‘FREE ALL PALESTINIAN PRISONERS’ – demand protests in Gaza and UK

Palestinians and their supporters in London demonstrating in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike
Palestinians and their supporters in London demonstrating in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike

Over 1,600 Palestinian prisoners have been on hunger strike for more than 12 days in protest against policies such as prevention of family visits and solitary confinement put in place by the Israeli Prison Service.

Last Tuesday, marking Palestinian Prisoners Day, at least 1,200 prisoners launched the strike.

In the UK, over 100 people took part in a demonstration opposite Downing Street on Saturday afternoon in support of the prisoners.

Doud Abdullah of the British Muslim Initiative told News Line: ‘We want to draw the attention of the British government to the issue of the Palestinian prisoners.

‘1,600 are currently on hunger strike, over 300 of whom are held in what is known as “administrative detention”, without charge or trial.

‘The prisoners’ conditions are extremely appalling – poor food, lack of medical care, physical abuse and torture.

‘Since 1967, over 200 prisoners have died of torture in Israeli jails.

‘Israel at present uses solitary confinement as a means to punish prisoners.

‘It is this issue that has triggered the latest wave of hunger strikes.

‘We are calling on the British government to intervene with the government of Israel to respect international humanitarian law with regard to these prisoners.

‘Israel is in clear breach of the Geneva Convention when it transfers prisoners from the Occupied Territories to its territory.’

Ragad al-Tikriti said: ‘I’m originally from Iraq.

‘The main thing is for us to shed light, to allow the British public to know the conditions of the Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli jails.

‘What we have to do is inform British people of the ill treatment and the difference of the conditions in prisons in Israel and the conditions of the prisons here.

‘Over there, many prisoners are in prisons with no accusations. They don’t know what they are imprisoned for or how long they will be kept prisoner under Israeli “administrative detention”.

‘Another point is the biggest problem is solidarity confinement when they keep prisoners in a room no more than two by three metres.

‘One prisoner Hasan Salamah has been in solitary confinement for years with terrible conditions – rats in that small space, no sunlight and stripped of his clothes, lying on concrete.

‘Many others have been kept in these conditions for months if not years also.

‘The other problem we have is Palestinian MPs, members of the government, are regularly taken into prison on no more grounds than political opinions or activities.

‘I want the British government to start taking responsibility and acting according to international laws in trying to confront Israel about the crimes it is committing against the Palestinians.

‘They should take a firm stance and stop having double standards in dealing with tyrants.

‘The trade unions in the UK should take action.

‘They and other organisations should act and put pressure on to end this oppression.

‘We must never give up.’

Ekbal Ramadam, a Palestinian living in the UK, added: ‘I’m sad about what’s happening in Gaza.

‘I’m originally from Gaza and I’m really angry about what’s happening to the prisoners now.

‘I want an end to the blockade on Gaza.

‘Electricity is cut off and the water is not suitable for a human being, and this is all due to the siege.

‘People only have six hours of electricity a day.

‘My mother, my sister and all my family suffer from the electricity cut-offs, especially in the cold weather.

‘Nobody has air conditioning in Palestine; we can’t afford it and the electricity is not as strong as in the UK.

‘Even the fans don’t work if there are cut-offs.

‘One major problem is people have water tanks at the top of their homes.

‘So if there is no electricity, water from the mains doesn’t go up into the tanks.

‘Stop the siege and release the prisoners. They never committed any crimes.

‘Their only crime is to be Palestinian and demand to be free and they are on their own land which is occupied by Israel.’

On Friday, tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in Gaza in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike for 12 days in Israeli jails.

The large march was launched from the Square in Gaza City after Friday prayers towards the yard of the Legislative Council.

The Palestinian resistance movements of Hamas and Islamic Jihad had called on masses of the Palestinian people to take to the streets in protest against the miserable situation of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

The marchers raised pictures of the leaders of the Palestinian prisoners, who are on hunger strike to gain their legitimate rights.

Last Thursday, the Husam prisoners organisation said that according to detainees in Nafha prison, the Israeli Prison Service transferred some 70 hunger-striking prisoners from Nafha to Eshel jail.

It said the administration has intensified such transfers since the first day of the strike in order to create a state of confusion among the detainees and to make contact among them impossible.

The PA ministry of prisoners said last Wednesday that detainees on hunger-strike have set a deadline of next week for an Israeli response to their demands.

After Monday, prisoners will decide their next steps, the ministry said.

l Forty Egyptian prisoners in Israeli prisons began a hunger strike last Friday after a prisoner swap deal between the two countries fell through.

An exchange deal with Israel was meant to take place last Wednesday to complete the prisoner swap, but an announcement by Egypt last Sunday, April 22, that it was ending its gas deal soured the agreement.

Israeli officials came to Beersheba prison to tell detainees that the exchange deal had failed.

Egyptian officials said that they were willing to go through with the prisoner exchange and that the termination of a long-term gas supply to Israel had delayed, but not cancelled, the deal.

The relative of an Egyptian prisoner said last Saturday that Israeli prison authorities said that they would release 63 detainees last Wednesday in return for convicted spy Ouda Tarabin, who has been imprisoned in Egypt since 2000.

An Egyptian official had said the week before that prisoners would be released via the Taba crossing under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

l Syrian state news agency SANA has reported that on Thursday, 27 April, President Bashar al-Assad received a letter from prisoners of the occupied Syrian Golan held in Zionist prisons, stressing their support and standing by their Homeland Syria in the face of terrorism to which it is exposed.

SANA said: ‘The Syrian Arab prisoners at the Zionist prisons expressed sorrow and pain over what is happening in the Homeland which confronts terrorism backed by the powers of evil which seek to affect Syria’s national and pan-Arab stances.

‘They underlined that even though they suffer from all forms of psychological and physical torture by the Israeli occupation, they will not surrender or be anything except Syrians who defend the precious Homeland at the first trench against anyone who wants to target Syria and its people.

‘The prisoners underscored that Syria will overcome terrorism and defeat enemies, adding that it wouldn’t accept any foreign dictates and will remain strong to protect the resistance, expressing confidence in meeting on the land of the liberated Golan with the Syrian flag fluttering over its land.’