Thursday, 26 April, 2018

UN says watching Palestinian hunger strike closely

Melinda Barton | 19 April, 2017, 07:18

The hunger strikers' immediate demands included better conditions, including more contact with relatives, and an end to Israel's practice of detentions without trial.

They are also calling for Israel to ease restrictions on the entry of books, clothing, food and other items from family members.

There are now 6,500 Palestinian political prisoners held by Israel, including more than 500 administrative detainees, according to Jerusalem-based prisoner rights group Addameer. He added the action could have been avoided had Israel entered into discussions with prisoners and not ignored the situation.

Instead, though, Israel's prisons have become the cradle of a lasting movement for Palestinian self-determination.

The strike is led by Marwan Barghouti, a high-profile Fatah-linked prisoner, who is considered by some as a potential successor to President Mahmoud Abbas.

According to the human rights group Addameer, Israel has detained more than 80,000 Palestinians over the past five decades.

More than 50 have died due to medical neglect and another 70 as a result of torture. He said he organized the hunger strike to fight back after all other options failed to produce results. It inflicts pain exclusively on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells.

Roughly 6,500 Palestinian prisoners are now languishing in Israeli prisons, according to Palestinian figures. Long-term mass hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners are rare, but in past cases of individual inmates who stopped eating for weeks, detention terms were shortened or not renewed after they were hospitalised in critical condition.

At the same time, Al-Othaimeen called on the global community to act in order to compel Israel to respect the provisions of worldwide humanitarian law, the Geneva Conventions, and all the provisions of the relevant global conventions.

Initially called for by Fatah-affiliated prisoners, Palestinian prisoners from across the political spectrum have since pledged their commitment to undertake the strike, which by some estimates exceeded 2,000 participants when it began at midnight on Monday.

Among the prisoners' chief demands is the installation of telephones in each prison, more frequent family visits, better healthcare and improved conditions for female prisoners.

Activists in the al-Duheisha refugee camp also "shaved their heads in solidarity with the hunger strikers, while a rally took place Sunday marking prisoners' day in the nearby Aida refugee camp", Ma'an reports.

And protests Monday in support the striking prisoners broke out across the West Bank. It has the backing of Hamas leaders in Gaza, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and the Palestinian National Council.