Many Injured, Anger Grows as Israel Cracks Down on Hunger Strike Solidarity

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Common Dreams

Many Injured, Anger Grows as Israel Cracks Down on Hunger Strike Solidarity

'We will not accept our prisoners returning in coffins'

by
Common Dreams staff

Palestinian protesters who were hit with pepper spray by Israeli border police, lie on the ground as they try to prevent Israeli troops from detaining one of them, during clashes outside Ofer prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah May 1, 2012. (Photo: Reuters/Mohamad Torokman)

Protests and rallies were held around the West Bank and Gaza this week in support of Palestinian hunger strikers currently held in Israeli prisons. As an increasing number of prisoners go on hunger strike to protest indefinite detention and poor treatment, anger and protest has grown outside of the prison walls.

"We will not accept our prisoners returning in coffins from the occupation's prisons," Palestinian prisoners minister Issa Qaraqaa told a 3,000-strong crowd demonstrating in solidarity with the prisoners in the West Bank city of Nablus.

On May Day up to 300 protesters marched to the West Bank border crossing between Beitunya and Ofer military prison, where many of the hunger strikers are held.

Clashes erupted between protesting youths and the Israeli army, who fired tear gas, rubber bullets and a foul-smelling liquid known as "skunk" to break up the demonstration, according to Agence France-Presse.

During the protest a Palestinian woman climbed on top of a Israeli military truck that was spraying the protesters with 'skunk' liquid and waved a Palestinian flag in the air. Israeli soldiers pulled her down, attacked her and the protesters who tried to protect her, and sprayed their faces with pepper-spray. See the video below.

There are varying reports of injuries from the scene; however, Abir Kopty of the Popular Struggle Resistance Committee said she counted at least 20 injured protestors, including up to five who were taken away by ambulance.

Prisoners groups are estimating that up to 2,000 Palestinian detainees are refusing food in a bid to improve their conditions. Two of the prisoners have been on hunger strike for over 62 days and are now in danger of dying according to the Physicians for Human Rights-Israel group.

Minister Qaraqaa warned on Tuesday that there would be a major backlash if any of the hunger striking detainees were to die.

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Video: Palestinian woman "takes over" Israeli military vehicle at Ofer protest for hunger strikers

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Agence France-Presse: Fears for Palestinian hunger strikers as protest grows

Two Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails for 62 days are in danger of dying and are receiving inadequate medical care, the Physicians for Human Rights-Israel group warned on Monday.

The warning, after a doctor from the group visited the men, came as Palestinian officials said thousands more Palestinian prisoners could join an open-ended hunger strike if their demands were not met.

PHR-Israel said the lives of prisoners Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla "are in danger and asks that they immediately be transferred to a civilian hospital."

Both men are being cared for in an Israeli prison clinic, which PHR-Israel said was incapable of providing appropriate care. [...]

A Palestinian official who spoke to AFP said thousands more Palestinian prisoners would join the protest if their demands were not met by a May 2 deadline.

"The prisoner leaders are awaiting a response from the Israeli prison authorities by May 2. If they don't give a positive response, all the prisoners will join the hunger strike," the official said.

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Agence France-Press: Palestinians see backlash if hunger strikers die

Palestinian prisoners minister Issa Qaraqaa on Tuesday warned there would be a major backlash if any of the detainees on a mass hunger inside Israeli jails were to die.

"We will not accept our prisoners returning in coffins from the occupation's prisons," Qaraqaa told a 3,000-strong crowd demonstrating in solidarity with the prisoners in the West Bank city of Nablus.

"If anything happens to any prisoner, the explosion will not stay inside prison walls but will extend to the outside," he said.

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CNN: Palestinians protest Israeli detention policy

Diab, Halahlah and nine other administrative detainees have been moved from Israeli prisons to a civilian hospital where their health is deteriorating, according to the Palestinian Prisoner Society, a group advocating for prisoners' rights.

Diab's brother Bassam, himself a former prisoner, said hunger strikes are the only weapons to end the practice of administrative detention.

Of the more than 4,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, more than 300 are held under administrative detention.

Islamic Jihad leaders in Gaza called Tuesday for the men's immediate release and promised that any harm to them will bring consequences for Israel.

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