Many of the prisoners now on hunger strike in Palestine are in critical condition. Every minute, a new batch of prisoners is transferred to Israeli hospitals. There are nearly 2,000 prisoners on hunger strike, and that number is rising despite the — disappointingly modest — popular and official responses to the crisis.
According to the latest information received from the Israeli prisons, more than 15 prisoners so far have been transferred to Israeli hospitals due to health complications from their hunger strikes. Many of these prisoners are now in critical condition from their hunger strikes, which have lasted over 60 days.
According to the information obtained by Lebanese newspaper As-Safir from the Palestinian institutions monitoring the situation, Thaer Halahilah, Bilal Diab, Hassan al-Safadi, Omar Abu-Shallal, Jaafar Izz-al-Din, Mohammed al-Taj, Mahmoud al-Sursuk, Abdallah al-Barghouthi, and Mohammed Halas are now in the hospital in extremely critical condition because they have been on hunger strike for at least 25 days.
Jawad Boulos, head of the legal department at the Palestinian Prisoners Club (PPC), said that the conditions of the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike is horrifying. He said in a statement that “during my visit, I spoke with prisoner Bilal Diab who has been on hunger strike for 63 days. He suddenly turned pale and his eyes strayed. He fell off his wheelchair and lost consciousness”.
According to Boulos, before he lost consciousness, Diab said, “this is a tribute to all the free people in the world. I beg all human rights and medical organizations to visit to the Ramla prison hospital so they can see with their own eyes the people that are dying every day and their indescribable, continuous suffering. From the center of continuous suffering and pain, I assert that I will continue my rightful hunger strike until freedom or martyrdom.”
Palestinian Authority Minister of Prisoners Affairs Issa Qaraqe said that Ahmad Saadat, Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was also transferred to the hospital for deteriorating health since he has been on hunger strike for 14 days. Saadat, who has been in solitary confinement in the Rimon prison for three years, is facing serious health problems, which have been exacerbated since he undertook a series of hunger strikes.
The PFLP issued a statement asserting that its prisoners refused the Israeli prison administration’s offer to put an end to their hunger strike in exchange for an end to Saadat’s solitary confinement and his transfer to a regular prison section.
The Palestinian Prisoners Club said that the number of prisoners on hunger strike has risen to 2,000, after many prisoners in other prisons like Ofer and Mado joined the strike. They said that the number will most likely increase to include all prisoners in Israeli prisons.
These prisoners are on hunger strike to protest Israel’s humiliating policies and continuous collective punishment, the most serious being: solitary confinement, denial of visitation, the imposition of fines and the prohibition of books and newspapers. They also decried the fact that Gazan prisoners were denied visits outright under administrative detention, with strip searches and the continuous invasion of cells.
Wednesday is expected to be a critical day for the strike and the prisoners. Representatives of the strike and the Israel Prison Service (IPS) will hold a meeting to negotiate these demands.
Jerusalem-based Palestinian NGO Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association Foundation (ADDAMEER) said that the IPS has created disciplinary tribunals for prisoners on hunger strike and imposed fines on them that range between $70 and $150 for each day the prisoner strikes.
ADDAMEER said that the IPS is punishing prisoners on hunger strike by constantly transferring them to other prisons. Most prisoners on hunger strike, particularly the leaders of the captive movement (PFLP), have been transferred to other prisons in an attempt to frustrate and end the strike.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Israel to immediately release all prisoners, especially those who were arrested before the Oslo agreement, the sick, female prisoners and children.
According to the Palestinian news agency WAFA, Abbas implored the international community to pressure Israel to treat the Palestinian prisoners as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention, international law, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Abbas said that the Palestinian side would not sign any peace deal with Israel “until it releases all prisoners.”
On the occupied Palestinian territory, many observers and families of the prisoners found the popular movements that show solidarity with the prisoners fell short of expectations. Wafaa Ghilma, wife of Palestinian prisoner Ahed Ghilma — who is charged with involvement in the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi — said that there are few popular uprisings against this because society is totally disconnected from the prisoners’ rights and struggles. A few Palestinians have organized sit-ins and demonstrations in solidarity with the prisoners.