Hundreds of Palestinians start massive hunger strike in Israeli prisons

Kristopher Drake
April 18, 2017

Marwan Barghouti, a high-profile prisoner who enjoys broad support among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, called for the "Freedom and Dignity" strike.

Ramallah, Apr. 17 (BNA): Thousands of Palestinian detainees and prisoners in Israeli jails today begin an open-ended hunger strike in protest against systematic medical negligence, violations, detention without charge or trial, unfair trials and prevention of family visits by the Israeli authorities.

A former leader of the Tanzim brigade - the militant wing of the Fatah political party - Barghouti was convicted in 2004 of five counts of murder, including orchestrating attacks against Israelis.

Barghouti is widely touted to be the successor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli officials hinted that the protest could be aimed at catapulting him in the Palestinian political agenda.

Israel is holding a total of 6,500 Palestinians, including women, children and lawmakers, in prisons and detention facilities across the occupied territories, three Palestinian non-governmental organizations say.

On the occasion of Palestinians Prisoners' Day, 2017, the year that marks 50 years since the establishment of the military courts which routinely charge and trial Palestinian civilians, including children as young as 12 years old, the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) called for worldwide protection of Palestinian political prisoners, an end to ongoing collective punishment by Israeli occupation forces, administrative detention, continued denial of fair trial, and illegal transfer and deportation of detainees. A 2016 report by Israeli human rights organisations HaMoked and B'Tselem described the typical treatment of Palestinian prisoners as "degrading", "inhuman" and "tantamount to torture". The Israel Prison Service and Israeli security establishment are preparing for the massive hunger strike, which will be led by Marwan Barghouti. "The strike led by Barghouti is motivated by internal Palestinian politics and therefore includes unreasonable demands concerning the conditions in the prisons", he said.

The prisoners said in a statement that they would fast until Israel accepts a 13-item demands list, including visitation rights and access to telephones.

Some 740 Palestinians are held in administrative detention, according to Qaraqe. He is a popular figure, with polls suggesting he could win the Palestinian presidency.

The Israel Prison Service threatened to punish the hunger strikers.

Ashkar affirmed that the Israeli occupation forces escalated at the beginning of 2017 the arrest campaigns against the Palestinian MPs raising the number of those kidnapped to 13, eight of whom are held under administrative detention.

The Palestinian prisoners are subjected to countless violations amid an Israeli disregard for the worldwide conventions related to prisoners.

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