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Palestinian prisoners enter 20th day of mass hunger strike

May 6, 2017 12:25 P.M. (Updated: May 8, 2017 7:17 P.M.)
Some of Palestine's most high-profile prisoners. From right to left: Marwan Barghouthi, Ahmad Saadat, Karim Yunis, Nael Barghouthi, Fouad Shubaki
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Some 1,600 Palestinian prisoners entered their 20th day of a mass hunger strike demanding humane treatment in Israeli prisons and an end to Israel's policy of imprisoning Palestinians without charge or trial, as more Palestinian prisoners have joined the strike amid an ongoing crackdown by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) on the hunger strikers.

According to the Media Committee of the Freedom and Dignity Strike -- a joint committee formed by the Palestinian Prisoner's Society (PPS) and Palestinian Committee for Prisoners' Affairs, five more Palestinian prisoners in Israel’s Ofer prison joined the hunger strike on Friday.

The committee identified the prisoners as Ghalib Ward, Ahmad Batahna, Shadi Shalalda, Ashraf al-Zin, and Zakariya Kabia.

The committee said that 21 Palestinian prisoners also joined the hunger strike on Thursday after IPS transferred five Fatah-affiliated hunger-striking prisoners to solitary confinement.

The committee also added that representative of the prisoners in Ofer prison Akram Hamid said that the hunger strikers’ sections in the prison had been raided daily and subjected to “suppressing measures,” noting that despite this and the continued deterioration of the health of some of the hunger strikers, they were determined to continue until their demands were met.

Meanwhile, the the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East Gregory III Laham declared a solidarity hunger strike for Saturday in support of the prisoners.

The Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs released a statement on Saturday, outlining Israeli violations and policies that have been imposed against the hunger strikers since the strike launched on April 17:

• Group and solitary confinement under inhumane and brutal conditions.
• Continuous transfers during daytime and nighttime between prisons and confinement cells.
• Assaulting the prisoners by beating them during raids on cells and sections.
• Intensive search raids that include police dogs during daytime and nighttime and strip-searching prisoners.
• Preventing prisoners in solitary confinement from seeing sunlight or going out to the prison’s yard.
• Confiscating salt from hunger-striking prisoners, in addition to their personal belongings.
• Restricting lawyers’ visits and banning family visits to hunger strikers.
• Spreading rumors to break the will of the hunger strikers.
• Keeping hunger strikers under difficult and bad conditions in the cells.
• Imposing sanctions on hunger strikers, including fines, visit bans, and other punishments.
• Providing hunger-striking prisoners with used sheets and dirty covers, and not providing enough covers for all prisoners.

Before the strike was launched, Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan ordered the establishment of a military hospital to ensure that hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners were not transferred to civilian hospitals -- which have so far refused to force feed hunger striking Palestinian prisoners.

While the Israeli Supreme Court recently decided force feeding hunger-striking prisoners was constitutional, Israeli doctors have sided with internationally accepted medical ethics that regard the practice as a form of torture.

Palestinian prisoners’ solidarity network Samidoun warned that it was “highly possible” that Erdan’s field hospital proposal was “an attempt to impose mass force feeding on striking Palestinian prisoners outside of the civilian medical framework.”

On Friday, it was reported that IPS is now considering importing foreign doctors into Israel to assist in the force feeding of Palestinian hunger strikers in a response to the Israel Medial Association (IMA) stance on the controversial policy which bars their members from assisting in the force feeding of any prisoners.

Head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe said on Saturday that “any doctor of any nationality that takes part in force-feeding hunger-striking prisoners” would be legally pursued.

Qaraqe said that applying force feeding is a crime and jeopardizes the lives of prisoners, adding that the participation of any doctor in force feeding violates international laws and ethics, citing the 1991 Declaration of Malta adopted by the World Medical Assembly, which specifically stated that force feeding is not ethically acceptable when dealing with hunger strikers, even when the goal is to provide assistance to their health conditions.

He called upon all countries not to send doctors to Israel to take part in the force feeding.

Initially called for by Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi and other Fatah-affiliated prisoners, Palestinian prisoners from across the political spectrum have since joined the strike.

The hunger strikers have denounced the torture, ill treatment, and medical neglect of Palestinian prisoners at the hands of Israeli authorities, as well as Israel’s widespread use of administrative detention -- internment without trial or charges -- which is only permitted under international law in extremely limited circumstances.

Israeli authorities have detained approximately one million Palestinians since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967, according to a joint statement released on Saturday by Palestinian organizations.

According to prisoners' rights organization Addameer, some 6,300 Palestinians were held in Israeli custody as of March.
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