Palestinians begin mass hunger strike on Prisoners´ Day (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) 04/17/12)
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At least 1,200 Palestinian inmates of Israeli jails began an open-
ended hunger strike on Tuesday as rallies across the occupied
territories marked Prisoners´ Day.
As thousands gathered in towns and cities in both the West Bank and
the Gaza Strip, three-quarters of the 4,700 Palestinians held by
Israel began refusing food, the Israel Prisons Service (IPS) said.
Of that number, 2,300 male and eight female prisoners said they would
refuse food throughout the day, while another 1,200 said they were
beginning a hunger strike, IPS spokeswoman Sivan Weizman told AFP.
"In the framework of Prisoners´ Day, around 2,300 security prisoners
said they were refusing their daily meals, and around 1,200 prisoners
said they were starting a hunger strike," Weizman said.
"At IPS, we have coped with hunger strikes in the past and we are
prepared to do so again now," she added.
Speaking to crowds gathered in the northern West Bank city of Nablus,
Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, gave a higher
figure for the hunger strike, saying "1,500 prisoners from all the
factions" had joined it already and more were expected to later in
"We are united and undivided when it comes to prisoners, and we will
stand by them until they get their demands," he said.
Earlier this week, prisoners minister Issa Qaraqaa told AFP that
1,600 inmates were expected to join the strike, and on Tuesday he
said the initial number was likely to grow.
"Our estimations were that 1,600 prisoners would begin a hunger
strike but there was a difference of opinion between the prisoners
which prevented all of them from joining the hunger strike," he told
"But this number is likely to increase in the coming days."
Throughout the morning, thousands of people held marches and rallies
across the West Bank, with around 3,000 people gathering in Shuhada
Square in central Nablus, waving Palestinian flags and holding up
pictures of imprisoned relatives.
Another 1,000 or so people gathered in central Ramallah, with a sit-
in planned for later in the afternoon outside the nearby Ofer prison.
In the southern West Bank city of Hebron, 1,500 people gathered
holding up flags, pictures and slogans reading: "Stop the policy of
Hundreds more gathered in the northern towns of Tulkarem and
Qalqilya, AFP correspondents said.
In Gaza City, around 2,000 people marched to the headquarters of the
Red Cross where they set up a solidarity tent with the hunger
This year´s Prisoners´ Day took on added symbolism as it was also the
day when Israel was to release Khader Adnan, an Islamic Jihad
prisoner who went on hunger strike for a record 66 days in protest at
being held without charge.
Adnan, whose nearly 10-week fast turned him into a national hero, was
to be freed later on Tuesday, although it was not clear exactly when
or where, his lawyer said.
Before Tuesday´s action, 10 Palestinian inmates of Israeli prisons
were already on hunger strike, four of whom had been transferred to
prison hospitals because of fragile health, the Palestinian Prisoners
Two of them, Bilal Diab, 27, and Thaer Halahla, 34, had been refusing
food for 50 days.
They were both being held in the hospital wing of Ramle prison near
Tel Aviv, with prisoner rights group Adameer describing their
condition as "rapidly deteriorating."
Another prisoner, Hassan Safdi, on hunger strike for 44 days, was
being held in the same facility, with his condition described
as ""very serious."
All 10 are being held without charge under administrative detention
orders, which means they can be held for renewable periods of up to
There are 4,699 Palestinians being held in Israeli jails, of whom 319
are in administrative detention, according to Prisoners Club figures.
(Copyright © 2012 Agence France Presse. 04/17/12)
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