Palestinian prisoners threaten fast-to-death strike

Palestinian prisoners threaten a fast-to-death strike in protest against solitary confinement and deteriorating living conditions in Israeli jails.

 

The prisoners said in a letter addressed to Palestinian Minister for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Issa Qaraqi that they “will start a hunger strike against the solitary confinement of 8 Palestinians in Israeli jails, some of them for eight years,” and against “serious and arbitrary Israeli violations that contradict the basic principles of human rights.” They said the Israeli prison officials keep ignoring their demands.

 

Minister for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Issa Qaraqi said 400 Palestinian prisoners will participate in the first stage of the Irish-style strike. The minister was referring to the fast to death strike that Irish republican volunteers in a British jail on Irish soil undertook in 1981 to retain their status as political prisoners. The British government, led by Margaret Thatcher, demanded they be classified as criminals. Ten men died.

 

The minister said the Israeli prisons authority is barring Palestinian prisoners, mainly those in solitary confinement, from family visits, access to education, telephones and satellite channels. The prison authority, the minister said, blocks the entry of clothes into prisons and imposes fines on prisoners.

 

Qaraqi said the prisoners are detained in jails dating back to the British mandate of 1922-1948, lacking modern-day infrastructure or gender-sensitive health care.

 

He expected that upcoming days would witness a series of activities in several Arab capitals in a show of solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners. He said supporting the Palestinian prisoners is “a national duty of all Arabs.”

 

According to recent Palestinian figures, there are 6,700 Palestinians currently held in 10 prisons and 3 detention camps in Israel and in the West Bank. About 300 of the prisoners are under the age of 18. Israel also holds 37 females and nine members of the Palestine Legislative Council.

 

For his part, Qaddoura Faris, head of Nadi Al-Asir (Prisoners Club) and a former minister of detainees and ex-detainees, called on Palestinian political movements and Palestinian people to “support the prisoners in their just resistance against the Israeli violations.”

 

Faris told Arab News “Israel is defying the international laws and treaties by depriving the Palestinian prisoners of their basic needs.”

 

According to Faris, Palestinian prisoners suffer from loss of weight, falling hair, general weakness, anemia and iron deficiency due to insufficient and poor quality food.

 

The official said Israel is holding 300 children in the prisons of Majido, Damoun, Ofer and Telmond where they are facing daily torture and provocations by the Israeli guards.

 

“Most of these children are suffering from various physical and psychological diseases as a result of the inhuman circumstances they live in,” he said, describing the cells where the children are confined as “graves” that no light could enter.

 

He accused the Israeli prison authorities of not allowing the children to shower or even change their clothes.

 

Fares called on human rights groups and the international Red Cross to intervene and practice pressures on the Israeli authorities to stop these violations.

 

The Palestinian prisoners held dozens of hunger strikes since the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in 1967. Abdulqader Abu Al-Fahem was the first Palestinian prisoner to die after 15 days of hunger strike at the Asqlan prison in 1970. The prisoners Rasim Halaweh, Alial-Ja’fari and Ishaq Maragheh died in the Nafhah prison in 1980 after 32 days of hunger strike. The prisoners Anees Douleh and Hussein Obaidat died in 1992 after 15 days of hunger strike.

 

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly said the Palestinians will not sign any final peace agreement with Israel before it releases all the Palestinian prisoners, a demand rejected by Tel Aviv.

 

MOHAMMED MAR’I | ARAB NEWS

 

October 2010

 

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