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Palestinian Prisoners Escalate Hunger Strike

74 day hunger strikers' lives 'in danger' as supporters promise action

Common Dreams staff

Palestinian scouts behind banner depicting portraits of Palestinian prisoners May 11, 2012. (Reuters /Sharif Karim)

The demands of Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli prisons continue to be ignored, as the strike escalates daily and support and protest outside of the prison walls grows.

Today, strikers said they would refuse vitamin supplements and prison clinics in the latest move to intensify pressure on Israeli forces.

Strike supporters outside of the prison walls have continued daily rallies in the West Bank and Gaza, and dozens of former inmates have launched a solidarity hunger strike, gathering in designated protest camps.

Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla have now reached their 74th day on strike, as strike numbers have surpassed 2,000, according to Al-jazeera.

"We swear we will not retreat. We are potential martyrs. Either we live in dignity or die," prisoner organizers said in a letter read out by Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas during a demonstration.

Diab and Halahla are reported to be very close to dying, according to reports on Friday, as strike supporters continue to promise widespread outrage and action if any of the strikers die.

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Al-jazeera: Palestinian hunger strikers 'in danger'

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Reuters: Palestinians escalate hunger strike in Israel jails

The fate of the hunger strikers has touched a raw nerve among Palestinians, with daily support rallies in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, and political leaders warning that Israel could face new violence should any prisoner die.

Dozens of Palestinians, including militants and politicians who had served terms in Israeli jails in the past, have gone on hunger strikes in tents put up in solidarity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which witnessed daily heavy attendance by residents and visitors from Arab and foreign countries.


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The prisoners include Islamists from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which reject peace with the Jewish state, as well as members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's secular and Western-backed Fatah movement. [...]

Defending its so-called "administrative detention" policy, Israel says some cases cannot immediately be brought to open court for fear of exposing Palestinian intelligence sources that have cooperated with Israeli security organs against militants.

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IPS: Hunger Feeds Growing Protests in Prison

With more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners weeks into an open-ended hunger strike in protest against worsening conditions in Israeli jails, including two that have gone without food for 72 days, human rights groups say many lives are in danger and are calling for urgent intervention.

"At that stage of a hunger strike, death can happen abruptly. Something can happen to the heart and this is the fear now," said Hadas Ziv, public outreach coordinator at Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I).

"If the political authorities will decide not to do anything and not to release them on grounds of medical condition," she added, "eventually death may occur, if nothing happens in the really, really near future."

Ziv said that the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) has placed every possible obstacle in the way of PHR-I doctors who are trying to examine the hunger strikers. The organisation has now been forced to appeal to Israeli courts in order to gain access to the prisoners.

On May 7, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, Palestinian prisoners who by Wednesday had entered their 72nd day on hunger strike. The two men were challenging the fact that they are being held under Israeli administrative detention orders without charge or trial.

With no intervention by Israel’s highest court, Diab and Halahleh’s conditions are only worsening by the day, Ziv said.

"So many of (the prisoners’) rights are being violated out of the wrong perception that if Israel isolates them, it can win the struggle and it can break the hunger strike," she explained. "I think that this is such a short-sighted and horrendous policy and I think that if independent doctors, lawyers and family visits would have been enabled, one would have seen a resolution that could have saved lives."

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