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Fatah leader MARWAN BARGHOUTHI, now imprisoned by Israel, is leading the Palestinian hunger strikes on Palestinian Prisoners Day
AFTER Fatah-affiliated Palestinians held in Israeli prisons organised a mass hunger strike to take place on Palestinian Prisoners Day later this month, scores of Palestinian prisoners from across the political spectrum have pledged their involvement in the strike.

The strike, led by head of the party’s central committee Marwan Barghouthi, is scheduled to launch on April 17, aiming to achieve a list of demands, including an end to the prohibitions and cuts to family visits, proper medical care, an end to deliberate medical neglect, and an end to isolation and administrative detention.

A 2012 agreement which ended a similar hunger strike involving some 2,000 Palestinian prisoners was meant to end Israel’s widely condemned policy of internment without trial or charge, but some 536 Palestinians remain held under administrative detention, according to prisoners’ rights group Addameer.

In a statement released on Saturday, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said that, in addition to the 430 Fatah-affiliated prisoners held at Gilboa prison who have already committed to undertaking the hunger strike, some 70 prisoners from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine at Gilboa would also join the strike on April 17.

Fatah leader in the prison Waddah al-Bizreh, who has been in Israeli prison for 15 years serving multiple life sentences, was quoted in the statement as saying that committees have been formed in Gilboa in order to make the strike successful.

Muhammad Abbad, another Fatah leader in Gilboa, said he believed that Palestinian prisoners from all factions have a ‘historic opportunity’ to reunite and bring the prisoners’ issue to the forefront under Bargouthi’s leadership.

Later on Saturday, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said that all Palestinian prisoners at Hadarim prison, regardless of their political affiliation, also decided to join the general hunger strike. According to the statement, 120 Palestinian prisoners are held in Hadarim prison, the majority of whom are serving long sentences.
Of the 120, 65 are affiliated to Fatah, 27 to Hamas, 16 to the Islamic Jihad, five to the PFLP, and three to the DFLP.

On Thursday, Fatah called on the Palestinian public and activists around the world to support them in their upcoming hunger strike. The statement said that the decision to carry out a mass strike came in response to the ‘brutal and inhumane’ treatment of Palestinian prisoners by Israeli authorities, and the denial of regular family visitation.

Among the principal demands of the strike is the return of the second monthly visit that was suspended by the International Committee of the Red Cross last year; the end of prohibitions on family visits and denials of visitation for first- and second-degree relations; extending the duration of visits from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours; and allowing photography for each prisoner with their families every three months.

Israel’s use of solitary confinement on Palestinian prisoners, ‘provocative and humiliating’ search methods, the poor quality of prison food, Israeli-imposed fines, collective punishment, the lack of accessible education, the banning of clothes entering the prison, restrictions on religious rituals, ‘deliberate’ medical neglect, and other Israeli violations were cited in the statement as a driver for deciding to stage the mass hunger strike.

Addameer has also called on ‘campaigners, activists, and people of conscience’ to take part in solidarity actions on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day and throughout April – considered Palestinian prisoners’ month. According to Addameer, 6,500 Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons as of January, including 53 women and 300 children.
The group noted that 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Balfour declaration, 70 years of the Nakba, and 50 years of military occupation – ‘50 years of military courts and military orders, controlling all aspects of Palestinian civil and political life.’

‘This is also the year to hold the Israeli occupation accountable for its actions and to demand the immediate release of all Palestinian political prisoners,’ the rights group urged. Each year the Israeli military arrests thousands of Palestinians in an attempt to suppress any resistance to its continued occupation and apartheid policies. Among these are hundreds of children,’ the statement said, adding that ‘In too many cases Palestinian children are tortured, ill-treated, placed in solitary confinement, and coerced into signing a confession in Hebrew, a language which most Palestinian children do not understand.

‘Every day, Palestinian prisoners are on the front lines of struggle, facing torturous interrogation, nighttime raids, solitary confinement and relentless attacks on their rights at the hands of Israeli occupation forces. Those attacks are aided by international and corporate complicity, support and profiteering. Palestinian Prisoners’ Day is a critical time to stand against state and corporate complicity with Israeli imprisonment of Palestinian political prisoners.’

• The Ministry of the Interior of the Hamas government in the besieged Gaza Strip announced that security forces were planning to launch a crackdown in the coming days against Palestinians accused of collaborating with the Israeli occupation.

Spokesman for the ministry Iyad al-Buzm said in a statement last Saturday evening that authorities would crackdown on all ‘traitors’ as part of the ongoing effort to uncover the killers of Mazen Fuqahaa, a Hamas leader who was shot dead in front of his home in Gaza City last week, which was branded by Hamas as an assassination by Israel.

Al-Buzm did not provide further details regarding the investigation, or what the coming crackdown would entail. Hamas has yet to provide evidence to support their accusation that Israel was responsible for Fuqahaa’s killing, and the attorney general in the small Palestinian territory has meanwhile issued a gag order banning publication of any information about the ongoing investigation.

Under Palestinian law, willful, premeditated murder and treason as well as collaboration with the enemy – usually Israel – are punishable by death. Gaza military courts issued a number of death sentences last year to Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel, while several alleged collaborators have been executed in Gaza in recent years.

Al-Buzm’s announcement came as residents of the coastal enclave remained under a Hamas-imposed lockdown, with authorities denying passage out of Gaza until further notice amid the manhunt. After a full blockade was imposed the day of Fuqahaa’s killing, Gaza’s Ministry of Interior eased restrictions on Monday, allowing medical patients, those travelling to visit their relatives in Israeli prison, women of all ages, boys under the age of 15, men above the age of 45, and three Palestinian Authority ministers to leave the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing into Israel, while all were being allowed to return to Gaza from Israel.

On Friday, Hamas allowed employees of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to leave Gaza through the Erez crossing, the only land crossing between Gaza and Israel for the movement of people where travel has already been heavily restricted by Israeli authorities as part of a crippling blockade on the coastal enclave in place since 2007.

The ministry has also said that the Rafah border crossing that connects to Egypt – which Egyptian authorities only open on an occasional basis – would also remain closed if Egypt decided to open it. Palestinian fishermen have also been prohibited from fishing amid the lockdown.


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