (Updated: May 7, 2017 10:57 A.M.)
Some of Palestine's most high-profile prisoners. From right to left: Marwan Barghouthi, Ahmad Saadat, Karim Yunis, Nael Barghouthi, Fouad Shubaki
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- As Palestinian prisoners entered their 18th day of mass hunger strike on Thursday, Israeli Prison Service (IPS) authorities have continued to transfer prisoners, restrict lawyer visits, and attempt to coerce prisoners to end their strike.

Some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners launched the strike on April 17, with scores of others joining in waves in the days since. The prisoners have only been consuming salt and water during the strike, without additives, vitamins, or other supplements.

According to 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 -- IPS forces transferred all 41 hunger-striking prisoners from Ashkelon prison, which is located in southern Israeli along the Mediterranean, to Ohalei Keidar prison in the Negev desert.

The committee added that a lawyer visited the transferred prisoners on Thursday, and was told that IPS forces have been continuously conducting raids on sections where hunger strikers are held and forcing the prisoners out to prison's yard every day at dawn.

Meanwhile, Fatah representative Abd al-Majeed Shadid told Lebanese al-Mayadeen news that IPS authorities had attempted to offer a deal to hunger-striking prisoners in Nafha and Rimon prisons to end their strike, but the prisoners refused.

According to Shadid, the representative of Fatah prisoners in Nafha and Rimon prisons, Nabeel Harb, said in a smuggled letter that he headed a three-hour meeting with the administration of Nafha and Rimon prisons, as well as the head of Israeli intelligence for Israel's southern districts.

The letter said that IPS offered all Fatah al-Intifada -- a faction of the larger Fatah movement -- affiliated prisoners in Nafha and Rimon "some achievements" in return for ending their hunger strike, but Harb rejected and demanded that the meetings should include all prisons, not just Nafha and Rimon.

Meanwhile, the Handala Center for Prisoners and Former Prisoners reported that imprisoned Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) leader Ahmad Saadat, who is also on hunger strike, refused an Israeli offer to negotiate the demands of all hunger strikers, and confirmed his commitment to Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi's leadership of the strike.

Separately on Thursday, the legal office of the IPS contacted the head of PPS' legal unit Jawad Bolus, and provided Bolus with a list of the lawyers who will be allowed to visit hunger-striking prisoners.

Head of PPS Qadurra Faris said in a statement that the move was "a step towards solving the issue of banning lawyers from visiting hunger strikers," adding that an Israeli court in Jerusalem issued an order on Wednesday to allow lawyers to visit hunger strikers starting Thursday, in response to fan appeal filed by PPS and the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners' Affairs.

The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) released a statement on Thursday, expressing its concerns over the potentially "severe implications" of the strike.

The PLC called on the UN secretary general "to personally intervene to the Israeli government to stop its suppressive measures, and to call for respecting international Law, and International Humanitarian Law, including the Fourth Geneva Fourth Geneva Convention."

The UN intervention may protect the lives of the Palestinian hunger strikers, and put an end to the state of tension inside the Israeli jails as well as outside," the statement said.

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