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Prisoner continues hunger strike in PA jail as release order is refused

May 29, 2017 5:18 P.M. (Updated: May 30, 2017 1:01 P.M.)
Hamza Zablah, on hunger strike in PA jail since May 23, 2017. (Credit: Facebook)
By: Lily Leach

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian authorities have continued to detain six men in a Hebron jail as of Monday, despite an order being issued mandating their release, as one of the detainees has been on hunger strike for six consecutive days in protest of his arrest.

Hamza Zablah, a former prisoner from Hebron in the southern occupied West Bank, declared his hunger strike an hour after he was detained by the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s preventive security service last Tuesday, Palestinian outlet Shehab news agency reported at the time.

Zablah’s wife Dania Qawasmeh said Wednesday night on Facebook, as her husband entered the second day of his hunger strike, that he had been “kidnapped” by the “so-called preventative security services” after he was summoned to appear for questioning, with Qawasmeh writing in the post: “No to political detentions. No to security coordination.”

A statement on Hamas’ official website published Sunday morning said that Zablah, who Hamas referred to as a “political prisoner,” remained on hunger strike in a Hebron jail.

A representative of Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer told Ma'an on Monday afternoon that an initial investigation conducted into the case revealed that Zablah was one of six Palestinians held in the Hebron jail, and that release orders issued for each of them had not been implemented by authorities.

Ma’an was not able to confirm the political affiliation of Zablah or his fellow detainees. However, Hamas has repeatedly accused the PA of escalating security collaboration with Israel through politically motivated arrests, by “adopting a revolving door policy" of funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons.

While the details of the case remained unclear, Addameer noted that the public prosecution was usually the body responsible for appealing release orders and postponing their implementation.

Addameer said that it was conducting further investigations into the case of Zablah and his fellow detainees, in order to reveal the details and demands of his hunger strike.

The launch of Zablah’s hunger strike coincided with the culmination of a mass 40-day hunger strike staged by Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

Last year, six Palestinians held by the PA launched a hunger strike between Aug. 28 and Sept. 6 in protest of their unlawful detention. The case sparked widespread outrage against the PA’s security coordination with Israel, particularly after one of the hunger strikers Basel al-Araj was killed by Israeli forces after he was released from PA prison.

Meanwhile, Hamas also reported Sunday that PA forces arrested five Hamas supporters during West Bank raids the previous night, saying that the detainees had all formerly been imprisoned by Israel.

The report also noted that as of Sunday morning, Omar Shakhshir, a student at al-Najah National University, had been held in PA custody for 34 days; another student identified as Abd al-Rahman Wadi had been held for 13 days; Mustafa Darwish had been held for the past 33 days; Nasr Bitawi for five days; Ahmad Awwad for 11 days; while PA security in Tulkarem had continued to detain Khadouri University engineering student Yahya Sawi for the 12th consecutive day; and security forces in Ramallah continued to detain two Birzeit University students -- Muhammad Saqer for the eighth consecutive day and Ahmad Nirat for sixth.
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