Last updated: 5 May, 2012

Palestinian protest for prisoners in Israeli jails

Hundreds of Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem held rallies on Saturday to demand the release from Israeli jails of Palestinian prisoners, many of whom are currently on hunger strike.

In Ramallah, about 500 Palestinians took part in a rally organised by the radical Islamic movement Hamas, an AFP correspondent said.

It was the first time in two years the West Bank city’s Fatah rulers had allowed the rival Palestinian faction to stage a demonstration.

And in east Jerusalem, 300 Palestinians marched from the gates of the Old City to the Red Cross compound, carrying portraits of prisoners and hanging Palestinian flags on the offices of Israel’s state attorney.

A police spokeswoman told AFP no arrests were made.

At least 1,550 Palestinian prisoners are now on hunger strike, the bulk of whom began refusing food on April 17.

The prisoners are calling for improved prison conditions, including increased access to lawyers and family visits, an end to solitary confinement and a halt to administrative detention.

Two Palestinians, Bilal Diab, 34, and 27-year-old Thaer Halahla, have been on hunger strike for 67 days.

Diab, who was transferred on Tuesday to a civilian hospital, fainted during a Thursday hearing at Israel’s Supreme Court.

Judge Elyakim Rubinstein asked Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ahmed Tibi, a doctor by training who was attending the hearing, to examine Diab.

On Saturday, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel issued an urgent petition to a district court, asking them to force the Israel Prison Services to allow one of their doctors to examine Diab, and allow him family visits.

The group noted in a statement that Diab, who was refusing food and drinking only water, had recently agreed to receive intravenous feeding. He was refusing to be examined by the hospital’s doctors.

PHR-Israel also called on the health ministry and the Assaf Harofeh Medical Centre, where Diab is currently hospitalised, to allow him a second medical opinion and family visits.

On Friday, a Hamas leader warned Israel of consequences if any of the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike dies in jail.

“You must realise that the hunger strike isn’t a party, and we could be surprised by the death of some of them,” Khalil al-Haya said at a solidarity tent for the strikers in Gaza City.

“If that happens, you can expect both the expected and the unexpected from us,” he said.

The radical Islamic Jihad movement has threatened to no longer observe a truce with Israel if one of the hunger strikers dies.

On Friday, the Palestinian representative to the United Nations said 10 hunger strikers had been moved to a hospital because of their deteriorating health.

Israel Prison Services spokeswoman Sivan Weizman clarified on Saturday that “besides Bilal Diab, there are no other prisoners in hospitals. There are 10 other prisoners in the IPS infirmary in Ramle,” she told AFP.

She said they had been transferred “a while ago.”