Last updated: 29 April, 2012

Palestinian hunger striker hospitalised

A top Palestinian militant on hunger strike for nearly two weeks has been transferred to the hospital wing of an Israeli prison near Tel Aviv, a Palestinian MP said Sunday.

Ahmed Saadat, secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), began refusing food on April 17 as part of a mass hunger strike which is now being observed by least 1,350 prisoners held by Israel.

“Ahmed Saadat was transferred to the hospital wing of Ramle prison but we don’t have any details about his condition,” said Khalida Jarrar, one of the PFLP’s three serving MPs.

She said Saadat, who was being held in Rimon prison in the southern Negev desert, had been refusing food for 13 days after starting an open-ended hunger strike along with some 1,200 other prisoners, a number which has since grown.

“Israel is responsible for his life because he is in an Israeli prison,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the Israel Prisons Service (IPS) confirmed that Saadat, who is in his late 50s, had been transferred to Ramle prison on Friday, saying it was a cautionary measure and describing his health as “good.”

“He was transferred to the prison medical facility due to his advanced age, in order to enable closer supervision,” Sivan Weizman told AFP. “He is in good condition.”

Meanwhile, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said on Sunday that Saadat’s case is to be submitted to the United Nations General Assembly.

Meshaal told journalists in Cairo that he had agreed on the course of action in talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and with Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi.

He was in “full coordination” with Abbas on the issue of the hunger-striking prisoners, he said.

Some 1,350 Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel are currently 13 days into a mass hunger strike to protest against the conditions in which they are being held, with many more expected to join them in the coming days.

Another eight prisoners have been refusing food for longer, with two of them, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla, now into the 61st day of their hunger strike, despite increasingly chronic health problems.

According to Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Adameer some 3,500 prisoners in total should follow the hunger strike movement from next Tuesday.

Palestinian minister of prisoners, Issa Qaraqaa, told AFP that contacts were under way between the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Arab countries and the European Union to try to resolve this unprecedented conflict in Israeli jails.

Saadat is serving a 30-year sentence on charges of “heading a terror organisation.”

He was initially accused of masterminding the killing of Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi in October 2001, but prosecutors later dropped that charge.

Last October, he was rushed to hospital after collapsing following 21 days without food.

On Sunday, a spokeswoman for Adameer said that Palestinian prisoners refusing food were “being fined… for each day they are on hunger strike.”

Weizman said in response that “the Israeli prisons service has the option to fine inmates who did not inform they were beginning a hunger strike for the sum of the food they refused.”

She stressed that such a penalty was not imposed on all prisoners refusing food, and that it would apply only to the first day of their hunger strike.