RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails on Tuesday entered their third week of a hunger strike to protest jail conditions and the practice of holding some suspects in administrative detention without charges or trial.
Two prisoners who have not eaten for 63 days are in life-threatening condition, and one of them was admitted to a hospital in central Israel. Eight others have been treated at prison clinics, according to a spokeswoman for the Israel Prison Services (IPS) and a Palestinian human rights group.
A total of 1,200 prisoners started an open hunger strike on April 17, Palestinian Prisoner Day, and were later joined by 400 others, according to the IPS spokeswoman.There are currently more than 4,500 Palestinian security prisoners, according to IPS figures, half of them members of the ruling Fatah movement and most of the others members of either Hamas or Islamic Jihad.
IPS director Aaron Franco met on Monday with representatives of the prisoners, including Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life terms on terrorism-related convictions, during a tour of Hadarim Prison in central Israel.
The IPS spokeswoman denied the meeting was pre-arranged to discuss prisoners’ demands or that Franco had told Barghouti that an IPS answer to the demands will be ready in 10 days, as claimed by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Prisoners.
The hunger strike comes after two other prisoners ended their own strikes over administrative detention after winning concessions from Israel.
Khader Adnan did not eat for 66 days before an Israeli court agreed that a four-month administrative sentence would not be renewed in return for ending the strike (Adnan was released on April 17), and Hana Shalabi, a West Bank resident, was sent into exile in the Gaza Strip on April 1 after fasting for 44 days.
The Ramallah-based human right-group Addameer on Tuesday expressed “utmost concern” for the lives of the striking prisoners, particularly Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, who have not eaten for 63 days.
A doctor from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel who visited them Monday said they both are “at immediate risk of death” and should be transferred to a civilian hospital.
However, the IPS spokeswoman said that only Diab needed medical attention in a civilian hospital and was therefore transferred.The Israeli Supreme Court is due to hear appeals from the two prisoners concerning their administrative detention on Thursday.
-- Maher Abukhater
Photo: Israeli soldiers remove a burning tire during clashes with Palestinian protesters outside the Ofer military prison on Tuesday. Credit: Atef Safadi / EPA