Several Palestinians Continue Hunger Strike


SEVERAL prisoners in Israeli jails are still on hunger strike, officials said on Thursday, days after a deal was struck to end a mass hunger strike movement.

Israeli Prisons Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman said that Mahmoud al-Sarsak and Akram al-Rekhawi are refusing food. They are being held in Ramle prison clinic, she said.

Al-Sarsak has been on hunger strike for 60 days and is protesting his detention without charge or trial. A soccer player, Al-Sarsak was detained in July 2009 while leaving the Gaza Strip to join the national team in the West Bank.

He is being held under Israel’s ‘unlawful combatant’ law and has not been informed of any charges against him.

The prisoner rights group Addameer said that al-Sarsak is the only prisoner held under the policy.

Addameer says al-Sarsak was told he would be released on July 1st but the offer was retracted.

His next judicial review is due on August 22. Detention orders of six months are indefinitely renewable under the ‘unlawful combatant’ law.

Al-Rekhawi was held in Ramle’s prison clinic prior to launching his hunger strike and is still refusing food in protest at inadequate medical treatment. He has been on hunger strike since April 17.

The 38-year-old suffers from asthma, diabetes and cataracts, a lawyer for the ministry of prisoners in Ramallah, Fadi Abedat, said.

Abedat said another prisoner, Mohammad Abu Libda, was still on hunger strike and being held in Ramle clinic along with Sarsak and Rekhawi.

Abu Libda, 35, who is paralysed and uses a wheelchair, has been detained since 2000 and was sentenced to 12 years. He has been on hunger strike since April 17.

Addameer said that another prisoner, Mohammad Taj, is also continuing his hunger strike, demanding to be treated as a prisoner of war.

Taj, an officer in the Palestinian Authority security forces, went on hunger strike on March 18. He briefly stopped his strike over the weekend but resumed it on Tuesday. He is being held in solitary confinement in al-Jalameh prison and was beaten by prison guards on Wednesday, his relatives said.

Weizman, the spokeswoman for Israel’s Prison Service, said the continued strikes would not affect a deal reached on Monday to end a mass hunger strike by around 2,000 detainees.

Prisoner representatives signed the deal to end the mass strike in exchange for Israeli ‘facilitation’ on policies toward solitary confinement, family visits and living conditions.

Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, said on Monday that all prisoners must end the hunger strike within 72 hours, and not later refuse food, for the deal to hold.

But Weizman said Thursday that the prisoners still on strike were not part of the mass movement and their cases would not affect the deal.

Prisoners society official Qaddura Fares said the document outlines the core issues, while further details will be agreed in talks between prisoners representatives and the Israeli authorities.

The agreement is a ‘successful victory’, he said, while warning that it is ‘not clear enough’ on the issue of detention without charge.

Prisoner representatives have secured clear commitments that five administrative detainees on long-term hunger strike will be released at the end of their term, while Mahmoud Sirsik is still negotiating the date of his release, Fares said.

Meanwhile, Israel committed not to renew the administrative detention of all 322 Palestinians held without charge if there is no new information that requires their imprisonment, he noted.

However, Fares warned: ‘Who can check this new information…no one can be sure.’

Under Israel’s administrative detention policy, prisoners can be held without formal charges for renewable periods of six months. Defendants and their lawyers are not given access to the evidence used to imprison them.

following the hunger strike deal, Addameer said that it is ‘concerned that these provisions of the agreement will not explicitly solve Israel’s lenient and problematic application of administrative detention, which as it stands is in stark violation of international law’.

Translation of the full text of the document:

1. We, the undersigned in our capacity as representatives of all security prisoners in Israeli, hereby pledge on behalf of security prisoners in Israel, and in line with what faction leaders have pledged, to avoid practicing any security activity from inside Israeli prisons.

2. Security activity here means recruiting people for security missions, giving instructions, coordinating, providing support or undertaking any action that would provide actual support to security activity targeting the state of Israel.

3. Fulfillment of this pledge is a precondition for facilitation the state of Israel will give in the following matters:

– Keeping security prisoners in solitary confinement.

– Allowing prisoners’ families from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to visit prisoners.

– Security prisoners’ living conditions

– To start discussing hunger strikers’ demands.

4. If any security activity is practiced from inside prisons, and if hunger strike is resumed in Israeli prisons, that will mean annulment of Israel’s pledge to give facilitation.

• Seven people were injured on Thursday when Israeli forces fired artillery rounds at the northern and eastern Gaza Strip, medics said.

Gaza medical spokesman Adham Abu Salmiya said that two people were seriously wounded and five moderately injured when Israeli forces opened fire on Beit Lahiya, north Gaza, and east of Gaza City.

Most of the victims were farmers, Abu Salmiya said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said forces opened fire toward ‘several suspects approaching the security fence’.

She said no hit was identified.

An Israeli army spokesman later added that ‘tank shells were fired towards the terrorists’, near the Karni crossing east of Gaza City.

• A man died on Thursday after suffocating in a smuggling tunnel beneath the Gaza-Egypt border, medics said.

Jihad Barakeh, 18, was pronounced dead upon arrival at a Gaza hospital, having been pulled out of a tunnel by other workers.

Since Israel tightened its blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2007, goods smuggled in from Egypt through underground tunnels have provided a lifeline to the coastal enclave.

Gaza officials say over 160 young men have died at work in smuggling tunnels, but with a lack of alternatives many are still drawn to the hazardous profession.