Trade unions in the US and UK must support Palestinian hunger strikers

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SEVENTY-FIVE Palestinian inmates have gone on hunger strike in support of two of their fellow prisoners, who have been on hunger strike for several weeks in protest against Israel’s policy of so-called administrative detention.

The official Palestinian WAFA news agency reported the development on Saturday, saying the inmates were to go on an open-ended hunger strike in solidarity with the duo, identified as Khalil Awawdeh and Raed Rayyan. (see page 4)

Awawdeh, 40, and Rayyan, 28, have been on hunger strike in protest at their administrative detention. As many as 682 Palestinian prisoners are currently being held under the administrative detention policy, through which the Israeli regime keeps the detainees without charge for up to six months; a period which can be extended indefinitely.

The detention takes place on the orders of a military commander and on the basis of what the Israeli regime describes as ‘secret’ evidence. Some prisoners have been held in administrative detention for up to 11 years.

Hasan Abed Rabbo, the spokesman for the Palestinian Authority’s Prisoners Affairs Commission, told WAFA that Rayyan had been on hunger strike for 108 days.

Awawdeh initially staged a 111-day hunger strike, which he suspended in the light of an Israel promise to release him, Rabbo added, saying he resumed the protest action 22 days ago when Israel’s prison officials reneged on their promise to let him go.

Another group of prisoners from Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front joined the solidarity hunger strike on Sunday, July 24, while the health condition of Awawdeh and Rayyan has already reached a critical stage as a result of their prolonged hunger strike.

Israel has issued more than 54,000 administrative detention orders against Palestinian activists since 1967, when it occupied the Palestinian territory of the West Bank during a heavily Western-backed war, the agency reported.

There are reportedly more than 7,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Human rights organisations say the Israeli regime violates all the rights and freedoms that are granted to incarcerated persons by the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war.

Meanwhile, the murder of Palestinians by Israeli forces continues. Israeli forces killed two Palestinians and injured more than a dozen others in the occupied West Bank cities of Nablus and Jenin early on Sunday.

According to the Ma’an news agency, Aboud Sobh, 29, and Muhammad Al-Azizi, 22, died in Rafidia Hospital in Nablus after being seriously injured during clashes with Israeli forces. At least 19 other people were hospitalised, with one of them suffering serious gunshot wounds to the head.

The violent clashes occurred after Israeli forces and their vehicles stormed Nablus from several directions and surrounded the Al Yasmina neighbourhood in the Old City.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society says 82 Palestinians have been injured in fierce clashes with Israeli forces in and around Nablus. The occupation forces also deployed several snipers on the roofs of buildings in the Ras al-Ain area, firing bullets and rocket-propelled grenades.

The Israeli soldiers were, however, forced to withdraw from the West Bank city after a three-hour raid, with Palestinian medics and ambulances rushing to the area to attend to the casualties. Israeli forces were also reported to have had clashes with Palestinians after storming the flashpoint city of Jenin.

Palestinian authorities have announced a day of national mourning in Nablus following the martyrdom of the two young men.

In recent weeks, Israel has ramped up attacks on Palestinian towns and cities throughout the occupied West Bank. As a result of these attacks, dozens of Palestinians have lost their lives and many others have been arrested over protests against the regime’s settlement expansion across the Palestinian territories.

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds. Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state, with East al-Quds as its capital.

The last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed in 2014. Among the major sticking points in those negotiations was Israel’s continued settlement expansion.

All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law as they are built on occupied land. The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in several resolutions.

Trade unions in the UK, USA and EU must give full support to the Palestinian struggle. They must refuse to handle all Israeli goods and take general strike action to demand the US and UK stop arming Israel, that all Palestinian detainees are freed and that the state of Palestine is established with East Jerusalem as its capital, with all settlements removed and with all Palestinians having the right to return!