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European lawmakers show solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinians prisoners

Aug. 15, 2016 6:53 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 16, 2016 1:09 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Sit-ins organized to show solidarity with incarcerated prisoners hunger striking in Israeli custody continued on Monday in cities across the occupied Palestinian territory, which were joined by a delegation of European parliamentarians, as some 100 Palestinian prisoners have joined the strike.

The delegation arrived to the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday evening to show solidarity with Bilal Kayid -- who has been on hunger strike since June 15 in protest of being placed in administrative detention without charge after serving a 14-and-a-half year prison sentence -- and the scores of Palestinian political prisoners who have since launched hunger strikes.

The delegation included Northern Ireland Assembly member Fra McCann, Irish senator Paul Gavan, lawyer and former speaker of the Hellenic Parliament in Greece Zoe Konstantopoulou, and member of the Icelandic parliament Ogmundur Jonasson, according to a joint statement from prisoners’ rights group Addameer and prisoner solidarity network Samidoun.

The parliamentarians visited sit-in tents in cities across the occupied West Bank on Monday, and met the families of hunger-striking prisoners Ahmad Saadat, the leader of the Popular Front Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), journalist Omar Nazzal, as well as Kayid’s family in the village of Asira al-Shamaliya in the the northern Nablus district.

A sit-in was also held in solidarity of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners on Sunday evening in front of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) building in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem, amid widespread protests over the ICRC’s recent cuts to family visitations to Palestinian prisoners.

The Jerusalem Committee for Families of Prisoners told Ma’an in Jerusalem that ICRC staff “refused to host” the peaceful protesters, in what a spokesperson for the committee called a “slap in the face.”

The Red Cross “should have supported the peaceful sit-in protest instead of shutting its doors in their faces,” the spokesperson said.

Demonstrators also gathered in front of ICRC’s Jerusalem office to perform Friday prayers to raise awareness of incarcerated hunger strikers, and earlier this month, the ICRC shut down their services in the Jerusalem office after a group of protesters stormed the office, with an ICRC spokesperson also saying their staff had been receiving threats.

Families of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel must obtain special permits to visit their imprisoned family members. However, since these permits are often rejected or delayed, families of prisoners rely heavily on ICRC-arranged visits that were organized twice a month for 45 minute sessions with the prisoners, and reduced to once a month in July.

The Palestinian Authority announced its plans on Tuesday to cover the financial expenses of the second family visit for Palestinian prisoners.

Anger directed at the ICRC for the reduction in visits and at Israeli authorities for denying entry to scores of Palestinians from entering Israel to visit their incarcerated relatives has only intensified in recent weeks, as hunger strikes in Israeli prisons continued to gain momentum.

The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) reported on Monday that 100 Palestinian prisoners have declared open hunger strikes against administrative detention and solitary confinement.

Kayid, a member of the PFLP, has been on hunger strike for 62 days and is currently being held in the Israeli Barzilai Medical Center. Rights groups and the Palestinian Ministry of Health have warned that his health has deteriorated to the point where death could come at any moment.

PPS added that 91 Palestinian prisoners affiliated to PFLP have declared hunger strikes in solidarity with Kayid held in the Israeli prisons Negev, Ofer, Megiddo, Gilboa, Nafha, Eshel, and Ramon.

Meanwhile, brothers Muhammad and Mahmoud al-Balboul have been on a hunger strike against their administrative detention since July 4 and 1 respectively, both in Ramla Prison Hospital.

Ayyad al-Hreimi and Malek al-Qadi have been hunger striking against their administrative detention since July 11, both held in Ofer prison.

Walid Masalmeh has been on a hunger strike against his solitary confinement since July 18 and is held at the Eshel jail in Beersheba.
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