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On 34th day of hunger strike, prisoners transferred to Israeli civilian hospital

May 20, 2017 5:32 P.M. (Updated: May 27, 2017 8:22 P.M.)
Some of Palestine's most high-profile prisoners. From left to right: Fouad Shubaki, Nael Barghouthi, Karim Yunis, Ahmad Saadat, Marwan Barghouthi
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- As some 1,300 Palestinian prisoners entered the 34th day of a mass hunger strike on Saturday, a group of prisoners were transferred to an Israeli civilian hospital after refusing water and falling into a critical health condition, while Palestinian prisoners have remained united under the strike’s leadership.

The Israel Prison Service (IPS) transferred a group of Palestinian hunger strikers to Israel’s Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon city in southern Israel, after the prisoners gradually stopped drinking water and their health conditions reached a critical stage, according to the committee formed to support the hunger strikers.

An IPS spokesperson said he was not aware of the transfer of a group of Palestinian hunger strikers from Ashkelon to a civilian hospital, but would look into reports. He added that he was aware of one hunger striker being transferred from Israel’s Ramla prison to an Israeli civilian hospital, where the IPS official said the prisoner “broke his strike and was returned to Ramla.”

According to reports, up until this point, Palestinian hunger strikers have been transferred to prison field hospitals -- sites which many fear will be used to force feed the hunger strikers en masse. According to the committee, Israeli doctors at the field clinics have reportedly offered medical care to the prisoners only in exchange for them ending their hunger strikes -- an offer the prisoners have continued to refuse.

The committee also reported on Saturday that IPS has established mobile medical clinics to “follow-up” with the health conditions of the hunger strikers. However, the doctors and nurses in the mobile clinics were unavailable at most hours, the committee added.

However, an IPS spokesperson said the clinics were not mobile, but were instead “special medical wings” with extra equipment added to several Israeli prison facilities. He also denied reports that the clinics were rarely staffed with medical personnel, saying that “there’s always medical personnel, doctors, and nurses at every prison facility, especially in the medical wings.”

Khalid Mahajneh, a lawyer from the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS), said he had visited hunger striker Muhammad Abu al-Rub in Israel’s Ashkelon prison, noting that IPS officials have continued to pressure the prisoners to end their hunger strike, while imposing punitive sanctions on the hunger strikers.

Abu al-Rub told Mahajneh that IPS transferred one of the sections of the prison to a field hospital, which he said lacked any medical equipment, only offering glucose to prisoners, who have refused the offer.

Mahajneh also noted that some 50 Palestinian prisoners are currently on hunger strike in Ashkelon prison.

Meanwhile, in a separate statement, the committee said that Saturday had been declared a day dedicated to boycotting Israeli goods by Palestinians and merchants, and called on all Palestinians to escalate their solidarity activities.

The committee added that the Israeli government has continued its attempts to “neutralize the leadership (of the hunger strike)” and refuse direct negotiations with its leaders, most notably imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi. “Israeli attempts at isolating the leadership is on a dead end road,” the statement said, confirming that the hunger strikers have remained united behind the strike’s leadership.

Hunger-striking prisoners such as Karim Yunis, the longest serving Palestinian prisoner, have insisted that any legitimate negotiations must include leaders of the strike and rejected reported attempts by Israeli intelligence as “false and futile negotiations aimed at breaking the hunger strike in exchange for empty promises” even as reports emerged in Israeli media that Palestinian security officials and officials of Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, were attempting to reach an agreement that would end the hunger strike.

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.
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