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Scores of Palestinian prisoners reported to join mass hunger strike on 25th day

May 11, 2017 4:57 P.M. (Updated: May 14, 2017 10:18 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- As hundreds of Palestinians detained by Israel marked the 25th day of their mass hunger strike on Thursday, more prisoners reportedly joined the strike, while prisoners rights groups noted with concern the worsening health conditions of a number of hunger strikers.

Sawt al-Asra (Voice of Prisoners) radio quoted anonymous sources on Thursday as saying that nearly 100 Palestinian prisoners from across the political spectrum had decided to join the hunger strike.

Meanwhile, the Fatah Central committee called on its party members currently imprisoned by Israel to join the strike, unless they were sick, underage, or women.

Sawt al-Asra estimated that nearly 1,800 prisoners were now participating in the strike.

As Israeli authorities have severely restricted hunger-striking prisoners’ access to their relatives, lawyers, and each other, estimates of the number of hunger strike participants have been hard to corroborate. While the media committee of the hunger strike has reported that between 1,500 and 1,600 prisoners were forgoing food, Israeli authorities have claimed that fewer than 1,000 prisoners were participating.

Hunger-striking prisoners are calling for an end to the denial of family visits, the right to pursue higher education, appropriate medical care and treatment, and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention -- imprisonment without charge or trial -- among other demands for basic rights.

According to prisoners' rights organization Addameer, 40 percent of the male Palestinian population has been detained by Israeli authorities at some point in their lives, as rights groups have long accused Israel of using routine imprisonment as a tool to erode family and political life in the Palestinian territory.

Conditions worsen for hunger strikers in prison

The media committee of the hunger strike reported on Thursday that the healths of the hunger strikers were severely deteriorating, as prisoners experienced difficulty moving, severe dehydration, stomach aches, headaches, irregular heartbeats, and low blood pressure.

The Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said on Thursday that the hunger strikers’ healths had reached a “tragic” level of “extreme danger,” as most hunger strikers had lost between 15 and 25 kilograms. Citing prisoner testimonies, the committee went on to say that some hunger strikers had begun to vomit blood.

Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies spokesman Riyad al-Ashqar said that Israel Prison Service (IPS) authorities in the Ktziot detention center had refused to transfer dozens of hunger strikers to hospitals, instead holding them in prison clinics.

Al-Ashqar said that IPS was pressuring prisoners to end their hunger strikes in exchange for receiving medical care.

He added that Ktziot prison guards were also placing food in hunger strikers’ cells to break their determination, and had prevented the prisoners from drinking cold water despite rising temperatures, forcing them to drink hot water instead.

Prisoners rights groups denounced the IPS’ repressive measures seeking to break the strike.

The Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs denounced the use of solitary confinement and forcible transfer of hunger-striking prisoners between detention facilities in an attempt to exhaust the prisoners into ending their strike.

It added that IPS officers had blocked some cells’ windows to deny hunger strikers access to sunlight; confiscated clothes and salt, the only nutrient consumed by the hunger strikers; and fined hunger strikers for a variety of small offenses such as not standing up during roll call.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was permitted to visit the hunger strike's primary leader Marwan Barghouthi later on Thursday for the first time since the start of the strike, at which time Barghouthi was immediately transferred to solitary confinement.

Hunger strike supporters continue holding solidarity events in Palestine, abroad

Meanwhile, supporters of Palestinian hunger strikers continued to publicly show solidarity for the prisoner movement, as the National Committee for Supporting the Strike called Thursday a “day of anger” across the occupied Palestinian territory.

Several Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces during a march in support of the prisoners near the illegal Israeli settlement of Beit El in the Ramallah district of the occupied West Bank.

Meanwhile, Palestinian prisoner solidarity network Samidoun reported that the Canadian Labor Congress was the latest foreign trade union to have issued a resolution calling on its government to pressure Israel over the ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners.

Samidoun also reported that activists were carrying one short hunger strikes in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Paris, France, the Belgian capital Brussels, and Chicago in the United States.
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