Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Palestinian captives launch the "dignity strike"

WEST BANK, ( PIC)-- Thousands of Palestinian prisoners from a number of different factions who are held in the occupation jails launched, on Tuesday (17 April) which coincides with the "Palestinian Prisoners' Day",  an indefinite hunger strike referred to as the Karameh (dignity) strike,  declaring their determination to continue their strike until their demands are met.
The prisoners confirmed that after three years of communications, the various political currents in the prisoners' movement have reached an agreement to escalate the ongoing hunger strikes" to demand their rights which are ignored by the occupation government for many long years.
Thus, the prisoners launch on the 17th April (the Palestinian Prisoners' Day) "an open hunger strike. This means their refusal of all forms of food and liquid (with the exception of water) until their demands are met" The captives noted that the strike is the only tool that they have to obtain their rights, to put pressure on the occupation government and force it to negotiate with the prisoners' movement."
The main demands of Karameh strike are: first to end to the policy of solitary confinement under which some prisoners have been isolated for more than a decade, second to permit the prisoners' families from the Gaza Strip their right to visit prisoners which has been denied to all families for more than 6 years, third, to improve the living conditions of prisoners that has collapsed by unfair political decisions such as the ‘Shalit’ law, which outlaws learning, newspapers and many TV channels. 

Palestinian inmates launch 'battle of empty stomachs'
Published yesterday (updated) 18/04/2012 01:17
Palestinian children take part in a rally in front of the Red Cross headquarters
in Gaza City marking Palestinian Prisoners Day, April 17, 2012.
(Reuters/Suhaib Salem)

RAMALLAH (Reuters) -- At least 1,200 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails launched an open-ended hunger strike on Tuesday, upping the stakes in a protest movement that has put Israel under pressure.

Israel has already struck deals with two Palestinian detainees this year after they staged prolonged hunger strikes and 10 other inmates have been refusing to take food in an ad-hoc campaign that has gathered unexpected momentum.

Hundreds more joined the so-called "battle of empty stomachs" on Tuesday to coincide with Palestinian Prisoners' Day, when both the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip stage mass rallies in support of some 4,800 prisoners who are held in Israeli prisons.

"I am afraid for the life of my son. I am afraid for all their lives. All the prisoners are as dear to me as my son is," said Gaza resident Zbaida Al-Masri, adding that her son, Yusri, was serving a 20-year-term for fighting against Israel.

The Israeli prisons' authority said 2,300 prisoners had announced they would reject their daily meal on Tuesday, while 1,200 indicated they were launching a formal hunger strike.

"The Israeli Prisons Authority has coped with hunger strikes in the past and is prepared to cope with it now," it added.

Palestinian officials said 1,600 prisoners were joining the indefinite hunger strike.

Prisoners in Ofer jail said all its inmates had joined the strike, and that Israeli prison authorities have threatened to forbid family visits, close amenities, and extend solitary confinement and transfer to other jails.

The hunger strikers have a long list of complaints, including the Israeli use of solitary confinement, the difficulty many having in securing family visits and the strip searches that are imposed on visitors.

Palestinians also denounce so-called administrative detention, whereby Israel can imprison suspects indefinitely, without ever informing them of the charges they face or presenting their lawyers with any evidence. Over 300 Palestinians are held without charge in Israel.


Although all the main Palestinian political factions said they were backing the action, divisions swiftly appeared, with prisoners belonging to the Fatah faction accusing the Islamist rivals Hamas of using the campaign to divert attention from its own internal divisions.

Attempts to end a feud between President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement, which holds sway in the West Bank, and Hamas, which governs Gaza, have so far failed to bear fruit.

Abbas urged the prisoners to remain united in their cause on Tuesday.

"The sole beneficiary of the Palestinian split is Israel, the occupying power," he said in a statement. "Preserve the unity of prisoners' movement, because you know what divisions and disagreements have done to our homeland and our just cause."

The president added that PA will seek formal prisoner of war status for high contracting parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to demand implementing the convention in the Palestinian territory, official PA news agency Wafa reported.

Human rights groups called on Tuesday for international accountability for the situation of Palestinian prisoners. Al-Mezan urged the international community not to work with security corporation G4S, which equips Israeli checkpoints and jails.

Meanwhile, al-Haq urged the world not to ignore four Palestinian hunger-strikers who have been hospitalized after refusing food for over a month.

The start of the mass hunger strike coincides with the expected release of Khader Adnan, 33, who refused food for 66 days before agreeing to a deal to secure his freedom.

Inspired by his protest, a female prisoner, Hana Shalabi, refused food for 43 days before the Israelis decided to deport her to Gaza, barring her from returning to her native West Bank for at least three years.

At the pro-prisoner rally in Gaza, boys in chains stood before the crowd as demonstrators set fire to an Israeli flag. On a nearby float, a dummy representing an Israeli soldier sat dejected-looking in an iron cage.

"We demand that the Palestinian resistance carries out a second prisoner swap deal," said Ahmed Bahar, a senior Hamas politician, hinting that militants should try to seize an Israeli soldier and use him to barter for Palestinians.

Israel agreed last year to free over 1,000 Palestinians in return for Gilad Shalit, a soldier held in Gaza for five years.

Ma'an staff in Bethlehem contributed to this report