Tuesday, Apr 04, 2017
Ramallah: Thousands of Palestinian inmates in Israeli jails are expected to stage a hunger strike from Monday, April 17 — Palestinian Prisoners’ Day — to protest against unbearable conditions in the jails. The action will be led by jailed Fatah leader Marwan Al Barghouti.
The open-ended hunger strike is aimed at halting brutal treatment of inmates by the Israeli Prison Service.
Qadoura Fares, who heads the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, says the extent of the protest will be “a serious slap in the face of the Israeli occupation”. He said: “I am aware so far that at least 1,000 Palestinian prisoners will stage the hunger strike and the number is rising daily. It is expected that at least 3,000 will take part.”
Fares said that since 2004 resistance inside the jails had been faction-based with no collective action. This hunger strike would unify the individual groups in their fight for basic human rights. He said Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine had expressed their full support and authorised their jailed followers to act freely and independently.
Fares added: “There have been no limits to the Israeli brutal aggression against Palestinian prisoners.”
He believes the only way the Israelis can stop the hunger strike is by taking part in immediate negotiations with the prisoners and meeting their demands. Otherwise, he says, the Prison Service would be unable to cope with the medical problems of looking after thousands of hunger strikers.
“In the event the planned hunger strike takes place, it will devastate the Israeli Prison Service, which will never be able to stand such a major protest.”
Fares stressed that Al Barghouti will be the protest’s sole leader, fully authorised to negotiate with the Prison Service and make decisions. An Israeli court sentenced Al Barghouti to five life-terms plus 40 years in 2002. Regarded as a leader of the first and second Palestinian intifadas, Al Barghouti exerts great influence in Fatah from within prison, and there is mounting speculation that he could be the first unifying candidate to succeed the veteran Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Fares said strikes and demonstrations would be organised throughout the Palestinian territories in support of the hunger strike.
“Israel has turned the Palestinian prisoners into hostages, blames them for whatever happens outside the prisons, and avenges that on them,” he said. “We are fully optimistic about this protest. If it does not come to success, then what will?”
The Palestinian prisoners are demanding an immediate end to administrative detention and solitary confinement, and calling for education in open universities, telephone communications with their families, and the closure of Al Ramallah Hospital, where prisoners are sent when they fall ill and which they regard as a slaughter house.
Seven thousand Palestinian prisoners, including 56 women and 260 minors, are currently being held in 24 Israeli jails and detention centres.
By Nasouh Nazzal Correspondent
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