MORE than 1,600 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody launched an open-ended mass hunger strike yesterday morning on Palestinian Prisoners Day, led by imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi, under the banner of ‘Freedom and Dignity’ for prisoners.
Prisoners purged all food products from their cells and shaved their heads in Israeli prisons from the north to the south, namely in the Gilboa, Hadarim, Ashkelon, Ktziot, Nafha, and Ramon prisons.
In the southern occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, a number of activists in al-Duheisha refugee camp shaved their heads in solidarity with the hunger strikers, while a rally took place on Sunday marking prisoners’ day in the nearby Aida refugee camp that honoured current and former prisoners from the camp.
Initially called for by Fatah-affiliated prisoners, Palestinian prisoners from across the political spectrum have since pledged their commitment to undertake the strike, which by some estimates, exceeded 2,000 participants when it began after midnight yesterday morning.
The Palestinian prime minister’s office released a statement yesterday, summarising the long list of demands put forward by hunger strikers under Bargouthi’s leadership. It said: ‘A mass hunger strike started today calling for basic needs and rights of prisoners in an attempt to put an end to the practice of arbitrary administrative detention, torture, ill-treatment, unfair trials, detention of children, medical negligence, solitary confinement, inhuman/degrading treatment, deprivation of basic rights such as family visits and the right to education.’
• President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday called on the international community to save the life of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who started an open-ended hunger strike. Abbas greeted the 6,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails as they marked Palestinian Prisoners Day, stressing that he is doing all he can to secure their release and end their suffering. He said the prisoners issue remains a central one for his administration and for the Palestinian people in general.
The President warned that the situation is bound to get worse if the Israeli government persists in denying them their basic human rights and refuses to treat them with dignity as required by international agreements, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention.