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Palestinian prisoners having difficulty standing on 23rd day of mass hunger strike

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As some 1,600 Palestinian prisoners marked their 23rd day on hunger strike on Tuesday, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs warned that hunger strikers had entered a dangerous stage, reporting that health conditions were deteriorating considerably.

The political prisoners are calling for an end to the denial of family visits, the right to pursue higher education, appropriate medical care and treatment, and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention — imprisonment without charge or trial — among other demands for basic rights.

Prisoners have started to fall due to waves of dizziness, severe pains, and weight loss, according to a statement released by the committee on Tuesday.

The statement highlighted that Israeli authorities had prepared ambulances outside of every prison, and said that “the occupation’s government treats hunger strikers with such cruelty and savagery to the extent that it is willing to completely exhaust their health and lead them to death.”

The committee accused the Israel Prison Service (IPS) of harassing hunger strikers on a daily basis. “The Israeli Prison Service carry out inspection raids every day using police dogs, and they spill water on prisoners instead of giving them water to drink,” the statement added.

Many hunger strikers have also landed in solitary confinement or have been transferred multiple times throughout Israel’s network of prisons, faced assault, nightly cell raids, confiscation of personal belongings, subhuman cell conditions, and have even been fined hundreds of shekels as punishment for refusing meals.

However, hunger strikers were still standing firm despite the abuse, hunger, and pain, and were committed to compelling IPS to grant them their rights, according to letter smuggled out of a solitary confinement cell in Ashkelon prison by Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq.

The letter, published by the Gaza-based Asra Media Office, said that the determination of hunger-striking prisoners was “sky-high.”

Al-Qiq was famous for undertaking a grueling 94-day hunger strike in Israeli prison in 2016, and took on a second solitary hunger strike that came to a close in March after he reached a deal with Israel.

He said in the smuggled letter that he had already lost six kilograms since joining the mass hunger strike five days ago. “Once they have made up their minds to face the occupier with their empty stomachs, heroic prisoners will have the final word,” he affirmed.

Immediately after the strike began, IPS banned lawyer and family visitations for hunger strikers, and for the first 20 days of the strike, lawyers were only given access to Ofer and Askhelon prison.

On Sunday, lawyers were able to visit hunger-striking prisoners in Ktziot and Nitzan prison for the first time, after IPS was compelled to permit lawyer visits following an Israeli Supreme Court petition filed by legal NGO Adalah and the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs.

Following the court hearing, Adalah Attorney Muna Haddad denounced IPS fo “adding insult to injury” by imposing the unconstitutional ban: “The Palestinian prisoners embarked on their strike to protest the humiliating and inhumane conditions in which they are being held and, in response, the IPS took punitive measures that violated the prisoners’ rights even further.”

Later on Monday, lawyer from the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) Khalid Mahajneh said he became the first lawyer permitted access to hunger strikers in Nafha prison since the beginning of the hunger strike.
He visited prisoner Mujahed Hamed, from the town of Silwad in the central occupied West Bank, who has been on the hunger strike since the beginning.

Hamed told Mahajneh that he was transferred to Nafha from Ashkelon prison,along with fellow hunger strikers Amin Abu Radaha, Mazen al-Qadi, Ayman Jiem, Muhammad al-Sabbah, and Mustafa Arrar.

While he was still at Ashkelon, IPS forces raided prison cells and attemtped to strip search hunger strikers, and when the prisoners resisted, they were assaulted. Hamed said was still suffering from chest pain as a result of the beating and has been denied medical treatment ever since.

Hamed added that IPS attempted to blackmail him, offering him treatment in exchange for ending his strike.

After being transferred to Nafha, the hunger strikers were forced to drink water from taps in the toilets tabs after being denied actual drinking water by IPS authorities.

In the ensuing days, Hamed said he witnessed weakening hunger strikers being subjected to daily prison transfers within and outside of Nafha in an IPS attempt to break their strike.
He confirmed that hunger striking prisoners in Nafha have also been fined for refusing food, denied access to the commissary, been barred from receiving visits, and had their personal belongings seized on the first day of the strike.

Hamed pointed out that hunger-striking prisoners are divided into five groups in Nafha, including one that was transferred to a controversial field hospital set up for hunger strikers.

Prisoners suffering from deteriorating health conditions or those who have been beaten by IPS officers are taken to the field hospital, where they being extorted to receive medical services and meals in exchange for ending their hunger strikes, Hamed reported.

He also said prison and field hospital staff were spreading rumors as a part of psychological warfare playing out across Israeli prisons to influence prisoners to give up the hunger strike.

Meanwhile, Adalah wrote in a press release Monday that requests by Yousif Jabarin, a member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, to visit leader of the strike Marwan Barghouthi — who has been languishing in solitary confinement since the strike began — have been rejected.

“The (IPS) rejection of all my requests to visit Barghouthi constitutes a serious harm to my political activity as a Knesset member and to parliamentary immunity,” Adalah quoted Jabarin as saying. “There is no doubt that the prisoners’ strike is of utmost public importance and that it is my role as an elected public official to examine and scrutinize IPS policies relating to this issue. This is done by, amongst other means, visiting prisoners.”

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 Palestinian organizations.

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

[Source: Ma’an News]
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