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'Struggling with death:' Palestinian prisoners enter 27th day of mass hunger strike

May 13, 2017 2:34 P.M. (Updated: May 16, 2017 5:06 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 more than 1,300 Palestinian prisoners entered their 27th day of a mass hunger strike in Israeli prisons, Palestinian leaders have escalated efforts to put pressure on Israeli authorities as hunger strikers are “struggling with death.” Israel’s Minister of Public Security has meanwhile refused suggestions by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) to begin negotiations with the prisoners.

According to the national committee formed to support the hunger strikers, 11 Palestinian prisoners joined the strike on Friday in Israel’s Gilboa prison.

Meanwhile, prisoners’ rights group Addameer confirmed that a visit has been scheduled with a lawyer from the group to meet with imprisoned Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Ahmad Saadat, who has been held in solitary confinement in Israel’s Ashkelon prison.

The visit has been scheduled for Sunday, May 14 at 3 p.m. Israeli authorities previously had rejected several requests by Addameer and Saadat’s family to visit him.

Saadat joined the mass hunger strike more than a week ago after the action was first called for by the Fatah movement on April 17.

The committee also pointed out that potential negotiations between IPS officials and the hunger strikers have been halted.

Head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe released a statement on Saturday saying that Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan had refused IPS’ suggestion to begin negotiations with the hunger strikers. Erdan reportedly said that negotiations could be launched with the prisoners only after they have ended their strikes, according to Qaraqe.

The committee said that according to reports from prisoners, IPS officials told the hunger strikers that their demands would be negotiated with the officials. However, the prisoners said they have refused to enter negotiations without their leadership -- primarily imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi who has been held in solitary since the start of the strike.

In a separate statement on Saturday, Qaraqe noted that “intensive political efforts” were underway as Palestinian leaders have put pressure on Israeli authorities at the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in order to “save the lives of the hunger strikers,” while ensuring their security while in Israeli prisons.

Qaraqe said that the prisoners have been “struggling with death” and many have experienced deteriorating health conditions. He called for Israeli authorities to end the “collective humanitarian tragedy” unfolding across Israeli prisons.

Qaraqe held the Israeli government and Erdan responsible for the conditions of the hunger strikers, saying that the Israeli authorities were “carrying out a massacre” by refusing to negotiate with the leaders of the strike.

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.

In previous days, the hunger strikers have reported various violations being carried out by IPS officials on the prisoners in order to break their strike, including search raids, confiscating salt from the prisoners’ cells -- the only nutrients the hunger strikers are consuming, and refusing to provide hunger strikers with adequate water. Other prisoners have reported that some hunger strikers have begun puking up blood as their health conditions weaken.
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