Hundreds of Palestinians launch hunger strike in Israeli prisons
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Hundreds of Palestinians launch hunger strike in Israeli prisons

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About 400 Palestinian prisoners launched a hunger strike on Wednesday in protest against what they claim are harsh conditions implemented in Israeli prisons since six prisoners escaped from Gilboa Prison and were recaptured, according to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement.

The PIJ stated that the hunger strike was in protest against what it called “repressive measures” implemented against PIJ prisoners since last September. The alleged measures include isolation and the distribution of prisoners to separate rooms in order to prevent them from organizing, according to the announcement.

Hassan Abed Rabbo, the media advisor for the Palestinian Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners Affairs Commission, told Al-Aqsa radio that about 400 prisoners are “in a state of confrontation and open clash” with the Israel Prison Service (IPS) and are starting the hunger strike in order to “confront all the decisions” of the IPS.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) announced on Tuesday that it would conduct a hunger strike along with the PIJ prisoners to support them. The PFLP stressed that the strike would continue until the situation in Israeli prisons was returned to how it was before the six prisoners escaped from Gilboa Prison and the prisoners in isolation were removed from isolation.

Six Palestinian prisoners have been on hunger strike for an extended period of time, including Kayed Fasfous (91 days), Muqdad Qawasmeh (84 days), Alaa Aaraj (67 days), Hesham Abu Hawwash (58 days), Rayeq Besharat (53 days) and Shadi Abu Akr (50 days), according to the Palestinian WAFA news agency.

Fasfous and Qawasameh are both in serious condition and refuse to accept medical aid, according to Palestinian reports.

Fasfous has lost 30 kilograms and is hospitalized at Barzilai Medical Center, according to WAFA.

Qawasameh is hospitalized at Kaplan Medical Center in serious condition, with his family telling Palestinian media on Tuesday that he is in severe pain, suffering from memory loss and has trouble speaking.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called Qawasmeh on Saturday, telling him that the issue of Palestinian prisoners is still the priority of the Hamas movement and Palestinian factions, according to Palestinian reports.

Kaplan Medical Center announced on Monday it will not fire two Arab-Israeli nurses after the two posed for a photo with Qawasmeh. A video shared on social media earlier on Monday showed the nurses posing for the photo.

The nurses were summoned for a disciplinary inquiry by Kaplan management after the video emerged. They were made aware of the severity of the incident and have expressed remorse for their actions.

The Hamas movement announced on Saturday that it was closely following up on the hunger-striking prisoners and had contacted a number of parties, including Egyptian officials, about the issue.

“We have informed the brothers in Egypt that the continuation of the prisoners’ strike and the intransigence of the occupation may lead the whole region to unimaginable consequences,” said Hussam Badran, a member of Hamas’s political bureau.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) stated recently that it is “seriously concerned” with the deteriorating health of Fasfous and Qawasmeh, warning of “potentially irreversible consequences” of such a long hunger strike. The ICRC encouraged the relevant sides to find a solution to avoid a loss of life.

In recent meetings between Hamas leaders and Egyptian officials, the Hamas officials pushed for progress in a prisoner swap agreement with Israel, stressing that it would not budge on its demands in such a deal, according to Arabic reports.

Hamas is still holding Israeli citizens Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, and the bodies of IDF soldiers St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul and Lt. Hadar Goldin.

Hamas official Mohammad Nazzal told the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen news recently that Hamas intends to reach a deal that achieves the release of the largest number of Palestinian prisoners, including Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Sa’adat and had provided Egyptian officials with a detailed road map based on the movement’s demands.

The Palestinian Safa News Agency reported last week that the Hamas delegation to Egypt had warned that the situation could “explode” like it did in May during Operation Guardian of the Walls due to what it called “continuous Israeli violations and crimes” in Jerusalem and against prisoners, as well as the continuation of settlement building.

Administrative detention is a special status in Israel where a detainee gets to argue for their release in a judicial proceeding, but the standards of the proceeding do not offer the same protections as regular criminal trials.

Due to some evidence against administrative detainees being based on classified intelligence, their defense lawyers often complain that they cannot properly defend their clients since only the court gets to view the full evidentiary file.

Administrative detention was first enacted into law in Defense Regulations by the British Mandate in 1945 to combat Arab and Jewish riots and rebellions in the area. The regulations included curfews, censorship measures, restriction of movement measures and deportation measures.

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