Palestinian prisoners launch "battle of empty stomachs" (REUTERS) By Jihan Abdalla RAMALLAH, West Bank 04/17/12 10:02pm EDT)
Reuters News Service
Reuters News Service Articles-Index-Top
(Reuters) - At least 1,200 Palestinians in Israeli jails launched an
open-ended hunger strike on Tuesday, raising the stakes in a protest
about jail conditions and justice that has put the Jewish state under
The start of their action coincided with the release of Khader Adnan,
a prisoner who refused food for 66 days before agreeing to a deal
under which he was released late on Tuesday and greeted by hundreds
of supporters when he reached his home town in the West Bank.
Adnan, 33, is a member of Islamic Jihad, which has vowed to destroy
Israel. Inspired by his protest a female prisoner, Hana Shalabi,
refused food for 43 days before the Israelis deported her to Gaza,
barring her from returning to her native West Bank for at least three
Hunger strikes by a few individuals have gathered an unexpected
momentum, leading to mass action by prisoners against the Israeli use
of solitary confinement, the difficulty of securing family visits and
the strip searches inflicted on visitors.
Palestinians also criticize the use of ´administrative detention´,
whereby Israel can imprison suspects indefinitely, without ever
informing them of the charges they face or presenting their lawyers
with any evidence.
Hundreds of prisoners joined the "battle of empty stomachs" on
Tuesday to coincide with "Prisoners´ Day", when both the occupied
West Bank and Gaza Strip stage mass rallies in support of some 4,800
Palestinians who are held in Israeli jails.
The Israeli prisons authority said 2,300 prisoners had announced they
would reject their daily meal on Tuesday, while 1,200 indicated they
were launching a formal hunger strike.
"The Israeli Prisons Authority has coped with hunger strikes in the
past and is prepared to cope with it now," it added.
Palestinian officials said 1,600 prisoners were joining the
indefinite hunger strike, which fits into their much broader struggle
to secure an independent homeland.
"I am afraid for the life of my son. I am afraid for all their lives.
All the prisoners are as dear to me as my son is," said Gaza resident
Zbaida Al-Masri, adding that her son, Yusri, was serving a 20-year
term for fighting against Israel.
Although all the main Palestinian political factions said they were
backing the action, divisions swiftly appeared, with prisoners from
the mainstream Fatah faction accusing the Islamist group Hamas of
using the campaign to divert attention from its own internal
Attempts to end a feud between President Mahmoud Abbas´s Fatah
movement, which holds sway in the West Bank, and Hamas, which governs
Gaza, have so far failed to bear fruit.
Abbas urged the prisoners to remain united in their cause.
"The sole beneficiary of the Palestinian split is Israel, the
occupying power," he said in a statement. "Preserve the unity of the
prisoners´ movement because you know what divisions and disagreements
have done to our homeland and our just cause."
At the pro-prisoner rally in Gaza, boys in chains stood before the
crowd as demonstrators set fire to an Israeli flag. On a nearby
float, a dummy representing an Israeli soldier sat dejected-looking
in an iron cage.
"We demand that the Palestinian resistance carries out a second
prisoner swap deal," said Ahmed Bahar, a senior Hamas politician,
hinting that militants should try to seize an Israeli soldier and
trade his freedom for that of Palestinian prisoners.
Israel agreed last year to free 1,000 Palestinians in return for the
release of Gilad Shalit, a soldier seized by Hamas and held captive
for five years. (Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and
Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; editing by Tim Pearce) (© Thomson Reuters
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY