Hunger strikers suspend protest after Israel yields to demands

Palestinians take part in a weekly protest in Gaza City calling for the release of loved ones in Israeli prison on 28 September.

Mohammed Asad APA images

A group of Palestinian prisoners agreed to suspend their open-ended hunger strike after the Israeli prison authorities yielded to their demands, Issa Qaraqe, the head of the Palestinian Authority committee on prisoners’ affairs, announced on Tuesday.

Five prisoners had been on hunger strike for 42 days in protest of their internment without charge or trial, a practice known as administrative detention.

Qaraqe told the Arabic-language Quds news site that the Israel Prison Service would not extend the detention orders of Nidal Abu Aker and Ghassan Zawahreh.

The detention orders of three other prisoners — Munir Abu Sharar, Badr al-Ruzza and Shadi Maali — were extended for three to four months with a guarantee of no further extensions.

Punishment

All five had been on hunger strike since 20 August and had been moved to solitary confinement as a form of punishment.

Sahar Francis, director of the Palestinian human rights group Addameer, visited Abu Aker, Zawahreh and al-Ruzza on Tuesday before the agreement was reached.

“Francis confirmed that the hunger strikers’ health has deteriorated in the past few days and that they were suffering from severe exhaustion, weight loss, headache, dizziness, abdominal pain and jaundice,” Addameer stated.

Abu Sharar had been transferred to Soroka hospital in the south of Israel on Monday after his health deteriorated, but refused treatment there and was transferred back to isolation in nearby Naqab prison.

Addameer added that Abu Aker, who started refusing water on Friday and had fainted several times in the past few days, was transferred to Barzilai Medical Center, where the Israeli hospital administration and prison authorities tried to pressure him to take a glucose IV. He was also transferred back to isolation in Naqab prison.

Muhammad Allan

Earlier in the day, the Palestinian Prisoners Club announced that Israel had agreed to release Muhammad Allan when his six-month administrative detention order expires on 4 November.

The lawyer from the northern occupied West Bank nearly died this summer when he went on hunger strike for 64 days. 

During that time, Israel’s minister of public security, Gilad Erdan, stated that he rejected all proposals to release Allan because it “may lead to mass hunger strikes among the security detainees, after they discover a new tool with which to extort the State of Israel.”

Allan suspended his protest on 19 August when Israel’s high court froze his detention order after a medical test showed he had suffered brain damage as a result of his strike.

His protest was temporarily resumed when Israeli forces arrested him at Barzilai Medical Center immediately after its director signed his release papers on 16 September. He has since been held at the Ramle prison clinic.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Tuesday that Israel confirmed Allan’s detention orders would not be extended.

850,000 prisoners

The Palestinian Authority committee on prisoners’ affairs released a report on Monday stating that 850,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been detained since those territories were occupied by the Israeli military in 1967.

According to the report, 206 Palestinians have died in Israeli custody.

More than 6,000 incarcerated Palestinians are currently distributed across 22 Israeli prisons and detention centers. They include 200 children, 25 women and 12 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Thirty Palestinians have been held since before the Oslo accords were signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the mid-1990s, including brothers Karim and Mahir Younis, who have been imprisoned since January 1983.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.