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26 days in, IPS forces continue assaults on hunger-striking prisoners

May 12, 2017 4:47 P.M. (Updated: May 16, 2017 5:10 P.M.)
Some of Palestine's most high-profile prisoners. From left to right: Fouad Shubaki, Nael Barghouthi, Karim Yunis, Ahmad Saadat, Marwan Barghouthi
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- As an estimated 1,300 Palestinian prisoners entered their 26th day of hunger strike on Friday, the Israel Prison Service (IPS) has continued to implement violent, punitive measures against hunger striking prisoners, despite earlier reports that possible negotiations would be made between IPS and strike leaders on Friday.

In Israel’s Ashkelon prison, 26 hunger-striking prisoners held in section 3 of the prison, decided to boycott medical checks in protest of ongoing punitive raids carried out by IPS forces.

The boycott came hours after IPS forces raided Section 3 and took the prisoners out into the prison yard, and left the hunger strikers standing under the hot sun, handcuffed from 8 a.m to 4 p.m, according to the Handala Center for Prisoners and Former Prisoners.

Separately, several prisoners being held in solitary confinement in Ramla prison passed out and lost consciousness after IPS forces carried out aggressive search raids, which according to the center, “increased exhaustion and fatigue of the hunger strikers.”

Meanwhile, the media committee of the hunger strike released a statement saying that prisoners inside Israel’s Nafha prison have continued to be subjected to punitive procedures by IPS forces “in an attempt to break their hunger strike.”

During a visit from a Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) lawyer, hunger striker Samer Abu Diak said that IPS forces “barely leave the prisoners cells,” where they continuously conduct searches and raids throughout most of the day and night.

Diak’s testimony stated that IPS forces have assaulted a number of prisoners by beating them with batons and spraying them with pepper spray if hunger strikers -- who have reportedly begun vomiting blood and fainting from fatigue -- do not stand up during searches.

If any prisoner decides to protest these punitive measures, they are transferred to solitary confinement, Diak said, adding that IPS officials also transfer prisoners between different sections of the prison every three days.

An IPS spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Since the strike was launched on April 17, IPS has continuously carried out a number of punitive procedures, including banning family visits, restricting lawyer access, transferring strike leaders to solitary confinement, violent raids, and reports from prisoners of IPS officials spilling water on hunger strikers instead of giving them water to drink.

Meanwhile, Israel’s concerted attempt to turn Palestinian hunger strikers against the movement's leader Marwan Barghouthi has continued to escalate, with the Palestine Prisoners’ Center for Studies reporting that several hunger strikers were shown fabricated pictures of Barghouthi, a Fatah leader, eating during their court proceedings.

The incidents came after IPS released a video purportedly showing Barghouthi eating in his cell during the hunger strike. However, a committee formed to support the Palestinian hunger strikers quickly denounced the footage, calling the video’s release part of an Israeli “war of lies” to discredit the prisoner movement.

The Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike have been 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.
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