Palestinian Prisoners Day protests in the West Bank and Gaza


THE Israeli army announced Saturday that the West Bank will be sealed off from midnight until Tuesday, ahead of Israeli Independence Day.

A statement from Israel’s military said: ‘a general closure will be implemented in the Judea and Samaria region (the West Bank) for the duration of Israel’s Memorial day and Independence day.’

On Tuesday at midnight the closure will be lifted ‘in accordance with security assessments.’

For the duration of the lockdown, the statement read, individuals in need of medical attention will be permitted to pass for care.

‘The passage of humanitarian aid as well as doctors, medical personnel, lawyers, religious workers and additional professional groups will be authorised by the Civil Administration.’

Israeli authorities imposed two total lockdowns of the West Bank during March, one coinciding with the Jewish Passover holiday, sparking demonstrations in Bethlehem over restrictions placed on Palestinians wishing to perform religious rights over Easter in East Jerusalem.

Earlier in March, a woman in labour was prevented entry into Israel during an earlier closure, despite possessing the necessary permit allowing her entry.

She was forced out of the Israeli ambulance transporting to hospital and into a Palestine Red Crescent Society ambulance.

‘The IDF (Israeli army) will continue to operate in order to defend the citizens of Israel while maintaining the quality of life of the Palestinian population in the area,’ the statement concluded.

Meanwhile, one child and one teenager were injured on Sunday evening when Israeli forces stormed a prisoner solidarity event in Beit Ummar, north of the West Bank city of Hebron.

The spokesman for the Palestine Solidarity Project Mohammad Ayyad Awad said soldiers surrounded the courtyard of the local Zahret Al-Mada’en school, and fired live bullets and tear-gas canisters, injuring Yezan Imad As-Sleibi, 17, sustaining a gunshot wound to the head, receiving treatment at the scene.

Awad added that 15-year-old Sabri Ibrahim Awad sustained bruising after being beaten by Israel soldiers, and was transferred to hospital for treatment.

The festival was organised by the Popular Committee Against the Wall and the Palestine Solidarity Project in solidarity with Palestinian detainees on Prisoners Day.

Following an inquiry, an Israeli military spokesman said no live fire was used and no injuries were reported in what he described as a ‘violent and illegal gathering.’

The representative said conveners began throwing rocks at Israeli forces, who responded with riot dispersal means, and said the gathering ended as a result.

l Dozens of young men from several factions held a sit-in protest in front of the Red Cross headquarters in Gaza City on Saturday, marking Palestinian Prisoners Day.

Saber Abu Karsh, head of the Wa’ed Prisoners Society, said ‘all Palestinian factions are united in solidarity with the prisoners and, in support of their cause, join their hunger strike inside the Israeli jails.’

Nash’et Al-Wheidi, a member of the Popular Movement to Support Prisoners, said ‘this tent was erected to support the prisoners in Israeli jails and to demand an end to the division that has harmed the prisoners’ cause.’

Last week, Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe said the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) has applied punitive measures to 36 Palestinian female prisoners in the Ad-Damun prison in response to the general hunger strike that began on 7 April.

Qaraqe said the IPS has reduced the detainees’ recess to one hour per day, prohibited them from sending letters to their family, and further enforced restricted access to the cantina, where prisoners can buy stationary and other goods, because of their participation.

Moreover, the minister said the prison administration transferred a number of prisoners from the Nafha prison to Ber Sheva prison in response to the hunger strike.

Detainees said they would escalate their protest if the IPS did not respond to their protests against humiliating treatment of relatives visiting detainees and banning Gaza prisons from family visitation rights for over four years.

Also, a joint news conference held by Hamas leader Khalil Al-Hayyeh and Fatah official Salah Abu Khalta on Saturday, has called for immediate action to resolve inter-factional rivalry.

‘It’s time to remove the nightmare of hatred between the two factions because the national cause is violated every day,’ Al-Hayyeh said, during a sit-in in Gaza City in front of the Red Cross headquarters marking Prisoners Day.

Al-Hayyeh said national unity is popular among Palestinians and is a ‘national demand’ that should be achieved.

‘There is an American veto on national reconciliation’, the Hamas leader said, adding that this veto must be ‘broken to achieve unity’.`

Abu Khatla said Palestinian detainees have ‘reunited the people. Everyone should unite to end prisoners’ suffering.’

The Fatah official added that President Mahmud Abbas and Fatah’s Central Committee praised the participants in the sit-in tent and those on hunger-strikes.

The official called on Hamas to end division by signing the Egyptian proposal and to release members of prisoners’ institutions in Gaza, particularly those of the Husam organisation.

Abu Khalta said earlier Saturday that ‘let their decision on signing the unity deal come today, not tomorrow; we do not have time,’ during an Islamic Jihad festival held for Prisoner’s Day in Gaza.

Hamas is vowing to fight Israel’s new military orders with popular and armed resistance.

Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas official, called on followers to confront the Israeli move ‘until this decision is cancelled.’ He considered the decision racist and aimed at ‘clearing the land of its indigenous people.’

Speaking at a ceremony commemorating the 6th anniversary of the death of Abed Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi, Radwan urged the Palestinian Authority ‘to end security coordination with the occupation and to unleash the resistance.’

He called on the resistance to abduct more Israeli soldiers in order to release more Palestinian prisoners, noting that freeing detainees is a top priority for the Islamic movement.

Ahmad Bahar, the deputy parliament speaker, said ‘Israel’s decision to expel Palestinians from the West Bank is here to assure us that the Oslo Accords are nullified, as well as the Palestinian Authority based in Ramallah.’

He urged the PA to dismantle itself ‘to legitimise the resistance under international humanitarian law.’