Hundreds of Palestinian grassroots activists, joined by Israeli and international supporters mobilized today, as the political prisoners Hunger Strike for Dignity enters its 17th day. Some 1500 Palestinian prisoners are in hunger strike since April 17; eight other Palestinian political prisoners are hunger striking for over 50 days and are in critical medical conditions. Tha’er Halahleh and Bilal Diab are in hunger strike since February 29, for over 60 days and are in grave medical condition.
Demonstrations took place in the villages of Nabi Saleh, Kufr Qaddum, Bi'lin, Ni'ilin and Ma'asra, and in Qalandiya checkpoint. All demonstrations were met by harsh military repression. In Nabi Saleh, the army raided the village during the demonstration, shooting tear-gas canisters inside populated areas. In Bi'lin and Ni'ilin, clashes took place near the route of the Wall. In Kufr Qaddum more than 200 protesters marched towards the adjacent settlements and were faced by rubber coated bullets and tear-gas canisters. Demonstration ended without injuries or arrests.
On Thursday, May 3, more than 200 demonstrators called for the release of Palestinian prisoners this in a protest outside the Ramle prison compound in central Israel, where many Palestinian political prisoners are held. Among the demonstrators were several mothers of Palestinian prisoners with Israeli citizenship or residency permits, who held pictures of their loved ones now behind bars. Seventeen demonstrators were arrested, while several Palestinians were also arrested or injured in yet another protest outside the Ofer Prison near Ramallah. The arrestees were brought before a court on Friday afternoon, and were sentenced to a three days house arrest and are prohibited to speak with each other or come near Ramle Prison for 14 and 30 days respectively.
Over 1300 prisoners launched an open-ended strike on April 17, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, joined by 2300 more prisoners on one-day hunger strikes. Since April 17, hundreds of additional Palestinian prisoners have joined the open-ended strike
The hunger strike has several key demands, including:
- An end to the policy of solitary confinement and isolation which has been used to deprive Palestinian prisoners of their rights for more than a decade;
- An end to administrative detention;
- To allow the families of prisoners from the Gaza Strip to visit prisoners. This right has been denied to all families for more than 6 years;
- An improvement in the living conditions of prisoners and an end to the ‘Shalit’ law, which outlaws newspapers, learning materials and many TV channels; and
- An end to the the policies of humiliation which are suffered by prisoners and their families such as strip searches, nightly raids, and collective punishment.
Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike have been hit hard with retaliation from Israel Prison Services, including beatings, transferring from one prison to another, confiscation of salt (an act that could have severe health consequences for hunger strikers), denial of family and lawyer visits, and isolation and solitary confinement of hunger strikers. Ahmad Sa’adat, Palestinian national leader, General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and isolated political prisoner, has already lost 6 kg, even as he reports that prisoners’ morale is high. Palestinians have protested across Palestine, while protesters at Ofer prison were attacked by occupation soldiers.
As the massive hunger strike continues, eight prisoners who have been on lengthier hunger strikes face health crises, including Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, who have now been on hunger strike for over sixty days. On Thursday, May 3, the scheduled ruling of the Israeli Supreme Court on the appeal of Halahleh and Diab was delayed “until further notice", as they enter their 66th day of hunger strike. Halahleh and Diab are now tied with Khader Adnan in engaging in the longest-lasting hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Both are held under administrative detention without charge or trial. Bilal Diab is shackled with six sets of shackles in his prison hospital bed, and guarded by four guards at all times, even as he has repeatedly lost consciousness.
Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called on Israel to “immediately charge or release people jailed without charge or trial under so-called administrative detention,” in a statement. “It shouldn’t take the self-starvation of Palestinian prisoners for Israel to realize it is violating their due process rights,” HRW deputy regional director Joe Stork. Physicians for Human Rights reported on May 1 that Diab and Halahleh are in grave, life-threatening condition.