Palestinian hunger strikers home raided!

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Syrian girls marching in London demanding no foreign intervention against Syria
Syrian girls marching in London demanding no foreign intervention against Syria

ISRAELI authorities raided the house of Samer Issawi, a Palestinian prisoner who engaged in one of the longest hunger strikes in history, on Sunday.

Authorities are expected to release Samer Issawi from Israeli prison on Monday, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society said.

Issawi will be released as part of an agreement in which he ended a 266-day hunger strike in April, during which time he became an international cause célèbre who focused attention on the plight of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

But on Sunday, Israeli forces raided Issawi’s house and handed notifications to his brother and his father to meet with Israeli intelligence, according to the Palestinian Centre for Prisoners’ Studies.

The Israeli intelligence officer who led the raid threatened Issawi’s father and warned him against causing problems, they said.

Shireen Issawi, Samer’s sister, posted on her Facebook page on Sunday morning describing the raid.

She said in the post, ‘I swear to God we will rejoice in the freedom of the hero Samer Issawi.’

She added that despite the threats of Israeli forces to ‘cause problems’ for the family due to the international support for their case, ‘because we have the (side of what is) right, the world will stay with us and we will rejoice.’

Prior to reaching the agreement that secured his pending release, Israeli authorities offered him a number of agreements that involved deportation to Gaza, a reduced prison term, and deportation to Europe. Issawi, however, refused until Israel relented and allowed him to return to his Jerusalem home after serving eight more months.

He was originally arrested by Israeli forces during the Second Intifada, but was among hundreds of prisoners released in 2011 as part of a deal to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The release agreement confined him to Jerusalem, but he was re-arrested in August 2012 after traveling to the nearby West Bank.

He subsequently launched a hunger strike against the renewed detention, and only concluded the strike after Israel agreed to release him.

5,200 Palestinians were being held in Israeli jails as of Oct. 2013, according to the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs. Another 1,280 are in Israeli prisons for being inside Israel without permits.

Since 1967, more than 650,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel, representing 20 per cent of the total population and 40 per cent of all males in the occupied territories.

Under international law, it is illegal to transfer prisoners outside of the occupied territory in which they are detained, and the families of Palestinian prisoners’ face many obstacles in obtaining permits to see their imprisoned relatives.

The internationally recognised Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.

Meanwhile, two Palestinian men ended a 38-day hunger strike on Sunday after Israeli prison authorities agreed to send them to court after being held for nearly two months without trial, family members said.

Brothers Muhammad Salih Bader, 25, and Islam Salih Bader, 20, ended their 38-day hunger strike after Ofer prison authorities decided to transfer them to court for trial.

The brothers had been held since October 28, when undercover Israeli forces abducted the two at gunpoint in two separate incidents on the same day from Beit Liqya village west of Ramallah.

The pair launched a hunger strike in mid-November in protest against the fact that they were being held without charge, but ended the strike on Sunday after the agreement was reached.

Their family told Ahrar Centre for Prisoners’ Studies and Human Rights that the administrative detention against the two brothers had been concluded as a part of the deal.

Administrative detention refers to the tactic of keeping a prisoner without charge or trial for extended periods of time, often due to ‘security’ concerns.

According to Israeli human rights groups B’tselem, in October 2013, 140 Palestinians were being kept in administrative detention in Israeli prisons, down from a high of nearly 1,000 in 2002.

5,200 Palestinians were being held in Israeli jails as of October 2013, according to the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs. Another 1,280 are in Israeli prisons for being inside Israel without permits.

Under international law, it is illegal to transfer prisoners outside of the occupied territory in which they are detained, and the families of Palestinian prisoners’ face many obstacles in obtaining permits to see their imprisoned relatives.

• Russia on Friday blocked a US-drafted UN Security Council statement condemning the Syrian government’s increasing military offensive on Aleppo, diplomats said.

The move heightened diplomatic tensions ahead of a key Russia-US-UN meeting in Geneva on Friday on organising an international Syria peace conference.

Russian diplomats refused to allow any mention in the statement of President Bashar al-Assad’s tactics, diplomats said.

In the face of the obstacles, the United States decided to withdraw the draft which needs the approval of all 15 Security Council members to be released. A spokesman said the US administration was ‘very disappointed’ at the Russian blocking.

The United States wanted the statement to express ‘outrage at the use of air strikes by the Syrian government, in particular the use of heavy indiscriminate weapons, including Scud missiles and “barrel bombs,” which were dropped on Aleppo’ this week.

The Doctors Without Borders group says at least 189 people have been killed and nearly 900 wounded in the Aleppo bombings since Sunday.

The statement would have expressed concern at the general ‘escalating level of violence in the Syrian conflict and condemned all violence by all parties.’

Russia would not comment publicly on the statement. But it has strongly defended Assad from Security Council action during the 33-month-old war in which the UN says well over 100,000 people have been killed.

‘We are very disappointed that a Security Council statement expressing our collective outrage at the brutal and indiscriminant tactics employed by the Syrian regime against civilians has been blocked,’ said Kurtis Cooper, deputy spokesman for the US mission to the United Nations.

‘These barrel bombs – and the explosive materials contained within them – further underscore the brutality of the Assad regime and the lengths they will go to attack and kill their own people,’ he added.

‘Regime air raids in and around Aleppo have continued unabated. Surely, at a minimum, the Security Council should be able to condemn such barbarities,’ said Cooper.

Russia and China have vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions proposed by western nations to increase pressure on Assad. Statements, which are not legally binding, have only rarely been agreed on Syria.

But Russia and the United States have jointly pressed for a peace conference that UN leader Ban Ki-moon wants to hold in Switzerland from January 22.

UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi will meet with Russian deputy foreign ministers Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov and US under secretary of state Wendy Sherman in Geneva on Friday to step up conference preparations.

The three sides have still to hammer out whether Iran and Saudi Arabia will be officially invited to the conference and other key details.

Iran, is a major backer of Assad, while Saudi Arabia supports the Syrian opposition. Iran’s presence is controversial as it has not accepted a declaration adopted by the major powers in June last year which called for a transitional government in Syria.