Last updated: 19 February, 2013

Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in one-day hunger strike

Hundreds of Palestinians serving time in Israeli jails refused all food on Tuesday in solidarity with four prisoners who have been on long-term hunger strike, officials said.

According to the Ramallah-based Prisoners’ Club, 800 prisoners in three prisons were taking part in the one-day strike, among them members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).

Sivan Weizman, a spokeswoman for the Israel Prisons Service (IPS), confirmed hundreds of prisoners had refused their breakfast but put the number at 500 inmates in two facilities.

“Five hundred Palestinians in the Ramon and Eshel prisons refused to eat breakfast this morning and have said they will refuse to eat lunch and dinner,” she told AFP.

The one-day strike was the latest show of solidarity with four detainees who are on long-term hunger strike and whose state of health has sparked mass protests across the West Bank as well as statements of concern from rights groups and Western governments.

The four, Samer Issawi, 33, Tareq Qaadan, 40, Jafar Ezzedine, 41, and Ayman Sharawna, 36, have been variously refusing food for between two and seven months.

Also on Tuesday, a Jerusalem court rejected a request by Issawi to be released on bail, an AFP correspondent at the hearing said.

Issawi, long-term security prisoner who comes from annexed east Jerusalem, was released under a prisoner swap deal in October 2011, but was rearrested in July following allegations he violated the terms of the agreement.

A second hearing on Issawi’s case was set for Thursday when he was likely to be indicted for the alleged violations, his lawyer Andre Rosenthal told AFP.

“When he was released, he was given an order preventing him from going to the West Bank and told to stay in the Jerusalem area,” Rosenthal told AFP, saying Issawi had been rearrested while getting his car fixed at a garage in the West Bank.

More than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners were freed under the 2011 deal, with many of them ordered to remain close to their family homes, or risk being rearrested.

Jawad Boulos, a lawyer for the Ramallah-based Prisoners’ Club told AFP he would challenge the restrictions on movement in a petition to Israel’s Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a student demonstration in support of the prisoners near Ofer military jail outside Ramallah turned violent on Tuesday, with hundreds of stone-throwing Palestinians clashing with troops who fired tear gas, an AFP correspondent and witnesses said.

Of the detainees, Qaadan and Ezzedine were arrested on November 22 and handed a three-month administrative detention order, meaning they can be held without charge.

Both began refusing food on November 28 in protest and their detention orders are due to expire or be renewed on Friday.

Like Issawi, Sharawna, 36, was a long-term security prisoner who was freed in October 2011, but rearrested several months later over alleged violations of the terms of his release.

Sharawna began refusing food on July 1 followed by Issawi on August 1.

There are currently around 4,500 Palestinians being held by Israel, figures from the Israeli rights group B’Tselem show.